Tuesday, September 25, 2018

LOADED







LOADED
By Daniel Skye




            18 hours.

            18 consecutive hours of cruising the interstate, nothing but blacktop as far as the eye could see. Clive only stopped for gas when necessary, nothing else. He had two heated thermoses full of coffee, and a cooler packed with soda and junk food.

            18 hours of subsisting on coffee, soda, and pork rinds. 18 hours of relieving himself in empty water jugs so he wouldn’t have to pull over to take a leak. 18 hours cooped up inside the cab of that eighteen-wheeler with nothing but the radio and the smell of his own farts to keep him company. 18 mind-melting hours. It was enough to drive any man insane.

            But as an experienced trucker, Clive Jacobs was more than accustomed to life on the road. And it was a much needed break from Ellen. He’d called her several times from the road. Each time, she sounded more cold and distant than the last. Did she know? Was she onto him? Had she gone through his phone? No, he was careful. He always kept it set on Do Not Disturb, made sure to delete his text messages and phone call records.

            But there was something in Ellen’s voice. It wasn’t in anything she had said. She didn’t even hint in the fact. There was just something about her tone, something about the way she spoke that tugged at Clive’s nerves. Could Ellen possibly know about her?

            He’d know soon enough. He’d made all his rounds, all his deliveries, and now he was on his way back home. In less than two hours, he’d be walking through the door. There was nothing he craved more than a cold beer and a hot shower, and a good night’s sleep in his own bed. When was the last time he’d slept? He’d pulled into the rest area the day before and caught a few hours of snooze. He couldn’t remember the time before that. It had been a long, exasperating week.

            And he still had no idea what he was walking into at home…


***


Ellen Jacobs stared intensely at the lime green door, her eyes like magnifying glasses under the scorching glare of the sun, threatening to burn a hole through the plywood. She didn’t move, she didn’t blink. She never took her eyes off that door.

She knew of Clive’s dirty little secret. She knew all about Sally Hamilton. And that made her wonder how many others were there? How many women had he picked up when he was on the road? How many countless hours had Clive spent driving that truck? How many weeks and months did it all add up to? She wasn’t going to let this go. She couldn’t let this go.

She had given Clive fourteen years of her life. Fourteen years down the drain. ’Til death does us part, Ellen thought, reflecting on their wedding day. So be it.

Clive came stumbling through the front door, cooler in one hand, his other hand gripping the collar of a dirty brown jacket draped over his shoulder.

“Ellen,” he called out as he walked through the foyer and towards the living room. “Are you home? It’s so dark in here.” He flung his jacket aside and slid his hand across the wall until he found the switch. The living room lit up and Clive recoiled, the cooler falling from his hand, Funyuns and pork rinds and Jolt Cola spilling out all over the floor.

            Ellen was holding Clive’s pistol with both hands, the barrel aimed straight at his chest. Clive was quite familiar with the weapon and it took no more than a cursory glance to confirm that the safety was indeed off. Ellen’s finger tensed around the trigger and Clive took another step back.

“You son of a bitch,” she muttered. “You dirty, rotten, lying, cheating son of a bitch. How could you?”

“What the hell is going on around here?” Clive asked, feigning confusion as he raised his hands to placate Ellen, give her a sense of control. “Ellen, honey, baby, please put the gun down. You don’t even know how to use it. I’ve never shown you, I’ve never taken you down to the range. It could go off accidentally. And you don’t want to shoot me. I’m your husband and I know you love me as much as I love you. We can talk about this. Whatever I did, or whatever you think I did, we can work all of this out.”

“How dare you insult my intelligence by playing dumb,” she chided. “You know damn well what I’m talking about and who I’m talking about, you cheating sack of shit. How long has it been going on between the two of you?”

Clive cleared his throat, slowly lowered his hands and let them fall to his sides. “Do you really want to know the answer to that?”

“Yes, I want to know it all. Every detail.”

“About seven months. She came onto me, baby, I swear. I just couldn’t resist. I couldn’t help myself.”

“Oh, the classic, age-old excuse.”

