The vases graced the fireplace of their suburban ranch, a home with a knotty-but-nice-style kitchen—the latest and greatest according to McCalls, which was never wrong about anything. The year was 1959. To mark their 16th anniversary, Val had exhumed from storage two vases used in their wedding reception.
“Are those the vases from your wedding? They look beautiful, darling. See you at 5:30!” Michael Sr. called to his wife Val as he left for the office.
Val preferred to remain uninformed about the precise nature of Michael Sr.’s work. In fact, she’d years ago become immune to his long hours as well as the periodic bloodstains on his shirts; there wasn’t a stain that could outwit her handiwork.
My husband may be a dingleberry with me and the kids, but he will be a clean one.
Val headed to the bathroom and stood before the mirror. A woman in a pencil skirt and saltwater pearls looked back.
The things I’ve done to earn these pearls.
She stared at her blue eyes. She wondered how life’s wellspring of shit hadn’t turned them brown.
Touching up her pageboy hairstyle, she cringed as she remembered her husband’s words. Your wedding?
Val downed two pills.
The doctor had prescribed something named after a place called Milltown. Barbara, her royal wench of a neighbor, said such pills were the answer to everything.
The upcoming day promised to deliver its dose of drivel. Val had housework and an errand. The errand was a definite priority, for she had seen a commercial the night before on the Singer Magic Mite, the largest-selling hand cleaner in the world. The ad chirped that if purchased, the Mite’s unmatched convenience would ensure a daily savings of 20 minutes, making it much easier to vacuum the sofa, chairs, and stair carpet. Plus, the cigarette ashes from her husband’s Lucky Strike obsession had spilled all over the living room floor. The jingle from the Lucky Strike ad ran through her head, “What makes a Lucky taste better? It’s TOASTED to taste better.”
I ought to toast that bastard myself.
There also was a fecal smell emanating from under Michael Junior’s bed.
I am sure the dog took a shit in in there and back-kicked it under the bed. Maybe along with a few dog turds I can even vacuum up my shit stain of a husband.
Loose hair from her teenaged daughter’s obsession with always brushing it was freely floating everywhere.
Christ, I cannot show up anywhere without lint-rolling my clothes to ensure I don’t look like a female Sasquatch.
With those extra minutes saved through the Mite’s might per week, she may even have time to clean under the appliances.
Or I might enjoy one or two Militinis…Who knew a Miltown could replace a martini’s olive so deliciously?
Exiting the bathroom, Val heard a shriek, “Mom! These new hair rollers are totally square. I need to look like Marilyn Monroe, not Shirley Temple. MOM!”
Where’s the vodka?
Spinning around to come to her daughter’s rescue, Val saw a baseball of Junior’s careen into one of the wedding vases. An explosion of colored glass fractured the air.
Holy hell. That’s the second thing he’s broken this week.
Junior eyed his mother, an apology forming on his lips. “Good morning, Junior!” Val said as she picked up another baseball lying nearby. “Don’t worry; that was just a vase from my wedding.”
Taking careful aim, imagining her husband’s face in place of the remaining vase on the mantle, Val threw with the accuracy of MLB pitcher Curt Simmons, a satisfying explosion of glass bringing a brilliant smile to her face.
Self-absorbed whoreson of a husband.
“Maybe take practice—and the dog—outside for a bit, honey?” Val said, turning and winking at her son.
Confused, but not one to pass up a break, a relieved Junior kissed his mother’s cheek and ran outside. A broken pair of vases was nothing compared to her daughter—or was that a French poodle—now storming toward her.
Two shots of vodka? Forget the shot glass. I’ll just drink straight from the bottle—one less thing to clean.
Twenty minutes later, Val, waving goodbye to her children, saw her neighbor Barbara standing outside.
That woman would shake, rattle, and roll with anyone. Thank God brunettes never made Michael Sr.’s blood run hot.
“The perfect family is not so perfect today?!” Barbara called out to Val.
Iniquitous twat. That woman always knows how to needle me.
With a smile as false as the teeth in her father’s head, Val answered, “Oh, we are fine. Just a few minor incidents to color the morning. How are you? You poor dear.”
Barbara’s husband Robert had simply disappeared three weeks ago. There were no leads. It was like he was vacuumed up into oblivion by the Magic Mite.
The poor bastard might have preferred oblivion in the Magic Mite over his wife’s acerbic tongue.
Fingering the faux-pearled necklace resting on her own chest, Barbara answered, “No updates. Detective Anderson stopped by yesterday.” A tear slid down her cheek.
Poor Barbie. She’s stuck with a life without a husband she hated. She must be heartbroken. She loved him like she loved dysentery.
