The Fifth and Sixth Commandments (Short Story)

Creepers,

Thanks for putting up with my parade of six word stories these past months.  I’ve been trying to mix it up with some 50-word stories too.  But you, my adoring public, deserve more.  It’s not my latest adventure (the lawyers are still pi$$ed at me for admitting to a number of things in my posts last year), but it is an actual short story.

So kick back and enjoy, and leave a sh1tload of positive, a$$-kissing things in the comments.  I’ve recently been diagnosed with Dunning-Kruger Syndrome and need a pick-me-up.*

Sincerely,

Finnegan

*OK, it’s not an actual diagnosis.  But a fellow WordPresser wrote about it today, and there is no doubt, I’ve got this stuff all the way down to my bones.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning-Kruger_effect

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Jack reviewed the tape for a fourth time. Nothing. “The bitch must be on to me,” he muttered, “Fucking slut!”

He was too upset to eat as he thought about it–she must have tampered with the game camera. Erased the memory or something. Hijacked it. That kind of thing was all over the internet, anyone could figure it out.

He bought another camera, paying cash again, and aimed it at the first. Tucked back between Christmas boxes in the garage, she’d never see it. The next day, he reviewed both films at work, and saw nothing but Becky coming and going from the garage with Jack Jr. She never touched the first camera. But then he saw it, on the seventh viewing. Her eyes shifting, looking down, ever so briefly. The picture was grainy, but in slow motion, he could see her trying to play it off, trying to look innocent. So how the fuck is he getting in?!?

That weekend, as he mowed the lawn, he scoped out the house. The doors, the windows, everything. He wore a hat and sunglasses instead of safety goggles, so he could be sure to look side to side without being seen. Like a flash, it hit him. The fire ladder! On the third floor! That’s how he gets in…

Now he remembered, back when Jack Jr. was just born. Becky was reading a parenting magazine, and oh-so-innocently brought up the escape plan. If there was a fire. Jack remembered saying they would just scoop up Jack Jr. and go outside. “But what if the fire was downstairs?” Becky asked.

Downstairs, indeed, Jack thought bitterly. There’s a fire downstairs, alright. In the Lady Basement. THAT’S where the fire was, where it had been smoldering for years. She had been planning this all along, convincing him it was a good idea to run out and buy an emergency escape ladder. So they could get out of the house if there was a fire. When all along, it had been a plan on how to bring someone INSIDE, someone to put out her fire. So to speak. All she had to do was let the ladder down, and that bastard could climb up and make a fool of him, a cuckold, while he worked all day at the office, for a dumbass that knew half of what he did, yet unable to get away. Trapped. Trapped at work, trapped at home. Jack looked out of the corner of his eyes at the siding as he passed under the upper story window, and he saw scuffs on the siding where the ladder had been, where it had banged against the side of the house as HE climbed up, making his way to Jack’s wife.

At lunch, he watched Becky feed Jack Jr, unable to eat himself because his stomach hurt. Watched her coo over him, make little airplane noises as she fed him his peas and carrots, watched her act so innocent, like a good Mommy, while she dreamed on and on about her boyfriend.

Jack stood up and dumped his food in the trash, his stomach in turmoil. Becky didn’t even notice.

***********************************

That night, Becky fell asleep reading to Jack Jr. Jack checked her phone. She had an appointment tomorrow. A wellness check for Jack Jr, at 2 pm. Jack thought about calling the pediatrician, to make sure the appointment was for real. Wasn’t just something to throw him off. But then he realized, Dr. Swanson was a woman. She might be in on it too. They all stuck together. Best not to tip his hand.

Jack did his best all morning, finishing the drawings ahead of time, even with his mind in turmoil. He drank a little hydrogen peroxide at lunch in the bathroom, a quick cash purchase that morning at Walgreen’s, and threw up fifteen minutes later. His boss sent him home on sick leave, and he left work, triumphant. He dumped the rest of the peroxide out the window, and threw the empty bottle out the window on the cloverleaf, no one behind him. No cameras here, not like at the gas stations or fast food. His cell phone left on his desk, so Becky would still think he was still at work. He knew she checked up on him with those apps, knew she would look to see where he was. To make sure the coast was clear.

He went to the Dick’s Sporting Goods on the north side, where they didn’t know him. He wore a baseball cap, the bill pulled down by his nose. He bought another four game camera with cash, saying nothing to the clerk. He strolled out as nonchalantly as he could, head down. Within the hour, the cameras were strategically placed all around the house, covering every point of entry.

************************************

“What are you doing home? Are you okay?” Becky asked, clearly surprised.

Jack answered from the couch, his back turned to her, “I threw up. Alice sent me home.”

Becky seemed concerned, overly concerned, and Jack knew it then. She had been expecting her friend, and he had thrown a monkey wrench into the works. Messed up their little plans. He declined her offers for Pepto-Bismol and soup, and lay there with his eyes closed, pretending to sleep, while she took Jack Jr. up for his nap.

He heard her phone ping, a text coming in, and he stealthily got up. “We still on?” it said, from Erica. Jack scrolled through Erica’s messages. Coffee, play-dates, the gym, walks. All code, so clearly code. It was complete bullshit. It would be so easy, “coffee” would be his place, “the gym” here. A walk would probably be to go meet in a park to fuck. Yet so innocent for someone who didn’t know, just casually glancing.

He went back to her calendar, and saw that she was on for “the gym” in just fifteen minutes. That confirmed it, “the gym” was here. There she was putting Jack Jr. to bed, and her friend thought she was going to be at “the gym” in fifteen. Jack thought about this friend of Becky’s he hadn’t met, this “Erica” from the Zumba class. Clear as day, he saw them exchanging numbers. Becky, in her tight lululemons, and Eric in his bicycle shorts, both sweaty from class. Becky “innocently” entering his name in the phone as Erica, when it was Eric. Laughing, joking, planning the act, developing a simple code, and then exchanging texts right under his nose. After all these years, after all he had done.

All was quiet upstairs. Maybe they both had fallen asleep. Jack pondered what to do. His car was parked in the garage, out of sight. Eric would know to stay away from the garage, Becky must have told him about the cameras. He’d never know Jack was home. And Becky was upstairs, had stupidly left her phone downstairs and couldn’t contact him. She probably wasn’t worried, Eric would know to stay away if she didn’t text back, if she didn’t let him know the coast was clear. The anger building, Jack texted back, “Yes, we’re on. Looking forward to it! I’ve got to tell you something.”

Immediately, the reply came back, a thumbs-up emoji, and the words, “Can’t wait!”

Jack went out into the garage, and looked around. He picked up the chainsaw, and took it off the peg. His stomach ached, and he thought, Not long now, not long at all.