by Gail Farrelly
This week Gail Farelly shares with us a fun mystery short story with a sci-fi twist. We are publishing this story on July 20 because this story involves the moon and this is the anniversary of the 1969 moon landing.
December 20, 2019, Bronxville, NY, a Suburb of New York City ……
Saturday night and I was feeling quite merry. Not just because there were only five days until Christmas, but also because I had a relaxing evening planned. “Clay,” I told myself, “you are one lucky dude.”
I stretched out my long legs on the recliner in the living room of my spacious co-op in Bronxville. I reached for the TV remote and found the right channel. An episode of The Honeymooners, my favorite show, would be starting in a little while on an Oldies channel. I laugh every time Ralph Kramden tells his wife Alice, “I’ll send you to the moon.” I had been laughing even harder since my own wife, also named Alice, had gone there. I suddenly felt tired. I checked my watch and saw that I still had 25 minutes until The Honeymooners show time, so I closed my eyes for a brief rest.
I thought back to the day a few months ago when Alice had first broached the subject of a trip to the moon. Unlike me, she had always been interested in space travel and so when she spoke wistfully about a three-month vacation trip to the moon being offered by a local travel agent, I encouraged her to sign on. “But the expense,” she had said. “We really can’t afford it.” But I saw the longing in her eyes, as I fought to hide the longing in my eyes at the thought of being on my own for a few months.
“Yes, we can,” I remember assuring her. “I’ll borrow from my pension fund. You deserve a nice vacation, the trip of your dreams.” And of mine, I was thinking–a bargain at any price for three months of blissful solitude. I’d send her on a vacation so I could have a vacation.
We had gotten married in 2001, shortly after the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York City. At that time both of us were 34 years old and had lived together for two years. We just sort of drifted into marriage. After the bombing of the World Trade Center, there was this feeling that life was short and it was just time to get on with things that were probably inevitable anyway. We had a lot in common and got along okay, so it seemed the right thing to do at the time. One fall day we bought rings and schlepped down to City Hall. That was that.
I shifted my position on the recliner; for some reason I felt kind of achy. Reflecting on a failed marriage can do that to you, I guess.
The first 15 years of our marriage were pretty happy. We liked to do a lot of the same things– everyday things, like going to the theater and movies, spending time with friends, wandering around all five boroughs of the city. But then a couple of years ago, things changed. We drifted apart. All of a sudden Alice started spending a lot more time on work-related activities. Have to admit I was suspicious. I remember thinking, do librarians really have to take that many in-service classes, and are they required to work that much overtime? But then I really couldn’t complain, since my own investment banking job is quite demanding and often necessitates last-minute changes in plans.
I yawned as I thought about the fact that in the last few years, even the time we did spend together just wasn’t fun anymore. Alice’s trip to the moon had come along at a perfect time. Three months apart to plan for the rest of our lives. At least that was what I had figured on the evening when we decided that she should make the moon trip. But then came that fateful day–in fact, the very next day after we had decided on her trip. I’ve thought a lot about how that day turned out to be a life-changing one, although it had started out like any other Saturday.
Alice and I were in our living room, each engaged in a separate pursuit; not unusual for us.
She was sitting on the couch near a window, working on her laptop and I was relaxing in a rocking chair across from her and reading a murder mystery. Looking back on it, all I can think of is that it was a peaceful day. At least the morning was, but the afternoon, not so much.
Anyway, it got kind of breezy and I got up to close one of the windows near where Alice was sitting. As I passed her, she looked startled and hastily put her hand over her computer screen, shielding it from my view. I looked at her face and it was flushed. She smiled but looked guilty. She was obviously working on something she didn’t want me to see. Right then and there I knew I had to see it.
Alice went out shopping a little later, leaving her laptop on the desk in her study. As soon as she was out the door, I had my hands on her laptop. She didn’t realize it, but I knew her password as I had seen it a few months before, “hidden” in her jewelry box). I saw that the last email she had sent was to a co-worker, Charlie Stevens. Nice guy. I had met him at a few socials at the library. I opened up the email she had sent him and was stunned by what I read:
It’s a go, honey. I’m over the moon. Clay (the chump!) said he’d borrow from his pension fund. You and me, we’re gonna have the trip of a lifetime, simply out of this world. We’ll be together for a whole three months and by the time we come back, we’ll have figured out a way to be together forever. The past few years have been great, but we can make the future even better. Onward and upward. xxx
Hmm. Nice guy Charlie Stevens wasn’t all that nice if he considered someone else’s wife fair game, but it was my wife who I was really furious with.
