‘Such a Good Idea’
by Troy Blackford
Over the years, Rebecca had grown used to putting up with her husband, the novelist John Ravisham, and what he called his ‘fits of creative abandon.’ Whenever he thought of a new story idea or envisioned some new scene, he would fly up from his chair, pace the house, and gesticulate frantically as he engaged in breathless, elliptical question and answer sessions with himself. Rebecca frequently wondered, as John pounded around spouting his ideas to himself, how he ever completed a novel – he couldn’t even finish a sentence without lapsing into a discursive monologue about what a great idea the sentence he never finished was.
In fifteen years, however, she had never seen John like this. Rebecca had scarcely stepped inside the door when he appeared from the dark living room in a flash, grabbed her by the shoulders, and flung her against the wall -- surely with more force than he must have intended.
“My God, Rebecca! Do you know what this could mean?”
“Hi, John,” she replied. Her shoulders ached where he gripped her. Her back stung where she had hit the wall. She struggled to catch her breath. But she wasn’t angry.
The sudden violence alarmed her, but she recognized the familiar sound in his voice. He was in the grip of one of his ‘fits’ – she could expect a conversational dead end. There would be only the caffeinated flinging of exclamations about characters she didn’t yet know entangled in situations she didn’t yet understand. She could count only on one constant.
The one thing John made abundantly clear during these tirades was that he thought everything he was saying was a good idea.
“Do you have the slightest idea what this could mean?” he said, slapping himself in the forehead as if stunned beyond belief.
She had some clue what it could mean. The last six times John had gone ballistic he had emerged from the creative frenzy with one more book and one more advance. Freaking out was, unfortunately for Rebecca, an essential part of his creative system, and she definitely didn’t want to interrupt him.
“He doesn’t mean to do it, you see! That’s the beauty of the whole thing! And of course his reaction afterwards, don’t you see?” He laughed uproariously, clapping like a mad drunkard. Rebecca, having thus extricated herself from his grip, took a few more steps into the house.
The place was a mess. He had been at everything. He had emptied their cereal boxes onto the carpet. The Ravisham’s collection of jigsaw puzzles had been dumped unceremoniously (or perhaps ceremoniously – Rebecca would never understand why John did what he did) on the floor, hopelessly jumbled together. They would have to replace their entire collection.
“Doesn’t mean to do what?” Rebecca asked cautiously, knowing that inviting him to share only a bit more would incite an outpouring.
“Why, kill her, of course!” John scoffed as though her question struck him as unutterably stupid.
“Oh?” Rebecca responded, feeling the hairs on her arms stand up. John’s books seldom dwelt on comfortable topics – she should have expected something like this. “Kill who?”
“The man’s poor wife! You see, he was telling her about this – oh, God this is such a good idea! Ha! I can’t believe this hasn’t been done before!”
A sound just below the level of her awareness finally shifted into place in her understanding – running water.
“John, did you leave a faucet running somewhere?” He had been known to do this even when he didn’t have a good idea.
“Just, you know, snapped her neck. Like, ‘Didn’t see that coming!’” John said, slapping his leg. He slapped the wall. “Get it?”
She did not get it, and honestly didn’t think she would until she saw the first draft of this one.
“This is such a good idea, Beckers! It could so easily happen. I mean,” he said, growing thoughtful in his tone. “Watch!”
He bounded across the room and once more put his hands on her shoulders.
“Ok,” she said, allowing him to grip her but becoming tense. “Then what?”
“The whole time he’s going on about this totally different thing!” he yelled in her face. Bits of cracker crumb flew out of his mouth and into hers. She coughed. The man could stuff down Ritz when he had a mind to – and he always had a mind to when he was having one of his ‘fits.’
“But in real fact - Wow!” he laughed. She could see a pulpy, masticated bit of bleached-white cracker stuck between his front teeth. Too bad flossing wasn’t a habit of his during his ‘creative fits.’
“But in fact she couldn’t have possibly heard what he said after that first bit, because she was already dead, do you see? Doyousee?” His fingers bit into her shoulders viciously.
“Of course, John!” she answered, breathlessly. She had never seen him so worked up before, and it had actually begun to make her nervous.
“And that’s why he gets so surprised. He’s so worked up, he doesn’t even notice that she’s… OH MY GOD! Do you have any idea how brilliant this is?”
“Sounds amazing,” she responded. Really, she was thinking that it felt like his fingernails had broken the skin of her shoulder blades.
“And then he finally gets it, when his fingers are still around her throat – do you see?”
