A husband who thinks a lot of himself decides to do away with his troublesome wife in a singularly unusual way but faces retribution from nature's elements.
Nuts To You
Larry admired himself in the mirror, sucking in his gut, looked at his right three-quarter image and then his left. He pulled down the sleeve of his loose-fitting linen shirt into the palm of his hand and wiped a smudge off the glass, where he had just popped a blackhead. Alison would wrinkle her nose in disgust if she could see him now. But she’s not here and would never see the blob on the mirror, he thought. He exhaled a luxurious sigh of contentment.
Leaning forward, he puckered his lips and mouthed to his reflection, “You’re still a heartbreaker, you dog, you.”
He ran his tongue around his mouth, noting its dryness and reached for his lip balm, which was lying on the TV cabinet. He smoothed and adjusted his toupee, centered the sun medallion, hanging around his neck, opened his shirt one more button and fluffed up his chest hair in the vee of the gold chain. His smile, the flash of his white teeth, was still dazzling, especially for a forty-six year old. The doorbell rang, he reluctantly left the mirror and whipped his breath spray out of his pocket.
Opening his mouth, he gave the tiny canister a surreptitious squeeze before going over to the huge double door. After straightening the shade and adjusting his eyes to the sunlight, he saw Susan’s smiling face and her wave on the other side of the glass. He slid the door open. There was some dirt in the channel. He’d have to clean it. But not now, later.
“Didn’t you hear me coming up the stairs,” she said, her eyes, teeth and lips glistening. “I tried to make as much noise as I could. I haven’t seen you for so long.”
She threw herself into Larry’s waiting arms without hesitation. His looking down at the door base didn’t bother her. All her life, Susan had been sure of her welcome and she knew, in his own way, he was as glad to see her as she was to see him.
“I didn’t hear you. I was absorbed in something else, ” he said, smoothing his toupee
“Just as long as it wasn’t some-one else.” She smiled prettily. “Did you miss me?”
“Sure I missed you. How long has it been?”
“Two weeks,” Susan said, with mock sadness.
A true California girl, Susan had gorgeous, long, blonde hair, white teeth, flawless, lightly tanned skin and long, French-manicured fingernails. Her carefully applied lip gloss, meant to be invisible, made her lips appear large and full. She had practiced a pouting look for long hours in front of her mirror and her mouth looked ready to be kissed. She was thinking of Bo-tox, but her friend, Amy, said she didn’t need it.
No one but she could have worn strappy sandals as high-heeled as hers without teetering and losing their balance, but she could, and remained rock solid, having walked up the outside stairs with the skill of a dancer, sure-footed and elegant. Her shoes set off her shapely, but well-defined legs, perfectly.
“When did Alison leave?” Susan wrapped a hand, coyly around Larry’s bicep, giving it a playful squeeze, as he ushered her inside.
“This morning, about two hours ago. We’re safe. Come here.” He got a whiff of her lemony perfume.
He tried to pull her down on the sofa but she held back, playfully, and resisted his arms.
“Let’s go out to eat and then we can come back and play house. OK?” she asked. “And besides, I want to ride in your new car. Is it the white and silver Mercedes I saw downstairs, parked next to the house?”
“That’s right. Do you like it?”
“Do I like it? What do you think?”
“I’ll put the top down. I want to see that blonde hair flowing in the wind.”
“But it’s raining,” said Susan, pouting. “Did you forget? See, I stood my umbrella against the wall.”
“So it is. Put that lower lip away,” Larry said, kissing her. “I’ll take you to this new restaurant I’ve discovered. They do halibut on a bed of lentils, just right for you, “a bed of ….”
“Unhand me, you brute! Let’s go. I’ll race you to the car.”
Larry pulled a large golf umbrella out of the ceramic stand, threw on a rain-resistant jacket, locked the door and clattered down the stairs, after Susan.
After they were settled in the car, Susan said, “How long will Alison be gone?”
“About a week and a half, I think. She bought a shipment of some brass candelabras, which she thinks will look great with those Persian rugs she bought last month. All the stores want them. She’ll make a fortune.”
“That gives us plenty of time, doesn’t it? Shall I stay with you? I wouldn’t want you to be lonely.” She gave his leg a playful squeeze.
He flashed her his brilliant, winning smile.
“That would be great. But how about tomorrow? I just have to finish up some work today. Somebody just bought one of my domain addresses”
“OK. Whatever. You better put the windshield wipers on high. It’s really pouring. I feel all damp.”
“Yeah, it’s been raining non-stop for almost two weeks. People down the road have already had mudslide warnings. I hope it stops soon.”
“Let’s talk about something else. You and me. I’ll cook tomorrow. What d’you like best?”
“You know what I like best,” he murmured.
“Not that, silly. I mean, to eat. Keep your eyes on the road.”
