“Duct Tape” by Heather Dune Macadam
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Heather Dune Macadam (author of The Weeping Buddha) talks of a wife’s desire to use some duct tape on her talkative husband. Next week, Ray Van Horn, Jr. brings a deadly meaning to the term “off the record.”
The bells of the village clang. Sunlight bounces over both steeples and through the curtains. Periwinkle shutters open onto the square, and from the street, the beginning chatter of our neighbors heading up the lane to meet the bread van floats in on the breeze. A minute later, the other set of bells on the other church sound.
Being retired is weird. We lie in bed a lot and read.
“Why don’t they sync up the bells? It’s so annoying to hear them all night, one right after the other. Twenty-four times at midnight, for Godsakes . . .” My husband yammers. When he wakes up, it is like he has to catch up on silence. I like quiet mornings spent listening to the birds and French voices outside.
The village bells clang sixteen times. My husband chews his tea. His teeth grind. There is a gurgling gulp, a swallow so precise the machinations of the esophagus are audible. I hate mouth noises. Useless words. Through both sets of bells, he talks: what he dreamt; a brief account of the quality of metal in French bells; who is going to the bread van this morning to pick up the croissants and baguette? I place the book I am trying to read open-faced on my chest and close my eyes.
Gurgle. Smack. Gulp. “What are you thinking?” he asks.
“I am thinking about an elderly couple. They have retired to France. In the mornings, she likes to read. He likes to talk. There are two cups of tea by their bedsides. She sips hers quietly. He slurps his noisily and makes disgusting mouth noises. When she casts an irritated glance to his side of the bed, he slurps. Grins.
“She sits up. Opens the drawer of the bedside table where they keep the duct tape upstairs, in case the shutters bang at night, and walks around to his side of the bed.
“‘There’s no wind.’ He burbles.
“She lifts up the end edge and unwinds the tape. Sits on the bed beside him. Smiles sweetly at her husband of fifty years. Takes his hands in hers, kisses them as she binds his wrists together.
“ ‘What are you doing?’
She tapes his arms over his head, securing them to the headboard.
“There is a final smack of his lips as she slaps a six inch strip over his mouth, walks back around the end of the bed, puts the duct tape away and begins to read, again—in silence.
“At lunch, she peels the tape off to feed him. He makes vindictive mouth noises at her. She has no choice but to duct tape his mouth back up again. She tries to feed him once more, but in the end, forgets about him.
“The neighbors of the village miss seeing him at the bread van. They come to ask if all is well.
“‘Everything is fine. I’m reading books,’” she says.
“The next day, she buys one croissant instead of two. Nothing goes unnoticed.
“One morning, while she waiting for the bread van, neighbors sneak into the house and find the husband lying in bed, almost dead. The police arrest her for elder abuse, even though she is the same age as her husband. The villagers crowd around the ambulance, in the same way they crowd around the bread van. He is carried out on a stretcher. The siren begins its frenetic wail as the clocks begin to chime the hour—first one, then the other. Sixteen times.
“In the hospital, the husband is so weak, he can barely lift his head. He is on an IV. A nurse, a large-boned French peasant of a woman, comes into his room. She has a bowl of gruel and a spoon. ‘Your wife is in prison for trying to kill you,’ she says.
“He smacks his lips. Opens his mouth. She spoon-feeds him. He chews the gruel. Clicks his teeth. Swallows with his mouth open, like a fish. Like a grouper. The nurse’s left eyebrow rises toward her hairline. The sound is more irritating than the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard. He grins at her. Slurp. Gulp. Smack. Gasp.
“She reaches for the IV tube and begins to strangle him.”
My husband looks nervously at the side table, where the duct tape is kept in a drawer. I smile and take another sip of my tea. The Klaxon for the bread van breaks through the now-silent morning.
HEATHER DUNE MACADAM is the Director of the Rena’s Promise Foundation and Creative Writing Summer Camp 4 Teens. She divides her time between Europe and the Hamptons in NY, and is the author of two books: Rena’s Promise (Nominated for a Natl. Book Award) and Akashic’s own The Weeping Buddha (Finalist for the Nero Wolfe Award). Her third novel is forthcoming. Please tweet her @heatherdune or visit www.heatherdune.com
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected] Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Sep 9, 2013
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