By Jarret Keene
Peggy put on her make-up, her little zip-up biker jacket and leather pants and satin mules, and drove to Lechter’s. She selected the largest cleaver. She paid with cash, and because it wasn’t yet noon she took the bag into the mall’s Cineplex, where she watched a romantic comedy starring a washed-up soap star whose thinning hair made her think of Sloan’s infected scalp. Her husband had blown a small fortune on experimental implants in a last-ditch effort to stave off his genetic destiny, and the results were truly horrifying: Red, puffy patches of skin. Dandruff galore.
The few remaining healthy hairs Peggy had yanked out when he announced she wasn’t a woman with whom he imagined growing older. He said he wanted a woman with a passionate heart. A woman like the one he’d met at the office. A woman like the one he’d been sleeping with for the last three months, whose name was Cheri McMichaels, and who lived in a house he’d bought for them in Riverglen Gardens now that he was breaking up his marriage. But he was going away on business, his flight was leaving this afternoon, and so could he count on his soon-to-be ex-wife to take his messages and collect his mail until he was ready to move out?
And after ripping the last, precious follicles from his skull — essentially scalping him — she reached for the phone and pretended to talk to a lawyer as Sloan packed his suitcase and peeled out of the driveway in his Jaguar, and when he was gone she sat on the edge of the bed and cried and counted sleeping pills and contemplated razors and went so far as to load the .38 the cheating bastard had bought her last Christmas. It was a fine gun, perfectly suited for the task, but there was no way in hell she was going to give him the pleasure, and so when she settled on a plan she transferred the hairs in her clenched fist into a Ziploc and pushed the toy-sized gun through the sink’s black rubber mouth and switched on the disposal and packed her own suitcase and abandoned the half-million-dollar house amid the awful clamor of metal grinding metal.
Now she gnawed on popcorn. The movie was silly. It pretended love was effortless, redemptive, perpetual. The only thing real and true and eternal was the rage growing inside her. Sloan would never think like this during a movie. He always dozed off in theaters with the excuse that people should catch up on their sleep.
Peggy endured the movie all the way to the credits; each frame kindling the fires of vengeance. Once, she slipped her hand into the bag to stroke the flat part of the cleaver’s blade. She remembered reading an article in a magazine about scalping. Removing the scalp served as evidence of one’s violent prowess. Scalping supplied a portable trophy. Sloan had a trophy girlfriend he rubbing in Peggy’s face, but Peggy had other plans.
When ushers showed up to clean, she exited the theater and wandered through a mall throbbing with consumerism. Her eyes adjusted to the brightness, and she was soon browsing the clearance racks and jostling for position against other shoppers in the merchandise-crowded stores. She got her hair and nails done and searched the bookstore for a decent novel. On the surface, it was routine; she was hitting all her favorites.
She checked her watch, saw it was time and threaded the parking lot. She started up her rental, a red BMW convertible coupe, and set a course for Riverglen Gardens, one of the gated communities outside the city of Tampa. The mid-afternoon sun beat down on the palm trees lining the interstate, and she let the wind play with her new perm because, dammit, it felt good. The thrumming engine buoyed her. The moment was splendid.
She was a woman with a passionate heart.
She stopped the car a hundred yards from the gate and watched the guard sleeping in his booth, but she didn’t wait long because soon Sloan’s Jaguar was zooming out of Riverglen Gardens en route to the airport.
At the gate, she honked her horn, startling the guard. He straightened his tie and approached her car and said, “Well, hello there.”
“Hello,” she said, smiling from behind her sunglasses. She could still make men smile. “I’m the art dealer Ms. Spinoza invited over.”
“OK,” he said. After pressing a button to open the gate he asked, “Say, where are the paintings?”
“Miniatures,” she replied, indicating the shopping bag.
The guard shrugged, waved her through.
She cruised slowly down the upscale streets, and when she found the house she pulled into the driveway and slipped on her velvet gloves and took the bag from the back seat and carried it to the house and rang the doorbell.
Cheri McMichaels opened the door, furrowed her brow, and said, “Do I know you?”
“Huh?” said Ms. McMichaels, who reeked of tequila. “Oh, I see, we must have an appointment! Come in.”
In the living room, Peggy glanced at the marble-topped bar and the animal-skin rug. The whore had taste.
“Can I get you a drink?”
When the home-wrecking bitch turned her back, Peggy removed the cleaver from the bag and hacked Cheri McMichaels in the neck.
There was some — but not too much — blood. The rubber gloves came in handy.
She took the Ziploc from her purse and, using tweezers, carefully placed her husband’s hair follicles underneath Cheri McMichaels’ dead fingernails. DNA evidence was still tough to beat.
Minutes later she calmly drove out of Riverglen Gardens.
Passing the sleeping guard, she grinned. Sleep was something people should catch up on.
BIO: Jarret Keene is author of the poetry collection MONSTER FASHION and the rock-band biography THE KILLERS: DESTINY IS CALLING ME, and editor of THE UNDERGROUND GUIDE TO LAS VEGAS. He lives in Las Vegas.