By: S.D. Lavender
After breakfast, before she left for work, Doris went into the living room of her suburban St. Louis home where her husband Milton sat on the couch in his kimono eating a bowl of Captain Crunch.
“Honey, listen now,” she said, inserting her large hoop earrings. “You’ll go down to Busch and see if they’re hiring, right? I don’t want you to spend one more day moping around the house. And I don’t want you to be looking out the windows. Even though you saved Mrs. Tomasetta’s life, people can turn on you like that.” She snapped her fingers with alarming ferocity, causing Milton to blink. If he hadn’t been watching Mrs. Tomasetta mow her lawn that sunny morning a few weeks earlier and called for an ambulance after the poor woman slipped in the ditch and cut half her foot off, she would have bled to death for sure. But now she was hobbling over every afternoon, and somebody was leaving gift baskets on the doorstep at night.
“So, please,” Doris continued, peering into a mirror on the wall and applying her crimson lipstick, “do not look out the windows today in your gorilla mask.” She’d heard from Mrs. Simmons down the street what Milton had been up to lately. A gorilla mask,
for pete’s sake! “I know it probably gives you great pleasure hearing their delighted, frightened little squeals, but children can get carried away and it’s not good for a grown man to become too involved with them.”
Then she told him about a nice old widower she had known as a girl who used to give all the neighborhood children piggyback rides and tickle them until they’d wet their pants. The old man ended up in jail because one of the children made up stories about him. Doris wiped a tear from the corner of her eye, put the lipstick back in her purse then withdrew a small wooden brush and began working on her hair.
“And if Mrs. Tomasetta comes around, just tell her that your wife said it is not right for a woman to be in a married man’s house when his wife is not home. I know you two just watch the soaps. I trust you. It’s just not appropriate. I’m sure Mister Tomasetta would agree. Those Latin-types can become violently jealous over nothing at all. I’d hate to come home and find you garroted on that divan.” She turned at the sound of Milton’s spoon dropping into his empty cereal bowl and could tell by his pained expression that he needed to evacuate his bowels.
“And what else? Oh yes. When you go out to get the mail, make sure you are decently dressed. Do not go out in your kimono. If it should fly open and reveal you in all your splendor—well, I refer you to my anecdote concerning the old man of my childhood.” She looped her purse strap over her shoulder and moved towards Milton. “So, have a good day and go down to Busch and see if they are hiring. Don’t merely call. It’s far too easy for them to say no over the telephone. I’ll be working late again. I know
I’ve been working late quite often, but we need ever so much more money in our lives.” She bent over and kissed Milton tenderly on the forehead, her earrings grazing his cheeks, then wiped off the crimson smear with her thumb. “I love you more than life itself, honey. I would bleed out of my heart if I ever lost you. Goodbye.” She started to leave, then turned. “Perhaps it would be a good idea if I took the mask so you wouldn’t be tempted. Where is it?”
Milton remained silent. Doris went into bedroom and searched the closet, the chest of drawers, and under the bed, but found nothing. Hearing the bathroom door shut and lock, she marched over and knocked. “Where is the mask, honey?” Milton didn’t answer. “Darn it, honey. This will not do. MILTON! Do you hear me? MILTON!” Finally realizing it was no use and that she was going to be late for work, Doris rushed out to her Chevy Vega, hopped in, and putted off down the street.
Feeling like a brand new individual, Milton came out of the bathroom wearing his gorilla mask and took his place in front of the picture window. Children need to encounter the unusual and extraordinary, he thought to himself, clutching his kimono to his hairy breast. Their senses are dulled by television and the useless palaver they are force-fed at school. He had begun to see himself as a sort of educator-slash-performance artist. A movement outside drew his attention and he saw a tall, swarthy man crossing the street, approaching the house, concealing something under his black leather jacket. Probably a gift, thought Milton, perhaps another one of those delicious pecan-encrusted cheese logs.
The man halted upon seeing Milton, and his hand came out of his jacket holding a pistol, which he quickly raised and pointed. Milton ripped off his mask and screamed, “It’s not a gorilla––it’s me!” But the man made no sign of comprehension and promptly
squeezed off several rounds. Amidst a shower of exploding glass, Milton fell forward, hanging out the window, his kimono catching on a protruding shard and tearing from his body as he slid down behind the bayberry bushes. Anyone caring to peer over the hedge would find a naked middle-aged man, smeared with blood, muttering, “It’s me. It’s me.”