They pulled up in front of “Jakes Place.” Larry had hoped to sit outside on the deck, under one of the bright umbrellas, but it was raining too hard. The sky had just misted over with angry rain clouds and the visibility was almost zero.
“I don’t see any cars in the lot, but I’m sure the restaurant’s open,” said Larry. “Let’s go inside.”
There didn’t seem much point in waiting to be seated, since they were the only customers there, so they took a table for two with a nice view of the Pacific.
“Too bad it’s foggy.” Susan wiped a clear place on the window with a tissue.
The waiter approached, ready with his “I’ll be your server….” speech and handed them the menu and a wine list.
“Have whatever you want, but let’s both make it quick. I’m anxious to get back to the house. Aren’t you,” said Larry, his eyelids at half-mast.
“Oh yeah, sure. This hanger steak and roasted vegetables looks good. How about some wine?”
Larry said to the waiter, who was hovering near the table, “Bring us a bottle of your best Pinot Noir.”
“You didn’t say please,” said Susan.
“He doesn’t need a please. Just wants a good tip. Am I going to get mine soon?”
“Maybe. It depends on the service,” said Susan, never taking her eyes off the menu, but smiling. She looked up at him, coyly, through her long eyelashes.
The waiter brought their food. Conscious of how they were going to spend the rest of the afternoon, they made little conversation and ate hurriedly. No one else had come in. They were still alone. Larry paid the bill, leaving the waiter a large tip, and they left.
Wordlessly, they drove home and almost ran up the stairs. Larry fumbled for the key, found it, inserted it in the lock and slid the door open. They ripped their clothes off, plunged onto the sofa, threw the pillows on the floor and fell on each other.
Afterward, Susan zipped up her dress from behind and looked thoughtful. She sighed and said, “I wish we could be together all the time.”
“Me too,” said Larry, although he was thinking, if it wasn’t you, it’d be someone else. There had been a lot of young girls before Susan and there would probably be others. She was nice, pretty and good in bed, but not too smart.
The next few days passed by with almost non-stop sex and eating. Susan was a fair cook and she certainly knew how to dole out erotic treats.
Monday came and Larry said, “This is it. Alison’s coming home this afternoon. You’ll have to move all your things out. If she finds out I’ve been having too much fun while she’s been gone, there’ll be hell to pay. There was last time.”
“What do you mean, ‘last time?’”
“Uh…I mean she had a bad cold and was crabby.”
“Oh…All right.” Susan sounded dispirited. “I’ll pack my bag and gather up my shoes. Will you drive me to my place? When can I see you again?”
“Soon,” Larry said, not smiling. “Very soon.”
About an hour and a half before Larry was to pick Alison up at the airport, he stepped outside on the deck to smoke a cigarette. She wouldn’t let him smoke in the house.
Last time she was gone on a business trip, she had taken her car and left it at the airport. Having forgotten something, she came back unexpectedly and caught Larry having sex with a local neighbor. She left, but when she came back, they had a huge fight. She didn’t even believe his story about having been slipped a pill at a local bar that made him forget what he was doing.
Maxine Faber, his new next-door neighbor was out on her deck, watering some plants Some large binoculars on a leather strap hung around her neck. No longer young, although she did not seem aware of it, she wore a brief halter top and orange short-shorts, which showed too much of her freckled thighs. She didn’t seem bothered by the rolls of flab around her midriff. Her skin was deeply tanned and leathery and her hair, sun-bleached, although she did help it out every once in a while with her favorite product, “A Bottle of Brilliance.”
“Ahoy,” she shouted, frantically waving.
She favored nautical terms and her house was alive with brass decorative anchors, corks, plastic octopi and netting. She herself was from the Midwest and had grown up far away from water. She thought of California as exotic.
“Alison will be home soon, won’t she? Hope you’ve made her something nice for dinner. Who was that girl you’ve had staying with you?”
Maxine always said exactly what was on her mind and Larry was momentarily taken aback He thought quickly.
“Oh that was my niece. She’s coming back in a few days. Wants to surprise Alison. Don’t say anything when you see her.”
“Oh I won’t breathe a word, don’t worry. Pretty girl, though.”
“Nice that it’s stopped raining and the sun is out,” said Larry. “What do the sea gulls say?”
“I don’t know what the sea gulls say but the news says it’s gonna rain some more.
Say, do you know your gutters are leaking? I saw water pouring down the side on the first floor. You should take a look at it. Or Ralph can. He’s good with stuff like that. You and Alison should come over sometime. We could barbeque some ribs and drink some beers.”
“Excuse me,” said Larry. “The phone is ringing. Nice talking to you.”
The phone wasn’t ringing and it wasn’t nice talking to Maxine and damn the gutters, but her remark about fixing something nice for Alison’s dinner certainly was interesting. The only thing he could cook was chili. Alison would certainly be tired out from her flight and would enjoy having something ready that she didn’t have to prepare herself.
