Jed and his wife, Margie, are taking breakfast in the kitchen. There’ll be thunder today, she says, I can always feel it coming.
Just like a dog. Jed is unaware of Margie’s look of contempt as he continues, If this arthritis pain in my fingers gets worse I won’t be able to use my shotgun.
The rabbits will be pleased.
That’s all you can say? I’m suffering.
Might it all be in your head? Margie suggests.
That’s rich coming from you, hiding in the understairs cupboard afeared of thunder and lightning.
The doctor says it’s an abnormal hysterical reaction.
More like guilt.
The GP says I need therapy.
Therapy? Bunkum, Jed says. I’m off to the auction at Louth market.
You mean you’re going to the Boar’s Head to get pissed again?
What’s it to you?
Alone, and hearing thunder in the distance, Margie goes to a kitchen cupboard, removes writing paper and a ballpoint pen. She writes.
When we married we were full of hope and excitement. Then we had our son, John, and we were happy. Too soon, it all changed one night with that freak summer storm of thunder, lightning and torrential rain. The noise was terrifying. Our baby, our John, was splashing in the bath. All the windows and the kitchen door were open. Rain was just pouring in on that expensive carpet you’d bought for our bedroom. I should have taken him with me but I thought he’d be ok for just a few minutes. As I ran back to the bathroom, I knew everything was wrong. He’d drowned. I tried to kiss him back to life. The lightning kept flashing like God was pointing at me. You called me a murderer. The verdict was accidental death. You’ve never forgiven me. He was your boy. You’ve forgotten he was my boy too. I agree, I’m guilty.
What’s the point of going on? There isn’t one – not without John and being trapped in your hate as a skivvy.
As she leaves her letter leaning on the teapot on the kitchen table, the juggernaut of thunder crashes towards Margie; her skin prickles with fear.
Inside the large understairs cupboard she sits on a small wooden chair that Jed made for when his son was older. Jed’s loaded shotgun rests across Margie’s thighs. The thunder is ever nearer. Bright lightning flashes beneath the cupboard door. Her bitten lower lip bleeds. Massive claps of thunder shake the house. She imagines nursing John’s wet body. She picks up the shotgun, puts both barrels in her mouth but as she strains to reach the triggers, the door flies open. Jed leans into the cupboard waving her letter. This a suicide note? He shouts. Maggie swings toward him and fires both barrels at point blank range removing the top of his head. Covered in blood, brain and bone, she thinks, I just need one shell for me. Then I’ll be free.
No one hears the shot.
© Phil Cosker 2022
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.