The smelly stuff

This is part of my Fiction Friday series of very short stories.

I’m not good at remembering dates. I’m also not good at frequently checking the calendar like my wife would like for me to do. Luckily, I’m observant enough to figure out when something is coming up, then I check the calendar for the details.

Like when my wife starts cleaning the house with the smelly stuff that actually cleans instead of the nice smelling stuff that does very little I know her parents must be coming for a visit. (And I know it’s time to stash some whiskey in the office in case I have to excuse myself because “I have work to do.”)

It’s a good system.

There is only one date I can remember without a contextual reminder and a subsequent check of the calendar.

No, it’s not my daughter’s birthday (which occurs around the time that I find a dog-eared American Girl catalog on the bedstand even though it’s not Christmas). No, it’s not my wedding anniversary (which occurs around the time my wife asks, “You didn’t forget our wedding anniversary, did you?”)

The one date I always remember is the date when Lou was going to kill me.

You don’t forget the date when you are supposed to be killed. You count down to it. When that day comes you shave. You wear a nice suit. You make sure to tell your wife and kid you love them.

But that date came and went and I was still alive. I didn’t see Lou at all. That was three months ago.

The worst thing a man can do is not kill you.

Okay, there are plenty of worse things a man can do. Including actually killing you. But the not killing is pretty maddening.

I’ve been living in fear every day for three months. Each day wondering if today will be the day Lou finally keeps his promise. Scanning every crowd. Smelling every drink I didn’t personally pour.

It’s been so long that I’ve gotten used to this new baseline of anxiety. The rapid heartbeat is just my heartbeat. The shallow breathing is just how I breathe.

But today I am even more anxious than usual because today, in addition to the incessant worry that today is the day I’ll be killed, my wife is cleaning the house with the smelly stuff.

*     *     *     *     *

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