He is sick. She knows this.
She knows this because he tells her every day. In the morning, he complains of a headache. She once suggested it was a hangover—after all, he polishes off a twelve pack just about every night—and he called her an idiot. Told her she didn’t get how alcohol worked. That the glass of water and two ibuprofen he took every night before bed cured all.
By midmorning he starts to grumble about his back. It’s always his lower back, and it’s always after he’s been sitting in bed for three or four hours. She knows better than to suggest that his back pain might be from the awkward angle at which he props himself up on the pillows, peering at his computer and sipping the tea he demands she bring him.
After lunch, it is his stomach that bothers him. He can’t have dairy—was there cream in the soup she served him? He has no tolerance for beans, and fats, and vegetables with skin. His sandwiches lack tomatoes and onions and condiments. She feeds him meat on dry bread and salty broth. No wonder he’s miserable.
As she folds the laundry and dusts the light fixtures in the midafternoon, he calls out to her that he can’t nap with all of her bustling. He needs the room dark, and the house silent. He must sleep to make up for the restless insomnia he suffers most nights.
By evening, he doesn’t want to eat. His stomach is still too topsy-turvy. A cold Pabst Blue Ribbon will do the trick, he says. Then another. Then a third. He’s remarkably sprightly after the third. Climbing up and down the stairs himself, and his backache and migraine and delicate stomach are apparently miraculously cured. He’s loud and belligerent and affectionate and randy. She shudders at his touch.
She likes him better sick. Which is why she’s been poisoning him.
Stacey Longo is the author of Ordinary Boy (nominated for a Pushcart Prize) and Secret Things: Twelve Tales to Terrify.
Her YA horror novel My Sister the Zombie is due out in 2016. Her stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, including Shroud, Shock Totem, and the Litchfield Literary Review. She is a past Hiram Award winner, and was a featured author on the 2014 Connecticut Authors Trail.
A former humor columnist for the Block Island Times, she maintains a weekly humor blog at www.staceylongo.com.