The End of the Day

Drawing of a sunset, with pine trees in silhouette. The caption reads: "At the end of the day, there's time to reflect."

The End of the Day

Short story by Iris Carden

“Always take time at the end of the day,” Katie’s mother used to say. “Spend some time reflecting, sorting things out, making sense of everything. There’s never enough time while things are actually happening. So take some time at the end of the day.”

So as the day was ending, Katie sat with her journal, fiddling with a pen, trying to make sense of this very stressful day.

It had begun long before that day, she thought. Like picking fruit off a tree, it hadn’t started with the fruit that day, but with the seeds years before. What the fruit was like depended on what had happened through all those years.

Money had been the first thing. They’d had a plan, that would ensure their financial security. They’d live on her income. His, which was much higher, would be invested. It would give them long-term security. It was a great plan. It hadn’t worked. They lived on her income, but he didn’t save his. He spent it on useless toys which he gave away to random people when he was bored with them. Katie had asked why he couldn’t at least sell the stuff and get some of the money back, and Arnold would say things like, “Easy come, easy go.” Whenever Katie tried to explain that it wasn’t easy, that she was struggling with the bills, that her clothes were worn out, that she was afraid for the future, he would call her selfish.

Control was the next thing. He needed to know where she was every minute of the day. He’d even come into her work to stand over her during meetings. If she spoke to anyone he wanted to know the entirety of the conversation. If she spoke to a man, he’d accuse her of having an affair. He read her journal. There was nowhere left she could have a thought of her own, without him trying to control and dominate it.

Anger was the last straw. He’d never had a sense of humour. As the years went on, he became angry more and more easily. It reached the point where anger was his default emotion. She tried to hide the bruises when she was with other people. But she cringed and cowered in her own home.

It all came together on this day. A mutual acquaintance had said something positive about her to Arnold. She hadn’t heard the conversation. It might have been that she was doing well at her job. It could have been anything. To Arnold, it apparently sounded like the person liked her more than him, or that she was better at something. His jealousy and anger and overflowed.

She was cooking dinner when he came home, raging, throwing things, threatening. Katie had been terrified. She hadn’t meant to kill him. She’d just wanted to stop him killing her. In that moment of panicked reaction, she’d never considered that hitting him with a heavy-based frypan would kill him.

Getting rid of the body had been hard.

She’d thought of calling the police, but she knew the things Arnold told other people about her. She’d heard back from people she knew that Arnold had claimed she was abusing him, that she’d threatened him, that she was always nagging him about money. If she told the police, she was sure they would investigate, and all the things Arnold had said about her would make it appear she intended to kill him.

When the house had been put on the city sewerage system, they hadn’t removed the old septic system, just left it there unused.

Katie managed to get the access to the septic tank open, drag Arnold outside, and force him in. She gained a new understanding of the term “dead weight”.

Then she’d cleaned the kitchen. That pan had been full of hot food, so there were splatters everywhere. At least he hadn’t bled.

She thought of getting rid of his car, but realised it wasn’t in the driveway. He had parked somewhere away from home to sneak up on her. All the better. It would be somewhere nearby, but not at home, and if anyone had seen it being parked, they would be able to say it was him who’d parked it there.

Katie looked at her diary. She wrote: “Arnold yelled at me this morning, and said he was leaving and not to expect him home tonight. I didn’t believe him, but tonight he didn’t come home.”

She sighed and reflected that at last she would be able to live her life without being afraid. She continued writing, “I’m sure that when he’s had time to cool off after whatever he’s angry about this time, he will come home.”

By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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