Taking out the trash.
|His name was Harry, not the prince of recent headlines and media grumblings. My Harry was a garbage collector working our neighborhood. We had our passing waves as I pulled out of the driveway on Tuesday mornings. There were tossed thank you's when he up-righted our can or brought it in from the curb on snowy days. That was the extent of our acquaintance until Harry made a bold move to save me. |
It was a typical workday morning of getting the kids ready for daycare and making sure my husband had everything he needed for his workday. I had prepared eggs and sausage for myself and the man, and cereal and sausage bites for the kids. His briefcase, car keys, and coat were lined up on the counter. But as sometimes happens with kids, the shiny car keys became an object of play making their way to some unknown destination.
The morning seemed to go calmly, which wasn't always the case. I could feel the air escape from my lips and my shoulders release the familiar tension. He prepared to leave, but as he started to grab for the nonexistent keys, his face glowed an unsavory color of red. The calm disappeared, and his usual rage reappeared.
He screamed, while turning to me, "Where are my keys?"
I remember stumbling on my words, "I don't know ....let me find them. They were there...must have fallen...Must have..."
Before I could finish my fear-induced rumblings, he grabbed me by the hair and threw me to the ground. He, somehow managed to land a punch before I hit the floor. I could feel the blood ooze down my lip, and sadly, it wasn't the first time. I remember each episode of this man's anger and violence toward me, and here I was still hurting, still crying. The strange part of it all, I was always surprised and confused about the reason. I could never wrap my head around what would set off his fuse.
The next sound in the room came from my 3-year-old. "Daddy, keys?" His blond ringlets shook lightly on his head, as he trembled while reaching out to hand his father the lost item. He was already learning to be afraid of his daddy.
I glanced over to gauge my husband's response. His right hand formed to make a fist and moved its way toward my baby's curly little head. In that moment, I finally understood all my husband's rage. That rage filled every fiber of my being. I lunged at my child, carrying him safely out of range from the punch.
I turned towards my husband, bellowing incoherent words, as I released the anger inside of me. The knife that I had used to cut the sausages into bite sized morsels for my children, just one hour earlier, somehow made its way back into my hand. I plunged it hard and deep into the man's abdomen, turning it repeatedly. I liked the way the handle felt, as it spiraled in my hand. It was satisfying to see the unsavory red color on his face drain pale. And it was gratifying to see him slump to the floor.
I was roused from my momentary trance by the jingling of keys by my little boy, playing happily in the corner. My daughter busied herself picking at the cheerios on the tray of her highchair. In their few short years on this earth, I realized that the chaos surrounding us, was normal life for them. I wanted to cry again, not because of what I had done, but because these innocents hadn't been allowed to know better.
Suddenly, the back door opened, and Harry burst in the room. He took the scene in and managed to know exactly what happened without my uttering a word. It was his control that calmed me.
"I need you to take the kids upstairs and play with them for a bit, okay? Josie, I will take care of this."
"I saw, and I heard. There wasn't anything else you could do. I was on my way into help you, but I couldn't make it in time. I will fix it now."
"Here, put it in this bag and bring it back. Got it?"
I grabbed the kids in one scoop, as I had many times before, and headed up the stairs, as I had been told to do. I carefully disrobed and plunged the dress into the Walmart sack I had been given. My kids sat on the playroom floor enthralled by the baby shark movie playing, when I stepped in the shower to wash the gore from my body. None of it seemed real, but all of it seemed unquestionable. It wasn't a movie playing out in somebody else's life, this was my life.
I dressed quickly and waited for Harry to call for me. I didn't know what the plan was, but I assumed I would be greeted by the police at some point. I didn't care. At least my kids would know a different and better life. They were so little, fear shouldn't be allowed to reside in their hearts.
What seemed like an eternity, was only forty-five minutes before Harry called to me. I gated in the kids to keep them safely away from the stairs and made my way back to the kitchen. My eyes couldn't believe what I saw. Everything was as it should be. There was no blood and no sign of the earlier violence. For a second, I thought I had just dreamed it all, because my husband was no longer slumped on the floor. There was no body to scream of the reality of it all.
I could feel my eyes form a question mark even before I turned to Harry and asked for the pertinent information. "Where is he? What happened?"
"Josie, listen to me. I am a garbage collector. I clean up all sorts of messes. This has needed cleaning for a long time. I wish I had helped sooner."
"But, how, I mean people will know. I can't get you in trouble!"
"You won't. Right now, you are going to call the police to report him missing. He never came home from the bar last night. Remember? First, call his office to see if he showed up there. You will have to play the worried and dutiful wife. Make it sound real. Got it?"
"Trust me, it will be alright. You need to think about the kids now."
"Oh, my babies. What did I do?"
"No time for that, now. Call the office. Then the police. I am going back to work."
He left the same way he had come into the house, only quieter and with less fury. I reached for the phone and did just as I was told. His boss reported that he had not shown up for work and the police would send a car to take the report.
I dressed the kids and packed us all bags, just in case we all had to go somewhere else. A blue uniformed Sergeant showed up at my door just as I finished. There was no time to think of other things I might have forgotten. I led him into the living room, and as we walked, I gave him my husband's name. As we sat down, I started to cry from the stress of the whole situation.
He gave me an odd wink as he started to talk, "Yes, Mrs. Kramer, we know all about it. I am sorry to tell you that we found your husband dead this morning. He apparently had too much to drink and smashed his car into a tree. He died instantly."
I couldn't keep my eyes from darting to the window and toward the driveway in search of my husband's car. It was nowhere in sight.
The kind sergeant smiled slightly, "Harry took care of it all. No need to worry. That is what he does. I'm just here to let you know that he cleaned it up all nice and neat. Now, I can fill out my report."
"There will be no further investigation. Just plan a funeral, get the death certificate, and file for death benefits. Raise those babies up the right way now!"
"He's a good guy. Can't stand to see women and children in danger. He's a garbage collector, making the rounds. Have a good life, Mrs. Kramer."
He rose to leave, giving the odd wink once more. As he walked out the door, I couldn't help but think that maybe, Harry was a prince. He managed to take out my trash without any trouble.
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