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Body and Soul
by John C. Swinler

How many people wake up some mornings and think their life will change drastically? "It’s a life changer," you’ve heard people say. "A wakeup call," they might say. Either for better or for worse, your life is going to be different. If you ask Stan Norris if he knew what happened to his wife to warrant such an attack, he would say you were crazy. His wife would never . . . Well, Stan was wrong, like a lot of people in that kind of situation. He was wrong.

Stan and Sylvia had been married for five years. Stan had no idea that Sylvia would do something so dreadful. Sometime after the birth of their son, Owen, Sylvia became irritable. Sure, things she could tolerate bothered her more than usual, and she had a temper, but it never resulted in physical violence – until today.

Sylvia went to the hardware store to buy a pair of hedge clippers. The bushes at the back of their house needed to be trimmed; they had taken over the back porch for too long. So Sylvia bought the clippers on sale for ten dollars and ninety-nine cents – these were the fifteen inch kind. This measurement didn't include the handles, which added six more inches to the clippers. (For the record, that’s about twenty-one inches, a little under two feet.)

Stan ran a concrete costruction business during the day, and came home around five. His usual routine when he got home: grab a beer from the fridge, watch the news, take a nap.

Sylvia got home from the store shortly after Stan stretched out in his lazy-boy (or what Sylvia liked to call good for nothing lazy-boy) and fell asleep. Sylvia saw that Stan was home and knew he would be napping. So she walked in the front door and slammed it shut. She went to the dining room and threw the bag with the hedge clippers on the table.

There was a load of dishes in the kitchen sink; Sylvia decided to do the dishes. She pre-washed every dish and shoved them in the dish washer, crashing each dish and glass together. She only broke one glass this time, usually she broke four; she must not be trying hard enough. Finishing up the rest of the dishes, Sylvia poured a capful of washing liquid soap in the soap reservoir.

The coo-coo clock sang seven. Day light was showing through the back window, just a typical late summer evening. Sylvia felt her blood boil as she saw the bushes covering the porch screens. She had to get control of her emotions; she took a glass from the upper cabinet above the microwave, went to the liquor cupboard, and pulled out a jar of Scotch. She filled her glass to the rim, and chugged half the contents. Her temper simmered somewhat. She filled the glass up to the rim again and replaced the Scotch into its rightful spot. To add coolness, she dropped three ice cubes – even though they were called cubes, they weren’t cube-shaped, more like slivers – into the glass, splashing Scotch onto the floor. "Damn it!" she yelled, and stomped to the sink, yanked some paper towel from the despencer, and rushed to clean the mess. That taken care of, she rung out the Scotch-soaked paper into her glass – she hated to waste perfectly good booze. And besides, the wood floor wasn’t that dirty.

With glass in hand, she carefully took a magazine from the kitchen desk beside the telephone on the wall, walked into the living room to sit in her favorite chair in the corner, and propped her feet up on the stool in front of the chair. She flipped through the first few pages, found five business reply cards, (Whose brilliant idea was it to put these damn cards into magazines, anyway? But that wasn’t what pissed her off. These astute assholes thought it would be great to put these cards in the subscribed magazines.) and threw them at Stan, who was snoring noisily. It sounded like two pigs making little piggies. Try listening to this for five minutes, and one might go mad. Piggies were cute, but watching or hearing them be conceived wasn’t.

"Stan!" Sylvia yelled, "Wake up!"

Stan kept snoring, like nothing had changed.


Stan sat up, startled. Eyes half masked. "Huh, what?"

"Stan, I bought a pair of hedge clippers. Now you have no excuse not to trim the bushes." Sylvia leafed through her magazine.

Looking around with a blank stare, Stan responded, "Can I trim the bushes tomorrow?"

Sylvia sipped her Scotch, rolled it around in her mouth. "No, I want them cut right now. So get off your lazy ass and get to work."

Stan reached for the recliner leg release, and lowered his feet. "Yes, dear."

He stood up on shaky feet, grabbed his empty beer bottle and walked to the kitchen sink and proceeded to rinse the bottle out. Convinced that the bottle was clean, Stan dropped it in the recycle container. He took the clippers from the table and walked out the back door.

* * *

There were five bushes in front of the back porch, each spaced evenly. The house had three levels, including the basement. The porch extended to the second floor, and had a roof over it, it was also screened in. The bushes had grown to the edge of the bottom of the second floor. Stan went to the tool shed at the corner of the yard to get the step latter.

Stan unfolded the latter at the left side of the house and climbed. The clippers were in his tool belt. Why the hell was Sylvia acting this way, Stan wondered. Sure the bushes hadn't been trimmed in a year, but there was no reason to go stark raving mad about it. It's not like he never does anything around the house. He just recently installed a new water heater, the old one had a thick layer of sediment at the bottom and was preventing the tank from heating the water properly.

