by Preston Lang

They know dinner is at six—my husband and daughter. They went out to the park at four. It’s six-thirty now and I’m alone. I know he took his phone, and it’s not like him to be late without calling. There’s no message, no text.

The first thought is death. Both of them. I’ll be a widow and the grieving mother of a dead child. Lashing out impulsively at friends. Hurling whatever wild insults I can invent at the cold-hearted bastards who just don’t understand. Playing the music I want: not his soft jazz or her syrup songs about crossing the street and petting sheep. No cleaning. No cooking. Boxes of fried dumplings piling up on the counter. Live like an animal for a week. Then I take a shower and go out to bars and bring back interesting people to sleep with. Whoever I feel like. Send them home when I’m done. Tell them to shut the fuck up about all the empty takeout containers in the apartment. How is that any of their business?

Freedom from the people who love you. That’s what I’m getting. I’m glad they’re dead. I’m glad that I don’t have to deal with their demands and their messes anymore. And the truth is if it hadn’t happened this way, I would have had to do it myself.

I have a gun. It belonged to my father. I never told my husband about it, because he grew up with all the standard liberal pabulum about guns—you’re more likely to kill a family member accidentally than you are to kill an intruder on purpose. Very true. But a gun accident wouldn’t work—not on two people. Not when one of them is a little girl who photographs well.

A few months back there was a listeriosis outbreak in hot dogs that killed fourteen people. I bought a pack of franks the day the news broke, before they’d all been recalled, and I froze them. That was the easy part. Then I had to find the listeria. They’ve got it at the university where my husband teaches sociology, a useless subject that involves no direct contact with infectious disease. Still, I’ve got a faculty spouse card that gets me into buildings, and there’s no real defense against profoundly uncommon crime. A woman who looks like a grad student, heading towards the labs? Why stop her? Why question her? If you’re quick and you’re smart, you can take whatever you like.

I put ten times the lethal dose into those dogs. Then I put a tiny bit into the one I was going to eat. Too much? Well, maybe I deserve some severe stomach distress and a few days in the hospital while I recover and they hover around my bed, feeling for the right time to tell me what happened to my loved ones. I might have had to suffer for my cause.

But no: someone did my work for me. That’s how I know that I’m right. I don’t usually believe in signs, but the fact that the gods killed my family so that I didn’t have to seems like a pretty clear indication that they are on my side. And so I stand in the kitchen at a quarter to seven ready to begin my new life—my real life.

At seven-ten my husband and daughter return home covered in mud, singing: “Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog.”


Preston Lang is a writer living and working in New York. His short fiction has appeared in Thuglit, All Due Respect, and Spinetingler. He spends a lot of time carrying things that are too heavy for him to handle reasonably.
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