I put them under the flowerbed. They’re all called Helen, which is unlikely when you think about it, but there it is. Another one today, same as the rest. I’ll sleep easy tonight, same as her.
It’s watching me. At first I thought it was a crow, large enough to act out like a hawk. Plenty of them do that around where we live, dive bombing unsuspecting pigeons and causing a nuisance. Then it moved and I saw the green plumage beneath its breast and the pale wings. I think it’s a woodpecker. Rare. Might be a jay, though.
It’s watching me. Head cocked to one side like it’s listening to music I can’t hear, beady eye tracing my progress down the garden. It doesn’t know. It can’t know. It’s a bird. But the quiet part inside me that hides deep and whispers in my dreams says it might be more.
Maybe it has cameras instead of eyes. Maybe it’s trained, each squawk emerging from its beak telling some hidden law enforcement what I’m up to. Maybe someone’s riding its mind, seeing everything it sees, like some fucked-up familiar.
Maybe I should stop worrying and get to digging the hole. The ground’s soft. We’ve had lots of rain of late. I need to stop saying we. But old habits die hard. Not like the wife. She died easy enough, same as the others.
There’s something deeply relaxing about digging. It’s a meditation, I suppose, though I’m not sure Helen would have called it that. She’d have called it dirty and annoying. But then, she called most things annoying. Our kids, our house, our lives. Dirty, useless, annoying.
I pause in my digging, resting my head against the spade handle. The wood’s warmed from my hands and oddly soft against my skin. Everything was annoying. I’m chewing the inside of my mouth and suddenly the flavour changes as I draw blood. I could handle everything being annoying, I could. But when she started up with the racism, that’s when I began to struggle.
At first it was generalised, a fear of migrants, like she’d been reading the Daily Mail. Then it got worse. We’d see someone in the high street in a head scarf and she’d make pointed comments about integration as we passed them. She seemed oblivious to the cringing and the looks, but I felt every one of them as though I was the one in the scarf.
I’d want to go back and apologise, but what was I supposed to say? ‘I’m terribly sorry, my wife suffers from a mental disorder and the latest turn is insufferable racism and arrogance.’ They’d probably nod and give me a look of understanding, though they wouldn’t understand.
No one understands. I tried joining some forums, speaking to other people living with someone who belittles them on a daily basis, but none of them seemed to get it. Not the same way I do. I can’t blame them, everyone’s fighting their own battles. Everyone’s on their own journey. Even Helen. Her journey is nearly at an end, though, just a short drop and a few words.
Speaking of which… I resume digging, each fresh spadeful of mud removing a little of the weight from my shoulders. I don’t get tired digging the graves, not when I know I’ve done right.
The hole is soon deep enough and I stretch my back, letting out a satisfied sigh as it cracks. I’m not getting any younger. Still young enough to charm the ladies, but digging on a cold autumn morning will leave me stiff tomorrow. That’s okay, though, because I can have a long, hot bath and not have to speak to anyone.
I’m smiling as I stroll back down the garden. It’s an unusual feeling on my face, pulling at muscles I haven’t used in a long time. Think I might do it more in the future.
I’m gonna see the kids as well. They stay away now, as much because of my struggle as Helen’s issues. Sadie said she hated seeing me so broken. I tried to explain I wasn’t broken, just a little bent, but she started crying so I changed the subject.
They won’t miss Helen, mum, whatever. They’ll make the right noises and come to the funeral, but they’ll feel the weight lift just as much as me. We can finally go out, have dinner, catch a movie, without worrying if she’ll have one of her outbursts. That, more than anything, makes the figure wrapped in plastic on the patio a work of good.
It wasn’t easy. Actually, it was easy, the easiest yet. I hadn’t used poison before, but it felt like the right time. You have to time these things right, or you get it wrong. Not because you don’t study, but because your energy isn’t flowing right. The energy has to be flowing right.
But it was easy. I brought her a glass of wine, three milligrams of this stuff I got off the internet long dissolved in it, and she drank it down. Exactly four minutes later, the convulsions started. I had the sheet ready, so hauled it out of the under-stairs cupboard and got her on it before she foamed too badly. Then it was just about rolling her up and getting her into the cold room nice and quick.
Less that 24 hours later, she’s not even smelling funny yet. She weighs a fair bit, though, so I drag her down the garden. I’ve got the wrapping technique sorted, so I don’t have to touch the body. I’ve no problem with touching corpses, but I’m aware there might be a police action at some point, so avoiding all that sort of thing is the wisest policy.
We reach the hole and I stop a moment, taking breaths and letting my back recover. Here she goes, the old ball and chain, into the ground. I still can’t believe it’s happened. I can’t believe it’s that easy. With a grunt, I roll her over and watched her tumble into the dirt. I toss a couple of spadefuls in before straightening and clearing my throat.
‘Here lies my wife. In life, she was a sad, sorry individual, hated by most and only vaguely loved by those closest to her. I loved her once, but not so much anymore. I hope she finds more peace in death that she has in life.’
The soil fills the hole quickly enough. I mark the moment the last piece of sheet disappears, but after that it’s just about getting the job done. I pause with a little left to go, as always, and sow some bulbs. Helen will help daffodils grow. It’s a better end than she’d have otherwise had.
I stick the spade in the greenhouse and amble back inside. I’m just sitting down with a cup of tea when the front door goes. I stiffen and wait, breath held until she stomps in.
‘Evening, love.’ She says and I release the breath in a burst. She’s in a good mood. There’s no telling, not these days.
‘Hi sweetheart, good day at work?’
‘Yes, thanks. How’s your day been?’ She kneels in front of me and takes my hand, looking earnestly up into my eyes like she really cares. She doesn’t care. She hasn’t cared in years. These days all she’s interested in is her work and making sure I don’t embarrass her.
‘That’s good, I’m glad.’ There’s a pause, long enough to make me squirm. Then she clears her throat. I know what she’s going to ask. She doesn’t want to, though, for all the obvious reasons. Then she does. ‘Did you clear up last night’s… episode?’
Episode is her latest buzz word. It’s what the doctors are calling my spasms. I still prefer spasms, but apparently, it’s not up to me.
‘Of course I did.’
‘What is it this time?’
‘Daffs. You like daffs, right?’
She nods, pats my hand, and wanders into the kitchen. Her eyes look bright, wet beneath the lounge lights.