Six Miles a Day

Dr. James Dermot had just got in the door when it started. Her bitching. His wife’s bitching. It was like an air raid siren that never turned off, a fitting metaphor because their entire marriage now seemed to resemble various stages of an airstrike: explosions, wreckage, shaken foundations, and the shells of structures that were once standing.

He dropped his briefcase down beside his feet and turned behind to close his house’ large oak front door. The house his wife had insisted that they buy. A smaller house would not have done, no, their house needed to be big and befitting of his profession and his pay-checks. So now the good doctor was stuck with a huge house he didn’t like, and a wife who ruled over it like an evil witch ruled over her castle.

“You’re home late. Where the fuck were you?” came her voice from out of one of the three bedrooms upstairs.

He pictured her sitting in one of the multiple overly expensive chairs that dotted the floors of the upstairs, one of her arms draped over the side of the chair, the other possibly clutching a drink, and her eyes set in a permanent bitch-face that never seemed to be eased by expensive purchases and trips to wherever the fuck was currently trendy.

“You going stand in the doorway all night or what?” she yelled.

Dr. Dermot rubbed his temples. It was moments like these when he lost memory of all the reasons why he quit smoking and just wanted to light one up to try and take his mind off of his house, his wife, and his problems.

His work wasn’t the problem, it was a small practice and satisfying in the ways doctors wanted their jobs to please them. It was the rest of his life that seemed to piss all over his soul. The house was one thing; because living in a place you despised was a good way to hate being away from work. His wife was a whole other thing all together.

He was sure he’d loved her when he had married her. How could he not have loved her? She was all of 24 and “everything a man could want” or however else those old noir novels he used to read described gorgeous women. They had been married eight years now, and half of those had been a hellish experience that rocketed his self-doubt into the stratosphere, and slowly eroded his self worth to the point that he figured his entire life was now a joke, with him, the 52 year old doctor with the slowly aging trophy wife, the bullshit huge house, and his decaying physical fitness as the punch-line.

It had been a very long airstrike indeed. He’d thought about killing himself, and numerous times about killing her. It seemed easier and cleaner than divorce or affairs or whatever else shattered marriages did to put Band-Aids on machete wounds. But Dr. Dermot hadn’t done either of those things though, because by the time he got home, drank a double scotch and took a nice cocktail of anti-depressants, he was too tired and zonked out to kill either himself, or his wife.

He pulled off his loafers, and walked down the hall of the house into the cavernous kitchen. From above him, he could hear her footsteps stomp towards the staircase. It wouldn’t be long now before she was screaming into his face about some damn thing. He would have to work fast to begin his routine.

He opened the stainless steel fridge and grabbed a bottle of Carlsberg. He popped the top with the beer opener that sat on the counter and then drank deep. He was halfway through the bottle when his wife stormed into the kitchen in her Vera Wang dress and her Tiffany diamonds, put her hands on her hips and begin her dressing down of him.

“Beer? Already?”

He said nothing, finished drinking the bottle of beer, and then placed the empty bottle down onto the marble countertop. The beer had felt good, so good that it even seemed to mute that screeching in his right ear to some extent. So Dr. James grabbed another Carlsberg, opened it, and drank again.

“What the fuck are you doing?”

He finished the beer, and his head swam as he put the second empty bottle down onto the counter.

“Drinking beer like that, it’s no wonder that you’ve gotten fat. When I met you, you ran six miles a day, now all you do is drink beer, sulk and get fat.”

This had gotten his attention. His physique had gone significantly downhill as their relationship and his unhappiness had gone on. He used to run six miles a day, swim often, and lift the weights that he kept in the basement. However, he did none of that now, and his body had reflected it by ballooning in multiple places, mainly his gut.

She noticed how he had twitched when he said fat.

“Fat. Fat. Fat. You’re like a Phillip Seymour Hoffman who can’t fucking act. I’m surprised you don’t need to strap on one of my bras before you leave the house. Six miles a day to six beer and six pounds of anti-depressants.”

He felt something snap in his brain, a switch of the gears that was so significant he could have divided his life into the before and after of this moment. He was calm, and now knew exactly what he wanted to do. Dr. James walked out of the kitchen through the entrance his wife wasn’t blocking. He then walked into his study, where the walls were all lined with medical textbooks and hardcovers of the bad genre fiction that all 50 year olds clung to. He rounded the corner of his large oak desk. He heard his wife’s voice getting closer as she followed behind him, her verbal terrorism unceasing.

He opened the top drawer on the right side of the desk just as his wife hit the entranceway of the study.

“There’s no fucking treadmill in this room. But you might have forgotten what treadmills look like, as it’s been an era since you’ve seen one!”

As she finished her sentence and readied another vocal volley, Dr. James Dermot pulled the pearl handled .38 Special he kept in his desk out of its drawer and shot his wife three times. The room filled with the stench of cordite and gun-smoke. His ears rang, but that ring was accompanied by a new kind of silence he hadn’t heard in years.

He thought about killing himself then. That would have polished the whole situation off. But instead he dropped the gun to the floor and walked back to the front door, stepping over his dead wife’s body with barely a notice of it. He pulled his loafers back on and grabbed his car keys from out of his briefcase.

He strode down the walkway of his house, and waved calmly to a neighbour who had come out of their house at the sound of the gunshots. Then he got into his Jaguar and pulled out into the street.

He was many blocks away from his house and halfway to his destination when he decided that he needed a drink to stop the shakes that had just begun to wrack his hands. He popped open the Jag’s glove compartment and pulled out a mickey of Cutty Sark scotch. He took a few nips from the bottle, and wished out loud that he had stowed away a pack of cigarettes to hold hands with the booze in his glove compartment.

The farther he drove, the drunker he got. He eventually hit the end of the mickey and dropped it to the floor of the car to roll around with coffee receipts. His vision swam now, everything spun, and it seemed like he was driving the Jag on a road made entirely of Jell-O, but it didn’t matter, as he was almost where he needed to be.

The YMCA he had frequented back in his healthy days materialized out of the fog of his drunk-vision on the left side of the road. He pulled across all four lanes of traffic, drove over the lawn that ringed the parking lot and slammed into the side of the building.

“My old parking spot.” He slurred to himself as he stepped out of car. Blood poured out of a fresh cut on his forehead.

Police officers arrived at the YMCA forty minutes later. They had been called to a homicide at the home of Dr. James Dermot and his wife. A neighbour who could have sworn to hear gunshots coming from within the doctor’s house had come out and see the good doc racing away and “looking none too calm about it,” had walked into the unlocked house and found the doctor’s wife’s body. A patrol car spotted the Doc’s ruined Jag at the Y, and called for backup. The six officers who responded entered the building with weapons drawn, and had found Dr. Dermot on one of the gym’s treadmills walking briskly.

When they burst into the room he turned to face them and waved.

“Hello officers, I’ll be with you in a moment. I only have a mile left to go before I hit my six for the day.”

He had decided to make some changes in his life.

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