Larry went to the pantry, took out a can of tomatoes, one of red kidney beans and a large onion from the rolling vegetable cart. He peeled the onion, cut it in slices and put it in the pan to sauté with lots of olive oil. Then he took a two-pound slab of ground beef out of the refrigerator, unwrapped it, broke it into chunks and put it into the pan to brown.
The process of cooking relaxed him and he thought, she’ll be hungry, no famished, after a long plane trip and she’ll appreciate this. I don’t do enough for her.
Lots of chili powder and a big dollop of peanut butter came next. This will fix her It was the secret ingredient and would enhance the flavor and his relationships, tremendously. His mouth was already watering,
When it was done, he put the stove on warm so the chili would be ready to eat when he and Alison came home. Four o’clock rolled around. Time to leave for the airport. Larry changed his shirt, brushed his teeth and combed his hair. He pocketed his house keys, slid the door open, locked it and descended the stairs to the concrete pad where his car was parked. He opened the driver’s door of his Mercedes.and immediately smelled trouble, the delicious lemony scent of Susan. He put the top down. Thank God it’s stopped raining. The smell would quickly dissipate.
Larry set off in a buoyant mood. Everything would work out. Music filled his head and he whistled a tune as he drove. The regional airport was close by and he was sure he wouldn’t have to wait long for Alison’s flight.
He parked the Mercedes in the almost empty parking lot and went inside The monitor said Alison’s plane, flight 309 from Chicago was on time and would arrive at 4:40 so he walked over to the espresso bar and ordered a latte. He lit a cigarette, inhaled luxuriously and thought, better enjoy it while it lasts, “it” being freedom..
Alison seemed to appear on the escalator from nowhere and waved. She had only a small bag on wheels. Her smile was broad, her body, stringy and tall. She was not unattractive but hardly exuded sex appeal. People said she was “all business.” Her purse, expensive blue leather, the color matching her business suit, was thrown carelessly over her arm.
“Larry darling. Did you miss me? I feel so frazzled. I need a big drink.”
“How was your trip? I bet you’re tired and hungry,” said Larry. “I fixed dinner. Chili, your favorite.”
“Anything would taste good. I’m ravenous. You know how these flights are. Even in business class, they don’t feed you. I sat next to a fat man, who was about to open one of those little bags of peanuts. I snatched it away from him and got the flight attendant to come over. When I told her the sad story of my peanut allergy, she acted like she had heard this tale every day. I was quite offended. Anyway, she gave him some pretzels and. I’m still alive….What was your week like? Were you lonely? Every time I called, you must have been out. Did you get my messages?”
“I’ve been really busy this week. Been run off my feet. I sold one of my domain names for big bucks.” He smiled half-heartedly, asking for approval. “Talked to those new people next door. They want us to come over for a barbeque. I don’t want to go,” said Larry.
“Good. Neither do I.”
It took them less than a half hour to drive home. The rain started again, slowly at first, then built up to a serious level. Larry pulled over and put the top up.
After they drove along for a while, Alison said, “What’s that funny smell? Lemons?”
“Oh that.” Larry fingered his medallion. “I had the car washed yesterday and they asked me if I wanted a scent. They sprayed something called Wonder Whiff inside. I chose Lemon Breeze.”
“I thought you said it’d been raining all week,” said Alison.
“It had, but the car’s new and had some mud splashes down the side.”
Uh-oh, here we go, thought Larry. She’s so suspicious.
They arrived home. Larry opened the trunk from inside and ran around to get Alison’s bag. She opened the car door, unfurled her umbrella and ran up the stairs. Larry followed her.
Alison flopped down on the sofa, the same sofa that Larry and Susan had had sex on a few hours earlier.
“It’s so good to be home! It was a grueling few days but I made a lot of money. Signed a contract with three stores.”
“Do you want to eat now,” asked Larry.
“In a minute. Let me go to the bathroom. I’ll be back in a minute.”
When she was gone, he thought, her Epipen! He scrabbled through her purse, which she had left laying on the sofa, found the kit and slipped it in his pants pocket.
Alison had gotten it a few years ago and carried it with her now, just in case. At that time, the doctor had told her, “A shot of epinephrine, which is the same as adrenaline, which you can give yourself, could save your life in an emergency. Keep it with you at all times. An allergy to peanuts is no joke.”
Alison clicked the bathroom door and came down the hall.
“That smells good. Let’s eat. I’m starved.”
“I’ve already set the table. Do you want something to drink,” said Larry.
“I’ll just have water.”
Larry ladled out two servings of steaming chili and carried the bowls to the table.
“It looks wonderful. You’ve been busy today.”
Alison picked up her spoon.
