Copyright is held by the author.
MR. EGGLESLY THOUGHT his toothbrush worked just fine. He didn’t need that damn, beautiful woman on TV telling him that because her toothbrush was designed by astro-physicists (or some such), was made of space-age material (or something like that), and could clean your teeth better than ever before, his limp-bristled, outdated toothbrush was as useless as a rotten potato (or something ridiculous as that). Next they’ll have, Mr. Egglesly was certain, a hands-free, muzzle-like teeth-brushing apparatus that can do everything for you.
His bearded jaw was clenched. Molars and bi-cuspeds ground against each other. An arthritic twinge in his thumb came out of nowhere when he used the remote to turn off the TV. Now if only he could turn life off. That’s what he wanted. Because losing his job and finding out his wife cheated on him made it difficult to breathe.
Before the axe fell and he lost his job, before the government decided to pull out of the gambling and horse racing business, Mr. Egglesly started to grind his teeth and hold his breath. This prevented him thinking about mortgage and car payments, about doing something meaningful in his life, about his wife and her affair. He reminded himself of his misspent 20s when he smoked pot, drank too much beer, and bombarded his brain with Rush and Neil Young. If he could only breathe he would sigh, as a lament to a useless but wonderful time in his life.
Mrs. Egglesly was unhappy in her marriage, even before the rumours of job loss. She warned her husband not to worry, to not be so tense all the time. “You’re turning older in your old age. You’re 55, not 65.”
If he had enough air in his lungs he would have defended himself. He would have told her how the world was hurting him. There was too much information overload for him to take. People had become slaves to their communication devices. There was no such thing as privacy in our private lives. And toothbrushes were morphing at an astounding rate.
Without the air, he hadn’t the means to speak, to share.
The Eggleslys had no children for one simple reason: Mrs. Egglesly had that operation done during her first marriage to an abrasive husband who died three years before her second marriage of a heart attack. For the longest time she hadn’t told Mr. Egglesly about the operation, leaving him to believe their inability to conceive was in direct relation to the frequency of their sexual intimacies. Mrs. Egglesly wasn’t one for frequent sexual intercourse, and that was okay, at first, for him, because he loved her so.
When he found out, after his puzzlement started having an angry edge to it, Mr. Egglesly felt he had been inadequate somewhere down the line to make his wife not want to be forthcoming with him. Mrs. Egglesly thought her husband a weak man for even considering he was responsible for her silence. If she had wanted to tell him about the operation earlier she would have. It didn’t seem all that important. He was sucking up to her and she would have none of it.
Time erased all thoughts of having children.
Mr. Egglesly did not see it. Mrs. Egglesly did not see it. This separateness between husband and wife. Even if both of them so desired they would never have experienced a true communion. Mr. Egglesly knew something was wrong, but he could not put his finger on it. He held his breath, so to speak, hoping eventually things would work themselves out.
Ultimately, they did. It may have been accidental. It may have been planned deep in his subconscious.
He may have pushed her too hard, he may have wanted to. He was going to rearrange the furniture in the living room which involved moving the coffee table like she had asked. Or he may have refused in a silent display of rebellion.
Car lights fanned across the driveway. Mr. Egglesly stepped back from the front window. He unclenched his jaw. He struck a defiant pose. He waited. And now, it was time to breathe.
She hit her head hard on the edge of the coffee table. Her dead eyes looked at him like she expected this all along. The blood came later. He called the police because he thought maybe they could help explain things to him.