Each year Sylvia grew more and more maniacal about things, little things. She almost went through the roof when Stan brought their son to his parent's house for the week. Stan didn't want Owen to be exposed to Sylvia's heavy drinking. Stan drank too, but not the hard stuff, like Scotch. He usually drank beer, maybe one a day, and a small glass of wine just before bed. Sylvia drank the hard stuff by the bottle, at least four large bottles a week.

Stan had just about finished the first bush when all of a sudden the latter went out from under him. His world was held at a stand still. The clippers flew up in the air. He felt disoriented. He felt the ground meet his back full force. He then felt something stab his left shoulder. Stan gave a dead-waking yelp. God in Heaven! The clipper blade passed clear through his shoulder and into the soft dirt!

The pain was almost beyond belief. What hurt more, having a pair of hedge clippers pass through his body, or realizing that his wife had pushed the latter out from under him? When Stan could open his eyes, without seeing spots, there stood his wife, with an impish grin on her face.

"S-S-Sylvia, what have you done? I . . . can't move. Please . . . help me."

She just stood there laughing under her breath. "You poor wittle baby, did you get a wittle boo-boo." She used an aweful sarcastic baby talk, with a hideous voice.

Stan could not believe his ears, what happened to his caring wife, the one he thought he married. Surely she had to be possessed, this did not make sense.

"Call the ambulance . . . p-p-please, Sylvia."

"I don't know if I should, Stan. You might try to have me arrested, or something." She reverted to her normal voice, although is was still hideous.

"W-Why have you done this, w-what did I do to deserve this?"

She walked around Stan to his side. "I think I should be asking the questions, here. Like, what were you doing with that blonde woman the other day?"

Stan turned his head, trying not to cry from the stabbing pain in his shoulder, and glanced at Sylvia. Yeah, he was with a woman, but she was the president of the Concrete Supply Company. Nothing happened; it was just a business meeting, nothing more. Just because the woman was beautiful, didn't mean anything was going to happen. Besides, the woman was married to his best friend, Jerry.

"S-Sylvia, I can explain."

"I know what happened, you had lunch with her and then took her to a motel, and had sex with her, didn't you?" She reached for the clipper handle, and yanked it out of Stan's shoulder. Stan screamed at the top of his lungs.

"Sylvia, it was just a business meeting, that's all. They're working on a new type of concrete mixture. She's married to my best friend." Stan looked at his shoulder, blood started to soak his shirt. He felt weak, unable to sit up. He was trapped.

"I don't think I can trust you, Stan, you're liable to say anything right now."

Stan was sure that Sylvia had lost her mind. This couldn't be happening; maybe it was just a nightmare. Try telling that to the pain that Stan was feeling in his shoulder, his blood-soaked shirt. What could Stan say to make Sylvia believe him?

"Why would you think that I slept with my friend's wife? I would never hurt you like that."

Sylvia stood with the clippers in her hands, opened the clippers and then snapped them shut. They made a snick-click sound, almost like a guillotine. Stan was afraid of what Sylvia was capable of doing. He didn't think that she could kill anyone, not even him. With every bit of energy he had left, Stan pushed himself with his legs a couple inches to the house, not taking his eyes off the hedge clippers in Sylvia's hands.

"Where do you think you're going, Stan? Not very far, I think." She raised the hedge clippers over her head. Stan saw the rage in her eyes. She was going to stab him.

Stan closed his eyes tightly; he couldn't bare to see the clippers fall into his chest.

"Hold it, Mrs. Norris," yelled a male voice at the corner of the house, "put the clippers down before you hurt someone."

This surprised Stan, he thought for sure he was going to be stabbed to death. Sylvia still had the clippers over her head. Stan had a feeling something bad was going to happen.

"Where the hell did you come from," said Sylvia.

"Please Mrs. Norris, don't make me tell you again. I don't want to have to shoot you." This had to be a cop, Stan thought.

"I'd like to see you try."

"I'm warning you, Mrs. Norris, I will shoot you if you don't put the clippers down."

Sylvia hollered out like a banshee. She arced the clippers back.

A gun fired; a millisecond later a bullet screamed through the air and hit Sylvia in her upper right shoulder. The clippers sailed across the backyard. Sylvia fell backwards to the ground, crying in agony.

While wheeling a stretcher, two EMTs ran over to Stan. On three, the EMTs placed Stan's broken body onto the stretcher and rolled him away. Another two EMTs took Sylvia to a separate ambulance.


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2