I saw red. Alice had played me for a fool. She’d been carrying on behind my back for a few years. I no longer had a strong attachment to her, but that didn’t mean that she had the right to attach herself to someone else. Let her go to the moon with Charlie boy, I figured, but it would be a one-way passage. I’d see to it that she’d have no need of a return ticket.
I remember looking at those three x’s that ended her note. Yuck! Kinda old for that kiss-kiss-kiss stuff, wasn’t she? And who gave her the right to call me a chump? Well this chump was gonna show her a thing or two. She had signed her death warrant. All I had to do was figure out a way for her to die on the moon. And I probably wouldn’t even have to pay for a funeral. Sounded good to me.
I watched and waited, biding my time until I could plan a way to do the deed. Alice herself gave me my solution a few days later. She was listing all the stuff she’d have to bring with her on her trip and mentioned about being sure to bring her vitamins. My ears perked up. I had minored in chemistry in college and was sure that I could mix up a little rat poison concoction and slip it into a few of her capsules. I did my research, got my supplies and was ready when opportunity came a-knockin.’
It did just that a week before the trip when Alice proudly announced at breakfast that her packing was complete. Not quite, I thought. Luckily she was working late that night and I had the house to myself. And free access to her luggage.
It really was pretty easy. Based on my research, I whipped up the rat-poison mixture, opened up six of the vitamin capsules packed in her travel bag and replaced the capsule contents with my special blend. It was a cinch to seal the capsules tightly again. I complimented myself on the fact that the tampering was completely unnoticeable. Perfetto my Italian chemistry teacher would have said. You may think it was overkill to doctor six capsules, but I wasn’t taking any chances. If the first capsule didn’t kill her, I figured that there were five more “bullets.”
Back to the present. I checked my watch again and saw that there were still a few minutes before my show started and headed for the kitchen for a couple of aspirins. Those aches weren’t getting any better. I still felt really drowsy and now my stomach was churning too. When I went to the kitchen I grabbed a couple of Tums, in addition to the aspirin. I was also a little dizzy, but I was sure that after a few laughs with Ralph and Alice Kramden, my sickness would pass.
Returning from the kitchen, I decided to check my email and was disgusted to see another email from Alice. She had been on the moon now for over two weeks, but she still insisted on sending me three or four emails a day. Good grief! Didn’t she have better things to do on the moon? If nothing else, this email roused me from my lethargy. Here’s what it said:
Hope you’re doin’ OK without me. I’m having the time of my life. Oh, forgot to tell you…don’t think you’re going nuts if your vitamin supply seems to have doubled. It did! The last time I went to the doctor on earth (I think it was two days before I left for the moon) she gave me a prescription for special vitamins for the space trip. I took the new meds with me and removed the old vitamins from my travel bag. I know you and I take the same vitamins, so I just dumped the extras into your vitamin bottle. Waste not, want not, right? Luv ya.
I wanted to postpone thinking about the heart of the message. Instead I concentrated on the beginning and ending. Sweetie? She had the nerve to still call me that? I felt like barfing. Then there was that Luv ya at the end of the note. Double barf! This wasn’t helping the sick feeling in my gut. Not at all, but the beginning and the ending were merely annoying, compared to the heart of the email, which I read again. Alice was right about one thing. I was a chump after all and an unlucky one at that. I knew why I felt sick. I had all the symptoms (exhaustion, aches, dizziness, sick stomach) of someone who had taken rat poison, the poison planned for my unfaithful wife. Rats!
I must have taken one of the poisoned vitamin capsules that I had prepared for Alice–one of the bunch she dumped from her bottle into mine. Rotten luck.
I was in trouble. I racked my brain, trying to recall the phone number for emergency services. No luck. I thought it was three digits, but I suddenly couldn’t remember any of them. And if I did, I probably couldn’t dial them, even if I were to succeed in grasping the cell phone on the table near me. And I doubted that I could do even that.
I knew then that I wouldn’t get to watch The Honeymooners that night.
Or any other night.
More of Gail’s short stories, and many others, can be found in our Terrific Tales section.