Clyde Byrd came home Friday afternoon and took his 12 gauge shotgun out of the closet and loaded one shell. He was set. As soon as Mattie gets home from work, he intends to arrange his fake suicide scenario. This will get her attention—and, maybe he can find out the truth about a certain situation. Or maybe he’d not fake it! Do the real thing. Why not? Life wasn’t worth living anyway, sometimes. For the past six weeks, Clyde had been mulling over his and Mattie’s future—if they even had a future. He knew something that she didn’t want him to know, and he was going to spring it on her today. He couldn’t wait any longer.
It had been eating him up ever since his best buddy, George Hines, had seen her and some guy from her office sitting close together in a booth at Mid-Town Grill having lunch. And George had told him they were awfully close, and that the guy even opened his car door for Mattie when they left, evidently headed back to their office. Clyde thought, maybe they didn’t go back to work. Maybe they went out in the country somewhere, and made out in the man’s car. When they were married two years ago, Clyde had the strangest feeling—even that day—that Mattie would some day cast him off. That he was beneath her upbringing. He was just a carpenter, and she had two years of college and a real good job in a real estate office. Heck, she was even completing her studies to get her own real estate license. When she got her license, Clyde figured she’d be making some big bucks and would, no doubt, leave him.
Clyde loved Mattie very much, and he had decided that he needed to shock her. To bring the situation to a head. To a climax. To do something that would so impress her, that she would feel so bad—about whatever she had done, or maybe not done—that she would come to him and love him. “Over all others,” he remembered the preacher saying at their wedding.
Clyde had gotten off an hour early from his construction job in White County. He drove straight home. They were renting a small farm house just outside of town; one that her real estate company owned. They had been excited about living there, and had planted a garden, back of the house. Mattie had helped him work the garden in the spring, but now that it was summer and the days were hot, she didn’t much want to get outside when she came home. Just another indication to Clyde that she was beginning to cast him off. He had to do something.
He was in the kitchen, waiting, when Mattie walked in the front door at six o’clock. She said, “Hey, Clyde. You beat me home today.”
He started to wait. To let her change clothes, or get comfortable. But he didn’t. The words flew out of his mouth. “I know you’ve been seeing someone else, and—“
“What the heck,” she said stunned.
“I know! I know!”
“Know what?” Mattie asked, tossing her pocketbook on the kitchen table.
“I know you—you’re probably—yes, it’s true. You’re having an affair!
“Are you nuts?” she asked.
“No! I know! I know! All about it!”
“It’s no good!” He screamed. He reached behind the kitchen door and grabbed his shotgun. “I’m going to end it all.”
Mattie stood terrified, staring at the shotgun. “What the heck—“
“I’m gone! It’s too late. You don’t love me any more!” Clyde said as he went out the back door and ran for the garden, swinging the shotgun in his right hand.
On the lower side of the garden, they had planted eight rows of corn. Most of the stalks were now over six feet high and Clyde wanted to get in the middle of the patch where Mattie couldn’t see him. Once in there, he cocked the shotgun and fired it straight up. It was very loud, and actually hurt his ears. He lay down quickly on the ground, surrounded by the green, sweet-smelling corn stalks. He didn’t move, knowing that Mattie would soon come running out to him, and say to him that she was sorry for whatever she had done to hurt him, and that she would love him, and only him, for the rest of her life. He continued to lie very still, and he smelled the rich, damp dirt. The smell was very familiar to him.
The shotgun was beside him in the dirt and he realized that he would have to clean it thoroughly, once this scenario was wrapped up. He waited. He knew she would come see about him, as soon as the shock wore off. She was probably standing in the kitchen, looking out the open door right now. She had to have heard the shotgun—he was only fifty yards from the house. He turned his head slightly and looked up to the thick tassels hanging from each stalk. He remembered they had planted Silver Queen. He also remembered seeing the seed kernels in Mattie’s hands as she had placed two in each hole he dug, in each row, in the early spring.
Should he shout out—maybe holler for help? No. That wasn’t in his plan. It was in her hands now. That’s the way he had planned it. She would have to make the choice. Just like with children or no children. He’d wanted to have a kid or two, but she didn’t. His growing up had been so bad that he wanted desperately to have a kid he could spoil. A kid he could talk to in a nice and gentle way. One that he would never lay a hand on. One that would never have to live a childhood like he had had to endure.
It was time, now. Clyde was sure Mattie would come soon. Probably running, and maybe even screaming. He listened carefully. Waiting to hear her smashing through the corn stalks, stumbling in the red dirt, finally falling on the ground next to him, putting her arms around him and kissing his neck and the side of his face that was not in the dirt. Instead, he heard her car motor start. He stood up abruptly, and then he heard her car tires crunching and fading away on their gravel drive.
Ed Nichols lives outside Clarkesville, Georgia with his wife Judy and cat, Buck. He is a journalism graduate from the University of Georgia. He is a short story award winner from Southeastern Writer’s Association. He has had short stories published, and/or scheduled for publication in: Every Writer’s Resource, Fiction On The Web, Short-Stories.me, Vending Machine Press, Floyd County Moonshine Review, Beorh Quarterly and Page and Spine.