40 YEARS AND COUNTING
by Bart Meehan
“There’s something in the walls,” my wife says.
I drop the newspaper to my lap.
“There’s something in the walls. I can hear it.”
I shake my head and lift the paper again, opening it with a snap.
We’ve been married for 40 years and she can still annoy me.
I’m used to all the lids on the jars in the pantry being loose and that she never washes a cup after she uses it. I’ll wait patiently as she checks the iron five times before we leave the house and I’ll hide behind my newspaper when she worries that a new twinge is a sign of something serious.
But now there’s something in the wall. I don’t have time for another quirk, I say in my head.
“Aren’t you going to check?” she asks.
The tone has a subtext of profanity that’s intended to settle the matter, but instead it hangs there in a sullen silence that eventually overwhelms me.
I slap the paper down on the arm of the chair and stand up.
And there it is, the half-smile signaling another triumph.
“In the hall.”
I stomp out of the living room and make a show of thumping the walls in the hallway with my fist.
“Nothing” I shout.
“In here, too.”
I walk back into the room, shaking my head for effect. I slap the wall next to the fire place. The only sound is a burning log cracking as it collapses against the grate.
I stare her down. “Convinced?”
She points behind me. “What’s that?”
I turn and see the shape of a woman sitting.
“Christ almighty, now you’re jumping at your own shadow.”
She shrugs, then sits there not moving. But her shadow does.
It stands up and reaches out from the wall, the fingers brushing across my cheek.
I step back, my heart beat shaking my body.
“Let me go” the shadow says.
I stumble into my own chair and turn to look at my wife. She is sitting quietly, looking like she did just before one of those twinges finally turned into something serious.
“Let me go.”
My wife fades a little more with each blink. Disappearing like the memory of a dream.
“No” I scream and then a little lower: “Not yet.”
My voice fills the rooms of the empty house and the shadow is sucked back to the wall.
My wife turns towards me, frowning.
“I’ve been reading this article and I have all the symptoms” she says. “I think I may have malaria.”
“For Christ’s sake” I mutter under my breath. 40 years we’ve been together and not once in all that time have we ever been anywhere with mosquitoes and swamps.
Bart Meehan lives in Canberra Australia and has published several stories over the years. Bart has also written a short radio play about World War 1 that was broadcast on Australian radio and is now available for free download here (http://podcast11793.podomatic.com/entry/2012-09-14T06_14_22-07_00 ). A second play on the London Blitz during World War 2, will be broadcast in the coming months. Bart's micro, 40 Years and Counting, appears in the April 2013 issue of HelloHorror.
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