“I am so sorry, Barbara. Can I do anything to help? I have a few of those magic pills you recommended.”
“Thanks, dear, but I’ve taken out stock in Miltown. If you wouldn’t mind stopping by later this afternoon, though, I could use a friend.”
You lying incorrigible strumpet; I am no friend of yours. You hate me as much as you want my saltwater pearls.
With a reassuring squeeze of Barbara’s shoulders, Val agreed to stop by later, turned, and walked home. She had a lot to do.
One domestic goddess to the rescue—simply add vodka, one Miltown, stir, and drink at your leisure! Guaranteed to remove all twats and peckerheads!
. . .
After a flurry of cleaning and a short shopping spree, Val pulled back into her driveway several hours later. Grabbing the Magic Mite to show off, her heels clicking on the concrete, she ran over to Barbara’s.
God, my life is exhausting. I have been the answer to almost every single person’s prayers today. Perhaps I should just put poor Barbie out of her misery. Death by vacuum. If this little hushpuppy could really vacuum up anything, maybe poor Barb would be better off.
Opening the door with a grand sweep before she even had time to knock, Barbara greeted Val, “I was afraid you wouldn’t make it! I knew you were pinched for time today, dear, so I cooked Chicken à la King for your family. Come in and have one of those Militinis you’ve been crowing about while the chicken finishes up!”
Covetous tart! She made dinner for MY family?!
“Oh, aren’t you just delicious! Where there is a woman, there is a way!” Seated, Val sipped from her martini glass and changed the subject, bragging, “You won’t believe my luck! I just purchased the last Magic Mite from Wilson’s. I practically stole it right out of Patsy Butler’s hands. She always was slow to the show. Look at its compact form!”
Downing her Militini, Val looked at the glass. The liquid left a grainy taste in her mouth.
Trust Barbie to buy second-rate vodka. Uncultured cow.
Fingering Val’s purchase, Barbara exclaimed, “The Magic Mite! You have everything! Just think of how much time this will save. You’ll have time to curl Betsy’s hair the right way. No more being late to Junior’s baseball games. For once you’ll be able to cook for that handsome husband of yours.”
Blinking twice, Val looked at Barbara. Her heart was racing. Something was wrong with her. She tried to respond, but the words would not form. She scanned the room for an explanation, her eyes darting from the empty calendar on the wall to the kitchen sink and then on to the toaster.
Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! Was that bottle of Miltown next to the toaster as empty as it appeared? How much Miltown had she put into this drink?!
Val tried to stand up to get a closer look at the bottle. Her legs refused to cooperate and her trim ass in its pencil skirt remained glued to the kitchen chair. Awash in panic, she tried to move her arm to the table to push herself up. She sought out Barbara’s aid, hoping the woman had noticed her incapacitated state.
A vicious giggle escaped Barbara’s lips as their eyes met, and Barbara taunted, “Oh, Val, aren’t you just delicious!? Where there’s a woman, there’s a way! You just consumed half the population of Milltown! You always were slow to the show, you poor dear!”
With a rush of adrenaline, Val stumbled to the counter to verify the prescription bottle’s emptiness. Her grasp knocked it to the floor, the sound of the spinning bottle rattling on the linoleum. Val leaned into the counter, her mind calculating various flights but her body incapable of actuating them.
Unwinding the Magic Mite’s long cord, Barbara slipped behind Val in her impaired state. Caressing Val’s breasts with the cord’s plug, she wrapped the cord twice around Val’s neck. She pulled it tight, jerking Val’s neck back in ecstasy. Finished, she tied the cord off in a neat knot.
Val attempted to claw at the cord, but the Miltown invading her veins left her powerless. She now knew that if the Militini didn’t finish her, the Mite would.
Images of her husband and children flashed before her.
Who would fix Betsy’s hair? Would Junior finally hit a homerun? Who would wash the blood from Michael Sr.’s shirts? At least I know who he’ll be fucking.
Barbara struggled to open the lid on her new freezer. The freezer ad promised it would provide for better living—and it was delivering. The bitch was about to be iced.
The last thing Val saw was Barbara’s husband’s face, now inches from her own, frozen in a perpetual snarl, his lips curling and his eyes bulging in vacant rage.
The poor cuckold’s even uglier in death. No wonder she offed him.
Barbara slammed the freezer shut and paused, checking her watch. Dinner was ready, and she needed to pack it up. Michael Sr. never had been able to pass up all that she brought to the table.
. . .
“Is it done?” Michael Sr. asked as he breezed in the door that evening, brushing a kiss across Barbara’s cheek.
Noting her nod, he continued questioning, “Are those my wife’s pearls? They look beautiful on you, darling! Is that Chicken à la King I smell?”by