Larry watched her, expectantly.
“Aren’t you going to eat, too,” she said.
“Yes, of course. I just wanted to see how you liked it.”
“Well, I’ll tell you.”
Alison held a full spoonful up to her mouth and swallowed it.
She dropped the spoon.
“What did you put in this? My mouth is on fire.”
She put her right hand up to her face and clutched her throat with her left hand.
“Give me my purse! My Epipen. Where is it?”
“Your what?” Larry smiled.
She was becoming red in the face and her voice was a mere croak A nasty rash had appeared on her arms and around her mouth.
“Help! Call 911!
She appeared not to be able to catch her breath, gagged, wheezed and flailed her arms.
Larry got up from the table in disgust. He knew he wouldn’t be able to put up with Alison’s death agony. He got up from the table and had a sudden longing for a cigarette. He put a CD of the 1812 overture by Tchaikovsky on, skipped to the ending where the cannons come in and turned the volume up on high so he wouldn’t have to listen to Alison’s noise. He slid the balcony door open, walked out and sat down at the bistro table, which was under a small canopy. This was his smoking place in all weathers. Tonight, the rain was unrelenting, pouring down in sheets.
The gutters! I’ll bet they’re leaking and damaging the foundation, he said to himself. First, he looked over the railing and craned his neck, but hard as he tried, couldn’t see anything. Then he got the idea of lying down and looking under the lowest horizontal bar of the protective rail. He slid open the door,-all was silent in the kitchen, thank God-lay down, flat, his feet protruding into the living room, stuck his head under-there was barely enough room-and wriggled forward until he could see the gutter. Yes it was leaking. Water was cascading over the side right onto the ground beside the house. He’d have to have it fixed.
He tried to pull himself out, but was stuck! Wriggling backward had no effect. His arms, not able to grasp onto anything, were useless and couldn’t provide leverage His toes had nothing to grip onto. What’ll I do? He stayed there for a while until Maxine saw him through her side window. She opened her back door a crack and shouted out.
“Do you need help? Is Alison there?”
As best as he could, he shouted back.
“I’ll be all right. Thanks. I’ll wriggle out, somehow.”
But ten minutes later he was still there, in the same position, exhausted from trying to free himself.
Maxine looked out the window again and shouted, “I’m coming over. Where’s
“No don’t,” Larry yelled, in horror.
Just then, a siren sounded. A loudspeaker voice said something undistinguishable. Larry got only the word, “Evacuation.”
Maxine screeched, “You’ve got to get out of there. I just heard on the news that a mudslide is threatening.”
“I can’t move. I’m stuck.”
“I’ll call 911. Hold tight!”
There were more sirens and Larry saw the reflection of red signal lights in the ocean. Out of view was traffic noise. The loudspeaker commands sounded important but were unintelligible.
Larry lay on the floor of the deck, quietly. He could do little else. Alison’s lying dead in the kitchen, I’m here. What will the rescuers think?”
In a few minutes, he heard a truck approaching on his property. The sirens and flashing lights drew closer. An ambulance sort of vehicle pulled up on the concrete pad next to the garage. Three men in rain gear jumped out of the back and came running up the stairs.
“I’ll see to him, guys. Take a look inside the house and see if there’s anyone else that needs help,” said Joe Pescatori.
They went inside. Within thirty seconds, Mike Gargan called out, “There’s a dead woman on the floor. She’s face down in something that looks like chili. Or it could be puke.”
“You know anything about that, sir?” asked the EMS technician, as he was trying to free Larry. “What’s that thing on the ground? Looks like a ball-point pen. Did you lose a pen, sir?”
Just then, his walkie-talkie crackled and they heard, “You’d better get out of there, now. There’s a mudslide coming!”
Before anyone could even think to move, a wall of mud came racing down the hill, engulfing the EMS truck, Larry and Alison’s house and the Fabers’ house, as well. Seconds afterward, there was nothing to be seen, just a sea of ooze. Everything had been covered, as if it had never existed.
The next morning, Karen Quilter speaking for KMOS news held up her microphone to Maxine Faber, a Ticon resident, who was in a terrible state. Her face was streaked with mud and her clothes a wreck.
“Tell us about last night, Maxine.”
“Oh, it was terrible. We lost everything, all our clothes, our house, our car. We rushed outside when the last warning sounded and ran as fast as our legs could carry us. And then it was all over. We looked back and everything was gone, just gone….” She dissolved in tears.
“We’ve still got each other,” chimed in Ralph Faber, who was standing by her side, his eyes wet.
“When you saw that mud coming down, what was going through your mind,” said Karen Quilter, her hand aching from holding the mike up.
“I didn’t see it coming down. I told you. My poor neighbors, Larry and Alison Hardy. They didn’t get out in time. And those poor 911 people,” she said, through a veil of tears.