His Late Wife
by Roy Dorman
It’s a Friday night, and since Carole Jeffords doesn’t have to be to work until Monday morning, she’s up for anything.
She’s thirty-two, has never been married, and has pretty much given up on finding ‘Mr. Right’. Most of the men her age are either married or divorced, with all of the baggage that comes with either of those lives. She’s content in just meeting the occasional interesting guy and spending an evening or weekend socializing with no strings attached.
Right now, Carole’s enjoying the banter which is often common when meeting somebody in a bar. Her new friend, Bob Nichols, had introduced himself and offered to buy her a drink when she had first sat down near him in Rusty’s Bar & Grill. When she accepted, he scooted over onto the stool next to her and the game of exchanging bios had begun.
Carole always pretends to believe anything anyone says in these dive bar encounters. She may or may not ever run into Bob Nichols again, so why try to grill him as to details or attempt to catch him in a lie.
“I was married, but my wife died recently in a car accident,” said Bob, when Carole had asked his marital status. She figures this is a lie and wonders if she should give Bob the brush-off now or wait to see if he will redeem himself. She has to admit that he does at least have a good imagination; she hasn’t heard the ‘wife died recently in a car accident’ line before.
Checking her hair and make-up in the mirror that ran along the back bar, she notices that another single woman has come into the bar and is sitting three or four stools from her. Carole gives Bob a plus in that if he had noticed, he hadn’t decided to try and ‘upgrade’ as a lot of men do in these situations. As she talks to Bob about her work and his work, she occasionally glances in the mirror at the other woman reflected in it. Each time she does so, it seems the other woman is watching her and Bob. Sometimes the woman has a smirk on her face, but more often it’s a scowl. Maybe a look of disgust or barely concealed anger.
“I’m gonna hit the men’s room,” said Bob. “Ya wanna go someplace else when I get back? This place’s kinda dead tonight.”
Carole nodded and watched Bob head to the restroom. When she looked back to pick up her drink, she saw that the woman who had been watching them is now standing directly next to her.
“I suppose he told you that his wife was dead,” she said to Carole in a monotone voice.
“Well, as a matter of fact, he did,” Carole replied. “How is that your concern?”
“I’m his wife. I’m Beth Nichols,” said the woman, looking intently at Carole. “Do I look dead to you?”
Actually, Carole thought the woman’s make-up did look like it could have been applied by a mortician, but she didn’t think a snarky comeback was appropriate considering these rather unusual circumstances. She watched as the woman walked back to her spot at the bar.
“So, do ya want to leave or what?” asked Bob, breaking her reverie.
“While you were gone, that woman sitting down there told me she was your wife,” said Carol. “You told me your wife was dead.”
Bob looked down the bar where Carole had gestured and saw no one. “There ain’t nobody sittin’ down there, and my wife is dead,” said Bob. He took a folded piece of paper from his wallet and straightened it out on the bar. “See, that’s a picture of the car accident and next to that is a picture of my wife.”
Carole looked at both of the newspaper pictures. The car looked to be a total wreck and the picture of the woman next to it was Beth Nichols. Now that Bob was looking at her straight on instead of from the side, Carole noticed a jagged scar on the left side of his face near his hairline.
“Were you driving?”
“Ya, I was drivin’,” said Bob.
“Were you drinking?”
“I’d had a couple; what of it?” he answered.
“Were you punished?”
“Punished for what? It was an accident…”
Beth Nichols then walked up to Bob and threw the remains of her drink in his face. Beth had allowed both the bartender and Carole to see her, but not Bob. He stood there sputtering and swearing, gin and tonic running down his face.
Carole watched as Beth headed in the direction of the kitchen area and passed through its door without opening it. She then came out of the kitchen with a good-sized butcher knife in her hand.
“Ya know, Bob,” said Carole. “It was nice chatting with you, but I think you still have some unfinished business with your late wife and I’m really not ready to be a part of that. I’ll see ya around. Maybe.”
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Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for over 60 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had flash fiction and poetry published recently in One Sentence Poems, Cease Cows, Theme of Absence, Flash Fiction Press, The Creativity Webzine, Birds Piled Loosely, Black Petals, Mulberry Fork Review, Shotgun Honey, Near To The Knuckle, Cheapjack Pulp, and Yellow Mama.