The Retirement

This is my second attempt at fiction. Really,  just fiction, I swear.

It’s just economics. Don’t you be judging me. Statistics are clear, most men don’t live past 65 and there are way more widows than widowers out there. Do you think this is a coincidence?  What happens in a marriage is a private affair of course, so we’ll never know for sure.

Louie walked into the kitchen, wearing just his pajama bottoms. Even at this age, he’s still a good-looking man. “Good morning, Annie. How was your sleep?” I muted my news show. “Not bad, honey and yours?” “I slept like a log, as usual.” Yes, that’s exactly how he sleeps. Like a log, being sawed by a chain saw all night long. “How many days left now?” Louie grinned. “Sixteen, but who’s really counting. Have you heard from the boys yet?” “I sure have, and they’re both coming out for your retirement party. I had to pay for their flights of course.” It will be nice to have them here. “That’s what money is for.” Louie’s generosity has always been one of his flaws.

Louie retires in just sixteen days and I can’t let that happen. Gone will be his life insurance, high salary and benefits. For sixteen more days, Louie is worth much more dead than alive. I’m just being pragmatic. It’s been a lovely 37-year marriage, but really, what’s left? He might last five more years and I will have given up a lifetime of financial security. And what kind of five years would those be – aches and pains and disease. I’m doing this man of my dreams a big favour. A favour no one needs to know about of course.

“So, what’s on your agenda today?” Louie kisses the top of my head. “I’m going mushroom hunting. The neighbour picked some lovely puffballs yesterday. There should be a big pot of soup waiting for you when you get home.” If I’m lucky, I’ll find the right ones.

*

Oh, I found the right ones, all right. I had to wear gloves to pick them. I dropped one on the floor and the dog almost got it. Made my heart drop, what a disaster that could have been. I really do love my husband. After all these years, I know exactly how to cook for him; plenty of garlic and cumin and cayenne. He won’t be able to stop eating until the pot is empty.

Louie’s exuberant entrance every day after work breaks the calm of my home. “Honey, I’m home.” Nothing new ever happens at his job, but every day I need to ask. “How was work today?” “I’ll be glad when it’s over. What’s for supper?” “I’ve left soup on the stove. Sorry but I need to get to a meeting this evening. I’ve already eaten so you can finish the pot. Don’t let the dog have any though. There’s garlic in it, and garlic isn’t good for dogs.”

Many hours later, when I come home from my meeting, the house lights are blazing. He always turns all the lights on for me when I’m out. I’ll miss that. I’m a little nervous opening the door. I’ve read it can take just hours or sometimes days for poisonous mushrooms to do their work. I don’t know what to expect. “Honey, I’m home.” Daisy comes dashing out of the kitchen to greet me, big smile plastered on her canine face. Anxiously I walk into the kitchen myself, prepared for anything. “That soup was delicious! I’m really sorry I didn’t leave you any.” There’s Louie, calmly reading the newspaper, enjoying his evening brandy. “How was your meeting?” “Fine. Everything okay here?” “Everything is just fine.”

I didn’t sleep a wink all night. I hope this isn’t going to get messy, if you know what I mean. Louie, of course, slept like a log. Like a log being sawed by a chain saw all night long that is. I waited and waited for the snoring, the breathing, to stop but it never did. He never even got a stomach ache.

“Good morning Sweetie, how was your sleep?” Can’t he see I’m watching CNN? “I’ve had better nights” I answer, after muting the TV. It’s been three days, and three long nights and he is obviously in perfect health. Damn him.

It’s Louie’s scooter gang night. Once a week these middle-aged children hop onto their ridiculous scooters and go for a drive somewhere. They dress and act like some motorcycle gang. They speed around corners at 30 kilometres an hour, leaning into the turns like they’re in some sort of race. Louie loves it, wouldn’t miss it for the world. These guys are his best friends. I’m running out of time. Tonight, there’s going to be some trouble. The bonus is that a vehicle accident pays out big time. Insurance will pay me Louie’s full salary for the rest of my life. This is better than mushrooms. As soon as he leaves I get to work in the garage.

I’m no mechanic, but it seems to me that loose bolts are a bad thing, right? I go about and loosen everything. What do I care what falls off first?  The phone is ringing when I come back into the house. “Hello?” “Hey Mom, it’s Roger. How are things?” “Things are great. I’m busy planning the retirement party.” Funeral party. “I’ve been working on a little speech for Dad. I thought I’d kind of go through his life so far.” That will be useful. Roger will miss his Dad, but he lives on the other side of the country, and there’s enough life insurance for him for a down payment on a house. He’ll get over it.

“Honey, I’m home and I won’t be needing dinner tonight. The guys and I are taking a ride to Boston Pizza. All the wives are coming. Do you want to hop on the back?” Hop on the back? Go out for pizza? Gab with the wives? When is the last time I said no to that kind of offer? Damn him to hell, I had to think fast. “I would have loved to but I have signed up for a yoga class tonight. I wish you’d called me from work.” That’s right, now it’s his fault, a brilliant and oft-used technique by smart wives that will deflect my stupid lame excuse. I really would like to have gone though.

Louie heads out to the garage but he’s back in just minutes. “I have got to fix the vibration on that scooter. I had to tighten every bolt again. See you later.” “Yes, see you later.” Obviously.

Louie’s retirement is looming and I am running out of time. “I’m going to clean the chimney; will you hold the ladder for me?” Nothing, not even a twisted ankle from that fall. I held the pillow over his face for half an hour, it didn’t even wake him up. The blow dryer in the bathtub blew a fuse and Louie had to tromp water over the floor to reset it. Roger arrived, and shortly after Andrew. One look at Andrew’s dreads and tattoos should have been enough to give him a heart attack, but nothing.

*

“Happy retirement, Dad. You made it! Welcome to the golden years.” Yes, he made it, against all odds.  “Pass me the chips, honey.” My financial security now rests in Louie living forever. “Eat your yogurt, dear.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Response to The Retirement

  1. Well that was black humor indeed! We have a joke in our family and the punch line is “eat your mushrooms sweetheart!”. So that was the way I expected the story to go but well done you surprised me. It was starting to be like a Hitchcock movie and I am so glad that she did not succeed. Perhaps in a few more years she will think that she had a menopausal moment and be happy she didn’t succeed – well done Donna!

    Nancy November 10, 2017 at 11:41 am Reply

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