“Must you watch?” she asked.
“What else can I do? You’re hogging the TV.”
Nan scowled at him. She executed a Downward-Facing Dog pose (though he had no idea what the move was called), surprising him with her flexibility.
“I have to use it for the video,” Nan said, rising and glancing at him.
Ed peered at the TV and the lithe girl on the screen. The girl on the exercise tape
was young, athletic and very flexible. He was amazed by his physical reaction to her leotard-clad image. It was awhile since that happened. Nan stepped forward, blocking his view as she went into another maneuver. He tilted in his seat, trying to look around her.
“You could go do something,” Nan snapped. Kneeling on her mat, she bent forward from the waist.
“How should I know? I don’t care. Just give me a little time to myself. Since you got laid off all you do is hang around, drinking beer, smoking and getting in my way.”
Ed ground his teeth. “Like it was my idea the plant should shut down? Why are you being such a bitch? It wasn’t my fault.”
She stopped what she was doing and gazed up at him. She bobbed her head, something like compassion showing in her eyes. “I know, honey. I’m sorry. It’s just…”
She twisted around, facing him. “It’s just I worry about you. You know? The economy stinks. There aren’t any jobs around here. But you’ve got to do something. Just sitting around the house all day isn’t good for you. You don’t shave any more. You don’t even take a bath unless I nag at you. I think you’re getting depressed. It scares me.”
He shrugged. “So what do you want me to do?”
“I don’t know. Just get out of the house. Take a walk. Go down to Donovan’s and see some of the old gang.”
Ed sighed. He had an idea what was up. He wasn’t dumb. She’d had enough of him. That’s what all this exercise shit is about. There’s another guy. It must be somebody at her office. That’s the only place she goes. Well, there and the gym. Is she seeing him there? “I go down to Donovan’s it costs money.”
“You never spend that much. Besides, we’re all right money-wise. You’re still collecting unemployment, we have your buy-out and my salary.”
“Yeah. Like we’re millionaires.”
“We’re not so bad off as some others.” Twisting her legs and swiveling her body, Nan grunted.
“Jeez, you look like a pretzel. How the hell do you do that?”
She laughed. “I could teach you.”
“No thanks,” he said, rising. “That Yogi stuff’s for fairies. You ain’t getting me doing that stuff. Maybe I will go down to the bar.”
“Sure. Why not?”
“Just for a little while.”
As soon as he was out of the house Nan dialed a familiar number. “Hey,” he answered on the second ring. Like he had nothing better to do than wait for her to call. Well, now was the time to test his dedication.
“He’s on the way,” she told him. “He’s coming down to the bar.”
“Are you there? Of course. Where else would he be going?”
There was silence on the line, except for his sibilant breathing. “Larry?”
“What do you want me to do, Nance?”
“What we talked about.”
“Do you love me or not?”
“You know I do.”
“How am I supposed to do it? I mean, Jeez.”
Nan sighed. She knew he’d chicken out. “If you love me…”
“I do. But, shit, it’s not like you’re asking me to give you a lift to the store or something. This is serious business.”
Nancy exhaled. “You told me about the guy in Philadelphia. You said you’d done it before. Did you really kill him? Was that just talk or what?”
He stammered, not getting the words out fast enough to suit her. “Forget it,” she said, slamming down the receiver.
Frustrated, Nancy went back to her routine. She’d just executed a Trikonasana when the phone rang. She picked it up.
“He’s here.” Larry again.
“I love you, honey. I’ll do it.”
“I do. I’m just not sure how.”
“Do I have to give you a blueprint? Run him down with your car. Whack him with a pipe. Stick him with a knife. I don’t give a good goddamn how. Just kill the bastard.” She hung up the phone.
Nan gnawed a thumb nail. Would he do it? She couldn’t be sure. Nancy met Larry at the gym. Lifting weights. An ex-con. He’d admitted it right up front. Perfect for what she wanted done. At least that’s what she’d thought. But Larry was all talk. His stretch was for burglary. Murder wasn’t part of his repertoire, at least not as far as she’d found and despite his bragging. Maybe it was all talk.
Ed sipped his beer and looked around. Typical night at Donovan’s. The usual crowd. Some of them even used to be what he considered friends. Now…now it was like he had some fucking communicable disease. It was like they hadn’t even seen him come in. The only one talked to him was Donovan, and that was because the bastard wanted to sell him more than he wanted to drink, more than he could afford.
Well, screw them all. He’d have a beer and go home. He glanced up at the TV hanging above the bar to his right. Donovan didn’t even have a game on. A couple of talking heads babbling about politics. Who the hell gives a shit? He turned away from the TV, took another slug of beer. At least that tasted good. He closed his eyes, savoring the taste. A vision of the girl on the exercise tape popped into his mind. Jeez. Where’d that come from? But he nursed the thought of her and how she’d prompted his libido. That was different. And pleasant.
Opening his eyes he noticed a guy two stools down staring at him. He glared back at the guy. “What?”
The guy pulled his eyes away, glanced up at the TV.
Faggot, Ed thought. He didn’t know the guy. Getting that kind in here I don’t want to stay. He chugged his beer and left.
Ed pushed open the door and looked in. The girl from the video was rolling up a mat. She swiveled her head in his direction. “Hi,” she said with a smile. “Can I help you?”
Ed stared, asking himself again what had brought him here. Nancy was at work and he’d been thinking about this girl. He’d wanted to see her in person. Now that he was here he couldn’t find his voice. What was he thinking?
She smiled, waiting patiently for his reply. The girl had dark hair tied back in a ponytail, frank brown eyes and a lithe body form-fitted to her leotards. Ed felt himself color. “I-uh…”
“Are you here about a class?” she asked, stepping toward him. “I don’t have another till next week, but I might be able to fit you in.”
