Ideas of Murder in Southern Vermont
May 20th is a good day to begin cutting the grass.
Old Farmers Almanac
May 20. Ray, decked out in a faded Batman t-shirt, stands in comic book chiaroscuro, half in and half out of the dusky tool shed. The air is redolent with wood rot and grass cuttings. A robin struts across the greensward, a bushwhacked earthworm dangling like a miniature intestine from its beak. The sky is as blue as the eyes of a madman.
From the corner of his eye, Ray catches movement in the kitchen window twenty-odd yards away. A hand pulling aside the lace curtain. Baby blues peering forth. It's Gillian.
Too late to fade into his lair, Ray stiffens. The screen door swings wide and Gillian emerges onto the back porch. An apron disguises the skimpy details of her sundress, ordered from the Victoria's Secret catalog. Her reddish hair hangs in curlicues to her bare shoulders. A tropical fruit color taints her lips. Harlot, thinks Ray.
"Your lunch is on the table," she calls.
He waves at her, pretending he can't hear, his ears sealed with wax. His lips twist in the rictus of a smile. She smiles back at him. Fake as false teeth.
"I've got to go to the supermarket and the hairdresser's," she announces.
When Ray doesn't respond, she turns back into the house. Behind her receding derriere, the screen door smacks shut.
Stepping into the dim interior of the shed, Ray reaches down and gropes for the fifth of Old Crow hidden behind the gas can. Gasoline fumes slither up his nose like a flesh eating amoeba, bringing a wave of nausea. He takes a long pull from the bottle. He knows that Gillian knows what he's up to.
After a second drink, Ray hoists up the waist of his belt-less khakis, reties the leather thongs of his deck shoes and strides across the lawn to the abandoned mower. It sits on the embankment above the drainage ditch that fronts the road. As he bends over to grip the starter rope, the screen door slams again. He turns his head to look. Everything is upside down.
Gillian descends the steps from the porch and walks to the Camry, parked at an angle parallel to where Ray crouches, futzing with the mower. Without the apron, the décolletage of the sundress is revealed in all its wantonness. The hem comes barely halfway to her knees. As she lowers herself into the driver's seat, the bleached flour whiteness of her thighs momentarily flashes into view.
His groin tightening with desire, Ray looks away. He knows she's meeting someone in town.
In his mind he sees a dingy room, a shadow-cloaked divan. On it, caught in the glow of a cigarette tip, an unknown pair of lips nibble the crook of her neck, while a predatory hand plays with virtuosic aplomb up the keyboard of her thighs.
It's not clear to Ray how he and Gillian end up in the drainage ditch. She's beneath him. His knees dig inexorably into her bare arms, crushing them into the water and muck at the bottom of the ditch. Her head splashes from side to side trying to escape the pressure of his hands over her mouth and nose. Fear has turned her eyes into iridescent saucers. Mud and deep green plants stain the paleness of her skin and the jaunty yellow design of the sundress.
Ray shifts his position, abruptly easing the pressure on Gillian's 112 pounds. She starts to sit up. But it's a trick from his high school wrestling team days. In the next instant he flips her over onto her stomach. His hands press downward again, mashing her face into two inches of runoff. She makes gurgling sounds, her body heaving and quivering. After a while she becomes as still as stagnant water. A sprig of watercress is entwined in her scum-streaked hair.
Ray's hands absorb the vibration of the mower, as it trundles moronically across the lawn. He squeezes his eyes shut to relieve the sting of oozing sweat. Opening them, he squints at the sun. 2 p.m. When he glances down, he makes the disturbing discovery that his pants and shoes are neither wet nor mud stained. Instead, he finds himself thinking that Gillian should be getting home soon. He kills the mower and walks over to the tool shed for some additional distilled refreshment.