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Thump. Thump. Thump.
“Shari! Open up. I want to see the kids.”
The voice froze Shari to the floral sofa in her dim living room.
“Shari, my key’s not working. Open the door.”
She finished her gin and turned off the brass lamp. He had said he wasn’t coming back this time. So she’d had the locks changed. It was past midnight, past two years later, but Ron was back.
She walked stiffly to the kitchen and fumbled for the phone in the dark. She asked the operator to connect her to the police. They had a car nearby and would send someone over.
Thump. Thump. Thump. “Shari! Open up. Don’t make me go ‘round back.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming, Ron. I need to get dressed.” She stood in the kitchen, in her nightgown, and peered around the corner at the front window.
Ron laughed, slow and unhappily. “Shari, Shari, Shari.”
He moved in front of the window and looked into the dark living room, putting his hands up to the glass to see in. The tip of his cigarette glowed bright orange in the center of his silhouette, on and off, then red and blue lights flashed from the street. There was no siren, only the crunch of tires on the leaves and sticks in the gutter.
“Shari, Shari, Shari!” He hit the door, rattling the windowpane each time he said her name. “You’re making a fool out of me.”
A door slammed outside and a voice called, “What’s the problem, sir?”
He turned from the window. “I went out to get a pack of smokes, and my wife locks me out. Some kind of bad joke.”
The cop rapped on the door with his stick. “Ma’am? Can you open the door?”
A convulsive shiver passed from the top of her head, down her arms, down through her chest and hips and legs. She stood up straight, perfect posture, and went to the door.
She pulled the chain out of the slot. She undid the deadbolt. She put her hand on the knob, and she shook like a washing machine out of balance. She got herself still again and opened the door.
The cop’s face was red then blue and fatty like bad meat. “Ma’am, is there a reason you locked your husband out of the house?”
“Yeah,” Ron said, standing next to the cop. “Is there a reason, Shari? I’m your husband, remember?”
“No… no. No, please. I didn’t mean to—”
“Ma’am, if you don’t mind me asking, is everything alright? You don’t look well.”
She touched her cheek, then her eye socket, where Ron had fractured her skull and left her face disfigured. “I had an accident. A couple years ago. I just—I didn’t know and I made a big mistake.”
“Ma’am, have you been drinking tonight?”
She looked down at the empty glass in her hand. She never drank much before Ron had left, but now it was a part of her.
The cop looked at Shari, then at Ron’s stony face. He patted Ron on the shoulder. “You take care of her now.”
“Oh, I will,” Ron said. “She’s always causing trouble. Women.”
“Women, women,” the cop said, shaking his head. He shuffled away, got into his car, turned off the flashing lights, and left them in the dark.
Ron stood like a barrel in the doorway and waved to the cop until the car went around a corner. His back smelled like beer and sweat and dirt.
He sighed heavily and turned to face her, raising his right arm. “You made a fool out of me, Shari.”
Thump. Thump. Thump.
The brass lamp fell to the floor and landed in something wet. Ron made a sputtering noise and twitched and then nothing.
Shari picked up Ron’s lit cigarette from where it had rolled onto the rug and took a deep drag. In the glow of its ember, Ron glistened. She went to the kitchen and poured herself some more gin and then stood over him, smoking and thinking but not drinking. She had four hours before the kids got up for school.