“I-uh-was looking for…”
“You teach yoga here?”
She smiled again. “That’s right. Do you want to sign up for a class?”
Ed hesitated. He experienced the same reaction as when he’d seen her on the video. He hoped the girl didn’t notice.
“I could fit you in on Thursday evenings.”
Nancy’s class was on Tuesdays. “I-uh-do you think I could do it? I mean, from what I’ve seen, it looks pretty strenuous.”
Smiling, she held out her hand. He stared at it a moment, then took it. Her hand felt small and warm as a bird in his big paw. “I’m sure you could…mister?”
“Ed. Call me Ed.”
“Okay, Ed. I’m Sherry. I’m sure you’ll do all right. I work within the student’s abilities. You seem pretty fit. I keep my classes small. I believe in lots of attention to each student. Can I sign you up?”
Ed took a quick look around the room. Mostly women—the majority of them young and self-absorbed; a few his own age and desperately wanting their youth back—none of them paying the least attention to him. There were only two other guys. One was slim, tanned and as vain as the young women. He kept glancing at himself in the mirrors on the side wall. Obviously a fag, Ed thought. The other guy seemed vaguely familiar. Despite a paunch, he had the arms and chest of a dedicated weight-lifter. Ed couldn’t place where he’d seen him before.
It didn’t matter. Sherry came out of her office and stood before the class. Ed couldn’t keep his eyes off her. He hoped his face wasn’t as red as he thought it must be. She started them out with some easy moves even he could manage. Ed felt a little more confident after that.
“You did good for the first time,” Sherry told him later as they shared a shake at a health-food place.
“Really? You’re not just saying it to make me feel good?”
“I never lie,” Sherry said, giving him a dazzling smile and laying a long-fingered hand on his wrist.
Ed felt twenty years younger just being in her presence. He’d suggested going for coffee after the lesson ended and the others filtered away. He was surprised when she agreed.
“Only not for coffee,” she’d said. “I don’t drink that stuff.”
Sherry was so easy to talk to. Ed couldn’t believe how quickly the time passed. And she seemed genuinely interested in all he had to say. It astounded him a girl so young and pretty seemed attracted to him.
“So, tell me,” she said, “did you enjoy your first class?”
Ed gave her a high-five. “Yoga kills,” he told her as their palms met.
“He didn’t do bad,” Larry said. “Maybe better than me. Lifting weights and doing yoga uses different muscles, you know.”
Nan scowled. “I don’t really care how good either of you did.” She was actually a little flattered Ed had signed up for yoga classes. He probably was doing it for her, the goof, hoping it would impress her. It did—a little. Ed usually wasn’t inclined to do anything to please her. But it was too late now. She wanted him out of her life. And things were working to her advantage now. “Where did he go afterward?”
“Huh? Whadya mean? Didn’t he come home?”
“Yeah. About two hours after the class ended. Didn’t you follow him?”
“No. Everybody left when the class ended. I figured he’d just go home.”
“Well he didn’t. Next time you follow him.”
Larry gaped at her a moment, his slack face as blank as his mind. “You want,” he said after a while, “you still want I should kill him?”
“That is the plan.”
“You sure you have the nerve?”
Larry shrugged. “Don’t like it much. But I said I’d do it.”
Nan grinned and patted his shoulder. “That’s my boy.”
“I know it isn’t really consolation for your loss,” the older officer said, “but at least you know the man will be punished.”
Nan was seated next to him on the sofa. A younger officer faced her in an armchair opposite them. She dabbed at her eyes then folded her hands with the handkerchief on her lap. “I don’t understand,” she said. “How did you catch him so fast?”
“An anonymous call from a woman who gave us the license plate number.”
“Will that hold up in court? You don’t know who this woman is.”
“Doesn’t matter,” the young officer said. “There were other witnesses who described the vehicle and will testify they saw him back up over your husband, which makes it no simple accident. Once we had him in custody, he couldn’t deny it. There was the smashed fender. Other—uh—evidence.” He hesitated, seeming uncertain about sharing the nature of those details.
“Never mind, Colby,” his partner said. He took Nan’s hand in his big paw. “The important thing, ma’am, is we got the culprit. You can also take comfort in the fact your husband didn’t suffer after the initial impact. He was unconscious when they put him in the ambulance and he passed before they got to the hospital.”
“Thank you,” Nan said, squeezing his sausage fingers and nodding. She gulped a swallow of air and shuddered. A tear rolled down her cheek. “You’ve been so kind. I don’t think I could deal with your job—bringing this kind of news to people day after day. You’ve been very considerate. I appreciate…”
“Somebody’s got to do it. It ain’t pleasant. But somebody’s got to…”
“I know—do it.”
The officer released her hand and rose. “We’ll let you know when the body can be released. Meantime, if you need anything just call.”
The door to the bedroom creaked open just a crack and a voice asked, “Are they gone?”
“Yes. You can come out.”
Sherry, clad in just a bra and panties, padded over on bare feet. She flicked her pony tail and grinned. “Did it work?”
“Like a charm,” Nance told her. She threw her arms around the girl and drew her close. They embraced and kissed, a long, fervent kiss. Nan stroked Sherry’s cheek with the fingers of one hand. “We’re free,” she whispered, her voice hoarse with emotion.
“Free at last,” Sherry said and chuckled.
They snuggled on the sofa, exchanging another kiss. “You made the call like I told you?”
“From the public phones at the gym,” Sherry said. “What about your phone?”
“In the river.” The throw-away she used to talk with Larry. She’d tossed it earlier that night after her last conversation with him. “Other than both of us having gym membership there’s nothing to connect me to him.”
Sherry laid a hand on her knee. “They both did exactly what you wanted them to do. You sure know your men.”
Nan smiled. “They’re such fools when it comes to love.”