The Day I Shot My Husband
I was minding my own business. I really was.
My husband and I were at a convention in Louisville. Greg was there to get Continuing Legal Education hours. I was there to spend time in a hotel room with nothing more important to do than sit on a bed I didn’t have to make, watch a television I didn’t have to dust and throw candy wrappers in a trash can I didn’t have to empty.
Greg found me that afternoon in the hotel room writing a humor article.
If I divide the amount of money I have made writing humor by the time I’ve put into it, my hourly wage would begin with a decimal point. Nevertheless, it is technically income. So, when Greg found me, I was in the room literally minding my own business.
He came to ask if I wanted to join him for lunch.
I had been planning to throw three novels into a bag and walk a couple of blocks to Panera for lunch. Once there, I intended to spend a delicious hour or two in their courtyard with a bowl of butternut squash soup and whichever of the books enticed me at the time.
But Greg was wearing the look he gets when he has spent too many hours as an adult. I was afraid that if I left him alone he would have a maturity meltdown, change into a cape and leotard and return to his legal education class as Super Man-Child, champion of juvenile behavior, to hold a brick-breaker tournament on the speaker’s PowerPoint screen or convince his fellow attorneys to enter a best fart joke contest. So I abandoned my afternoon plans and joined Greg for lunch and a few hours of playing hooky from his classes.
Because I failed to subdue Greg’s delinquent alter ego during lunch, he used its superpowers to persuade a friend to cut her next class and spend the afternoon playing with us. She had heard there was a police training simulator set up in the hotel to promote its services to Kentucky police departments. But she was pretty sure it was actually there so the convention attendees could play cops and robbers in their free time.
Cops and Robbers?! Well, that was exactly what Greg wanted to play after spending the morning pretending to be grown-up. So that is where we went. And that is where it happened.
The room was dark and set up like a movie theater. People were watching a large screen where a computerized program was playing dozens of variations of crime scene scenarios. One by one, men in ties and women in heels stepped up to look down the sights of very realistic toy guns to shoot virtual bad guys with pretend bullets.
Fortunately for him, my husband has not always worn the cape of a childlike crusader. For years, he rode the back of his trusty pony, Jill, (I’m sure Jill was tougher than her name implies.) in a cowboy hat and polyester chaps. So having shot many a pretend bad guy, he did very well in his crime scene scenarios.
Our friend, Lisa, also took aim with the gun and got her virtual man.
I sat in my chair and sincerely rooted for the two of them as they played their games. I figured the sooner the cops killed all the robbers, the sooner I could go and introduce myself to the characters that were waiting for me in one of my books. Although those fictional characters also lived in imaginary worlds, I was pretty sure their worlds would be more rational than the one I was in. Earlier, I had watched a lady giggle as she shot through the private parts of a man who wasn’t really in the room.
Just as I thought we finally were ready to leave, Greg looked at me and said, “I think you should try this. What do you think?”
What did I think? I thought, “I can’t possibly do this! I have never held a handgun. I’m a lousy shot. And I left my superhero leotard hanging in the closet at home with my Batgirl mask and my Wonder Woman push-up bra.”
Nevertheless, a few minutes later, I was standing at the front of the room with a gun in my hand. I had learned to use the sights to aim the gun and I had hit the practice targets with only one miss. Evidently, I wasn’t such a lousy shot.
I had already killed a guy on the street with terrible hygiene habits and a gun hidden under his jacket. Granted, I had previously seen his scenario so I already knew he was a bad guy but I hit him dead in the heart and I thought that was pretty impressive. I was ready to holster the gun and walk off into the sunset . . . because just beyond that view of the sunset from the lobby windows were the elevators to the upstairs rooms.
But the man running the simulator program wanted me to play one more time so I aimed my gun again. When the screen came to life this time, I found myself looking at the door of a virtual bedroom. The instructor had told me that in this scenario I was in my own home. My husband and I had been awakened by a noise and he had gone to investigate, leaving me in the bedroom with the gun.
At that point, the story line had already veered from the realm of my personal probability because on the few times in our marriage that Greg has gotten up to investigate a suspicious noise, I have patted his back, given him a thumbs-up for good luck, turned over, and gone back to sleep. I’m not much of a worrier.
On that day, however, I wanted to win the game and I knew from watching the other scenarios that anything could happen at any time so I tried to pay attention to the doorway. But I kept getting distracted by the things in the room.
“Is anyone in the bedroom? What an odd color for a bedroom. When was the last time this bedroom was cleaned? How much dust is on that book by the bed? I love that book!
“Look at the doorway. Don’t look at anything other than the doorway. Don’t look at the dresser beside the doorway. Could that dresser beside the doorway be an antique? I really like the mirror hanging over the antique dresser by the doorway!
“Pay attention. Do I see anything? I see lots of things. I see mail on the nightstand. Who gets mail in a pretend crime scene scenario? Maybe its my mail. No, it can’t be my mail. Can I read the address on the mail? No, I’m too far away to read the address on the mail. Maybe the guy by the door can read the address on the mail.
“The guy by the door!” Suddenly, there he was . . . the guy in my crime scene scenario.
My job was to assess whether or not he posed a threat to me and shoot him if he did. Was he a threat? I wasn’t sure.
I didn’t know the guy. But, realistically, how would we have ever met? I live in the real world and he lives in stream of light projected on a wall.
He was in my pretend house without being invited. That was true. But I didn’t know why he was there. Perhaps his car had broken down and he wanted to use our pretend phone. And when our pretend doorbell had not worked, he had picked our pretend lock and come looking for help.
Did he intend to hurt me? Well, that was hard to say. He did have a knife in his hand but I didn’t know why he was holding it. Perhaps, while walking through the house, he had noticed a mess in the kitchen and stopped to do a few of the dishes. If that was the case, I needed to thank him. I didn’t know what my pretend husband was doing at the moment but I was pretty sure he wouldn’t stop to clean anything.
The guy was sweating and agitated and had a wild, rabid look in his eyes. Well, there was my answer. There was no threat here. The poor guy was obviously sick. What could I do to help him? Somebody needed to run to the store to get this guy some medicine. Where was that pretend husband when I needed him?
Before I could do anything to help, the guy in my scenario turned and ran away. I thought he was probably going home where his own mother could could take care of him.
That was not what my real husband thought. He thought I was an idiot for letting an intruder run free in the house. I could hear him saying so behind me. I turned to face Greg and I could tell from the look on his face what he was going to do.
He was about to attack my sanity! I knew exactly how he would do it. He would pick up a few “What were you thinking?” barbs, soak them in a “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen!” tone of voice and throw them at me with an accuracy he has gained from years of dealing with the way I react to circumstances.
Well, if he wanted me to react differently to a threat, I would react differently. I took a breath and steadied my nerves.
My job was to assess whether or not he posed a threat to me and shoot him if he did.
Did I perceive a threat? Yes, I did. Was I prepared to deal with it? Yes, I was.
With his first sarcastic statement, I looked down the sights of the gun in my hand and I shot my husband.