“Ellen, please, tell me what I can do to make this right. Anything. You name it, I’ll do it. Please, honey.”

“Don’t you dare call me honey,” Ellen said, her eyes wide, her tone dead-serious. “Or baby, or sweetie, or darling. You don’t ever get to call me any of those names again. There is nothing you can do to make this right. Sally Hamilton was a dear friend of mine. At least, I thought she was. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about Sally. But I expected more from the man I married.”

“Ellen, I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I am. I fucked up. No excuses. It was all me. I fucked up big time. But please lower the gun. I’m not worth a bullet. You want to kick me out, kick me out. You want a divorce, you’ve got it. But don’t kill me. It doesn’t solve anything. All it does is put me in the ground and put you behind bars.”

“It doesn’t solve anything,” Ellen concurred. “But it’s going to make me feel a hell of a lot better. But I have to know, how many others were there? Who else besides Sally Hamilton? I know there must be others.”

“Nobody,” Clive said, shaking his head ‘no’ as if to emphasize the sincerity. “Nobody else, I swear. Just Sally. And I haven’t seen here in weeks. I haven’t even talked to her. I was thinking about calling it off before you found out. The guilt, the secrecy, it was eating away at me.”

“What about Debbie Hathaway? Have you seen or spoken to her recently?”

Fuck, Clive thought. He almost slipped up and said it aloud. He was so busy constantly worrying about clearing his call log and text messages, he had completely forgotten about his email account.

“You forgot to sign out of your account,” Ellen added. “So, do you want to talk about Debbie Hathaway? Do you have any more excuses?”

“Nope. I’m all out of excuses. So if you’re going to kill me, then kill me. Fire away. Go ahead, darling. Make my day.” Just then, Clive started laughing. A loud, boisterous, obnoxious laugh. It wasn’t really even laughter. He was cackling.

“What in God’s name are you laughing about?” Ellen barked. “What could possibly be so funny at this moment?”

“On Monday morning, before I hit the road, I took the bullets out of that pistol. I remembered you saying that your brother and his wife were coming to visit on Tuesday. And I knew they would bring their son. I was worried about our nephew finding the gun and messing around with it. I didn’t want anybody getting hurt. So I took the bullets out. That gun isn’t even loaded.” Then he added, “But this one is.”

The .45 semi-automatic pistol was tucked into the back of his waistband when he came in. He reached around and drew his gun so fast that Ellen almost dropped the pistol she was holding. The .45 ACP was the gun Clive carried on the road with him. Years of being a truck driver had taught him the benefits of carrying a gun for his own protection. It was always better to have and not need than to need and not have.

“So what’s it going to be, Ellen? Where do we go from here? Divorce? Trial separation? Or do we just kill each other right here and now?”

“I like the sound of that last one,” she said, thumbing back the hammer of her husband’s pistol. “I know you took the bullets out of this gun. I saw you do it. I made sure to reload.”

A single gunshot rang out through the neighborhood, and the cops were on the scene in minutes.


***


Excerpt from the Daily Buzz newspaper:


         Tragedy unfolded late last night in the small, rural fishing community of Eden Harbor, Long Island, as an apparent domestic dispute took a fatal turn. Police were notified at approximately 11:05 PM after multiple neighbors reported hearing sounds of a gunshot.

The victim, forty-three year old Clive Jacobs, was pronounced dead at the scene. The victim’s wife, Ellen Jacobs, was taken into custody for questioning, though it remains unclear at this time if any charges will be filed against her. Sources close to the local police tell us this may be a case of self-defense.

One of our reporters caught up with Sally Hamilton, a close friend of the Jacobs’. “I’m shocked,” Mrs. Hamilton told our reporter, but refused to speak on camera. “I haven’t spoken with either of them since before the shooting, but I know them as a happy, loving couple. They never fought or argued over anything. And I know that Clive was a good man. I don’t know if it was self-defense or murder, but the Clive Jacobs I know would never harm or threaten his wife. And I’m sure if Ellen could turn back the clock, she would think twice before pulling that trigger.”

Mrs. Hamilton refused to comment any further on the incident.

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