by Mike Payne
Starting in its sixth month, Phoebe’s affair went from kinky to goofy. Her illicit boyfriend Stefan was New Age, mystical, and hazily ‘zen’, and during the first five months, his granola antics had a vapid charm. On their six-month anniversary, he flipped the script.
“Is this what I think it is?” Phoebe asked.
“Voodoo! I told you I had something big for you.”
“But why a voodoo doll?”
“You know I went to Metairie for Thanksgiving. We stopped in New Orleans and went in one of those shops they have. I was in a corner looking at my phone and I felt something burning on my back. I look and right behind is this thing. You’re always talking about finishing things with your husband. Well, I felt a strong connection with this doll. There was the answer right in front of me.”
“That’s cute but, seriously?”
“Phoebs, you’re a sad girl. I can see it in your face, even when we’re laughing you’ve got microscopic little baby frowns. Your boy Rex, he ain’t gonna leave the golden goose, so how you getting out of there?”
“I have to find the right way to leave. The least expensive way.”
“Aww Jesus, don’t start again. Phoebs, I heard this already. I get what you’re saying about alimony. We’re not gonna kill him. What these dolls can do is influence people.”
“Influence? I can’t believe we’re talking about this. I’m more of a skeptic and you know it.”
“I know, I’ve heard you. Just listen for a sec, if it does work, if it is real, maybe we can use it to make him leave without asking for everything you own.”
The negotiation lasted another hour. Ultimately, Phoebe wore down enough to let Stefan ‘test’ the doll. As much as she lampooned Stefan’s mystic ambitions, some mole on her psyche bought into ‘the mysteries of the mind’. Maybe they could manipulate her husband into leaving without demanding a massive payout.
They started small, as she didn’t want Stefan trying something that might permanently gunk her husband’s faculties. For the first experiment, she allowed Stefan to insert a pin in the doll’s right hand. Her husband Rex was left-handed.
That night Phoebe got home about 11:00. She crawled into bed, 75% assured her husband’s hands had nothing to fear.
The next day her phone hopped as Stefan barraged her with voodoo emails. When she parked in the driveway, she spotted her husband moving things around the garage. She was relieved and at the same time disappointed to find him doing it with both hands.
“I’ll be in in a second,” he shouted while she lugged her things to the door.
They met in the kitchen. Rex’s left hand had bandages.
“What happened there?” Phoebe said, pointing.
“Oh, this? Crazy thing: I was getting the mail and this huge spider that was in the mailbox bit me. Really painful. My hand got big and red. Little better now, but still tender as hell.”
“That’s terrible. You said it was a spider? They don’t have poisonous spiders here, right?”
“Don’t think so. I doubt it was poisonous, just painful.”
“How awful. Now I’ll be afraid to get the mail!”
Phoebe’s heart wobbled. She’d had a twinge of guilt upon sighting the bandage, but as Rex shared his tale, the glee of a crime well committed gave her sweaty hives.
She used her first private moment to email Stefan the good news. His answer: “Up the ante?” Her reply: “Better be safe. Try his calf next.”
When she came down for breakfast the proceeding morning, her husband was hobbling.
“Not sure. I seem to have a Charley horse in my calf. Been this way all morning.”
Phoebe emailed Stefan to verify the success. His answer: “Now comes the hard part. Can we get him to leave you without being greedy?”
The voodoo experiment transitioned from body to mind. Stefan brimmed with certitude about the rewards they’d reap once he used the doll to commandeer his rival’s thoughts. A week into their “persuasion” project, Phoebe detected no change in her husband. She tried entrapping him with nasty conversations but her testiness went unrequited. Finally one morning she took it out on Stefan, stretching his inbox with emails that made it coldly clear who’d earned the blame. He didn’t write back. She hoped he was using the time to improve his study of voodoo.
That evening, the first thing Rex said when Phoebe opened the door was, “Do you want a divorce?”
She was too stupefied to express herself with anything but a shrug.
Rex continued: “Should we ask Stefan first?”
She clamped her eyes shut. “Should we what?”
“Is Stefan going to be okay with a divorced woman?”
“I didn’t expect this when I opened the door.”
“Maybe you should have rehearsed with the voodoo doll.”
Phoebe’s body became a three-shift nausea factory.
“Did you say voodoo?”
“Yes, the voodoo doll you used for my hand, my leg, and my brain, apparently. It worked, because I don’t think we’ll be married anymore.”
“What can I say, I don’t—”
“You don’t have to say anything. I read your emails.”
“You read my email?!”
“Of course, I’ve been reading them for weeks. I didn’t know what to say at first, but with all this voodoo crap I guess things sort of came to a head!”
“How did you get my password?”
“Just looked over your shoulder. I figured you were cheating. Too many red flags.”
“I can’t believe you broke into my emails!”
“I can’t believe you cheated. Wait, no, I can absolutely believe it. Now, should we talk turkey?”
“What does that mean?”
“It means settlement. Normally I’d wait to go to court, but this shouldn’t be hard. You can keep the house, I never liked it. I’m taking the Audi, half the bank accounts, and, maybe, I don’t know, $7,000 a month? To keep me in the lifestyle I’m accustomed to.”
“I’ll never give you—”
“Oh, and about Stefan, forgot to mention I emailed him today. Told him you were still emailing men from that dating site. Forwarded some of your messages too. Haven’t heard back. Hope he’s not a hothead. If you want to go to court, I guess I can call him as a witness. Do you think he’ll be a good witness?”
Phoebe glared at him, chafing, her mental horizon turning dark and starless. Rex jiggled the car keys and blew past her.
She watched him strut to the driveway. Her heart was all needles.
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Mike Payne is a comedian and writer whose credits include Pseudopod.org and Sanitarium Magazine. His blog: www.domikepayne.blogspot.