by Andrew DeYoung
The moon is waxing gibbous and Norman still hasn’t fixed the shed. Once a month I lock him up in there and spend the night in the basement, curled in a sleeping bag with a Colt .45 single-action next to me on the concrete floor. We’ve spent a small fortune on the shed, upgrading from vinyl to wood to aluminum, but once he’s changed Norman always manages to find a weak spot, escape, and spread the entrails of some unlucky cow or sheep halfway across the county.
The morning before the full moon I find Norman sleeping on the front porch, curled around our doormat next to a grayish pool of vomit. His gut bulges out from under his shirt. I poke him with my toe. “Piece of shit,” I mutter, then lean over and yell, “Fix the goddamn shed!”
Norman groans and squints up at me. He’s gone out drinking nine days running, ever since the bottle cap factory closed down. Janine says there’s something happening to the men in this town. Her husband Rod, a shift supervisor before he got laid off, came home late a few nights back and slapped her up and down the driveway until a neighbor called the police. They hauled him off to jail—no charges, just to cool off. I’m lucky that way; Norman’s not much to look at and he drinks a lot, but he’s gentle as a lamb, and aside from the monthly risk of death and dismemberment I’ve never in eleven years of marriage had reason to be afraid of him.
I leave Norman on the porch and walk back into the kitchen to make breakfast. A few minutes later he drags himself to the table for scrambled eggs, bacon, and some hair of the dog.
“Norman,” I say. “Are you going to fix the shed today?”
Norman is dousing his eggs in hot sauce. He sets the bottle down and sighs. I can smell his breath—whiskey and bile—from where I sit. “Good God, woman. Lay off it for a second.”
“There’s a full moon tonight. The weatherman said.”
Norman sticks his foot out and runs it up my leg, brushing my inner thigh, and tries to kick my housecoat open. “Maybe you and me should take a little tumble first.”
I shove him away and pull my housecoat closed with both arms. “Last month you broke the latch and the padlock.”
Norman squints. “Gonna have to solder that latch. It’ll be weaker than before. What we should do is buy a new shed. Maybe reinforced steel this time.”
“With what money?”
He takes a swig of beer. “I’ll have a look. Later.”
Norman finishes his breakfast and then spends a few hours in bed before he goes out to work on the shed. While he’s outside, Janine calls. She’s crying.
“He did it again,” she sobs. “They let him out and he did it again.”
“Come over,” I say.
Janine’s face is freshly swollen, new bruises and cuts layered on top of the old ones. I take a bag of frozen peas out of the refrigerator and hand it to her. We’re sitting at the kitchen table. I’m still wearing my robe.
“He’s changed,” she says. “He’s like a dog gone bad.”
“Maybe you should shoot him,” I say. Neither of us laughs.
“He’s going to kill me,” she says. She says it calmly, like it’s something she’s been thinking about, something she’s already told herself over and over.
“So why don’t you leave him?” I ask.
She looks at me with one eye; the other is swollen shut. “Why don’t you leave Norman?”
“Norman?” I ask. “Why would I leave Norman? He’s never tried to hurt me. Not once.”
Janine puts the frozen peas over her bad eye and doesn’t answer.
By the time Janine leaves the sun is low and the shadows are long. The brown, shriveled grass of our lawn takes on the reddish hue of dried blood. I walk out to the shed with a plate of raw steaks. Norman’s just finishing up. I look at the latch.
The solder holding it to the shed is rough and lumpy.
“Goddammit, Norman,” I say. “This is what you’ve been doing all day?”
Norman takes the steaks from me and sets them down in the shed. “Why don’t you do it, you’re such an expert.”
“This will never hold.”
Norman hands me the padlock and key. “It’ll hold.”
I lock him up and walk back to the house as the sun sets. I go to the basement and unroll my sleeping bag on the floor next to the furnace. The Colt .45, wrapped inside, clatters onto the floor. I sit on the sleeping bag and wait.
When some time has passed, I go back outside. The moon is high and bright, bathing everything in a silver glow. The grass crunches between my toes. I cinch my housecoat closed with one hand and hold the gun in the other.
I unlock the shed and open the door to see a black and silver wolf ripping into a steak. Norman holds the steak in his jaws and shakes his head back and forth, sending juices flying. He paces the length of the shed. He’s sleek, his coat smooth and shiny. His haunches flex.
I step back and let my hand drop. My housecoat falls open. The night air brushes against my stomach, my breasts, the insides of my thighs.
Norman turns to see me through the open door of the shed and lets the steak drop. There’s blood on his whiskers. His eyes gleam. I raise the gun, pull back the hammer, and wait.