“Oh, I’m glad for that. Your face is familiar. I somehow know you well.”
She began to walk slowly, looking over at him as he stood near the porch of the house.
“Thanks,” she said. “You’ve saved my life.”
“And my own along with it.”
The shadows of a tree fell across her face, touched her cheeks, moved in her eyes.
“Oh, Lord! Girls lie in bed nights listing the names for their future children. Silly. Joe. John. Christopher. Samuel. Stephen. And right now, Will.” She touched the gentle rise of her stomach, then lifted her hand out halfway to point to him in the night. “Is your name Will?”
Tears absolutely burst from her eyes. He wept with her.
“Oh, that’s fine, fine,” she said at last. “I can go now. I won’t be out here on the lawn anymore. Thank God, thank you. Good night.”
She went away into the shadows across the lawn and along the sidewalk down the street. At the far corner he saw her turn and wave and walk away.
“Good night,” he said quietly.
I am not born yet, he thought, or she has been dead many years, which is it? which?
The moon sailed into clouds.
The motion touched him to step, walk, go up the porch stairs, wait, look out at the lawn, go inside, shut the door.
A wind shook the trees.
The moon came out again and looked upon a lawn where two sets of footprints, one going one way, one going another in the dew, slowly, slowly, as the night continued, vanished.
By the time the moon had gone down the sky there was only an empty lawn and no sign, and much dew.
The great town clock struck six in the morning. Fire showed in the east. A cock crowed.
THE VERY GENTLE MURDERS
Joshua Enderby awoke in the middle of the night because e felt someone’s fingers at his throat.
In the rich darkness above him he sensed but could not see his wife’s frail, skelatinous weight seated on his chest while she dabbled and clenched tremblingly again and again at his neck.
He opened his eyes wide. He realized what she was trying to do. It was so ridiculous he almost cried out with laughter!
His rickety, jaundiced, eighty-five-year-old wife was trying to strangle him!
She panted forth a rum-and-bitters smell as she perched there, toppling like a drunken moth, tinkering away as if he were a toy. She sighed irritably and her skinny fingers began to swear as she gasped, “Why don’t you, oh, why don ‘t you?”
Why don’t I what? he wondered idly, lying there. He swallowed and this faint action of his Adam’s apple dislodged her feeble clutch. Why don’t I die; is that it? he cried silently. He lay another few moments, wondering if she’d gain strength enough to do him in. She didn’t.
Should he snap on the light to confront her? Wouldn’t she look a silly ass, a skinny chicken aloft sidesaddle on her hated husband’s amazed body, and him laughing?
Joshua Enderby groaned and yawned. “Missy?”
Her hands froze on his collarbone.
“Will you-“ He turned, pretending half sleep. “Will you-please’ ‘-he yawned-‘ ‘move to your side – of the bed? Eh? Good girl.”
Missy moved off in the dark. He heard ice tinkle. She was having another shot of rum.
At noon the next day, enjoying the weather and waiting for luncheon guests to arrive, old Joshua and Missy traded drinks in the garden pavilion. He handed her Dubonnet; she gave him sherry.
There was a moment of silence as both eyed the stuff and hesitated to sip. He handled his glass in such a way that his large white diamond ring sparked and glittered on his palsied hand. Its light made him flinch and at last he gathered his phlegm.
“Missy,” he said. “You haven’t long to live, you know.” Missy was hidden behind jonquils in a crystal bowl and now peered out at her mummified husband. Both perceived that the other’s hands shook. She wore a cobalt dress, heavily iced with luncheon jewels, little glittery planets under each ear, a scarlet design for a mouth. The ancient whore of Babylon, he thought dryly.