Rebecca didn’t like the sound of this story very much. It was a little too close to home at the moment.
“Like this,” he said, sounding far off and dreamy. His fingers slid from her shoulders to her neck with the speed of a mongoose.
“Glurk!” she said, shocked by the pressure of his fingers on her throat. He obviously had no clue he was gripping her this hard. She understood that John got lost in his inspiration during his fits, but this struck Rebecca as a little too much.
“He just keeps talking to her while he does it, without realizing he’s doing it to her too, you see?”
Rebecca started to see all too clearly. Whatever its context in the story in which John had envisioned it, the scene in which Some Guy strangles Some Guy’s Wife without actually intending to began to take a definite shape in Rebecca’s mind.
Like the antagonist in whatever tale he was planning, John had lost track of what he was doing with his hands. His fingers tightened sharply around her neck and she let out a second pained “Glurk!”
“She doesn’t even know to wave him off before – and then it’s too late, because by then -– of course! Then, when he sees what he’s done, he thinks – oh my God! This is so good!”
It was almost funny, the parallel between what he was saying and what was happening to her. If she was just reading about it, instead of experiencing it, she might have laughed. After trying to paw at his hands, Rebecca gave up and settled for simply gripping his arms.
“Only he’s all freaking out on her,” John shouted, shaking her back and forth by the throat as his fingers dug into her flesh.
“Glurk!” she squeaked a third time. It was becoming her word of the day.
The pain in Rebecca’s neck swelled, and she realized she hadn’t gotten a decent breath in a while. Her hands slid down John’s arms to his wrists, and she began to tug. Rebecca realized that this scene in their front room would look, to an outsider, eerily like a murder in progress. Well, they just didn’t know John and his ‘creative fits’ like she did, that’s all.
“And another thing: he’s angry, but it doesn’t matter anyway, because – oh God that’s the best part! Because he’s accidentally killed her while he’s talking about it!”
John bellowed with laughter, his fingers clutching at her with renewed fury. Had Rebecca thought he was squeezing her throat before? Ha! What he was doing now made her realize that all the pain so far had only been mild irritation. This was true pain. Well, she considered herself educated.
“Stop, John -– this actually hurts!”
His eyes lit up with sudden understanding. ‘Thank God,’ thought Rebecca. He would finally relent. She had, however, misjudged his expression -- John had only drunkenly stumbled further down inspiration’s path.
“Great idea!” he exclaimed. “That’s what she says! ‘Stop! This actually hurts!’ Only he doesn’t think about, like, what she means. He just says... This is such a good idea! Oh... my... God!”
John’s fingers tightened further around her neck. Rebecca realized there were spots around the edges of everything. That’s funny: why hadn’t she noticed that before? The last stable part of her awareness began to grasp the extent to which she needed to intervene – how much she needed to make a significant case for reality in the face of her husband’s ‘inspired madness.’ Rebecca tried digging her fingernails into his wrists.
Her stomach churned in revulsion as warm blood began to ooze out around her nails. Her husband bled on her hands, but his ranting continued unabated. Black spots danced and writhed over and inside everything as blood stained the floor and fell onto the shelf next to her.
What was going on? This was supposed to be a normal Wednesday night!
All part of sharing life with such a ‘creative’ individual, she supposed. Right now, it seemed like a pain in the neck – a thought so gauche Rebecca mentally slapped herself for thinking it, even as she was being strangled. She was, after all, a halfway respectable novelist’s wife. She shouldn’t go around even thinking such ungainly puns.
Still, her neck was in tremendous pain.
“And she doesn’t even start reacting until it’s too late!” John continued. “She’s used to how crazy he is. Even though it seems weird to us, it’s all normal to her, you know? Ha! Because! Because he isn’t doing it to be evil, or to hurt her, you see, so she doesn’t even know to be afraid until she’s almost completely passed out! That’s the brilliant part!”
Rebecca felt less and less connected to what she saw and heard. She felt her mind slipping down a pleasant channel as words and light and sounds and sensations flowed together.
“She’s not scared even while he’s killing her! The poor thing, the poor thing!” John stammered, in awe of his thoughts. “How do you think he feels afterwards? He probably kills himself, the idiot! I know I would if I did a thing like that! Ohmygod!”
Rebecca tried to say ‘glurk’ again, but couldn’t muster the breath. She could now see only the very middle of her field of vision – the rest was enshrouded in fog. Like seeing a new frame in a series of photographs, she realized she was bent at the knees and waist and falling backwards, with her weight held entirely by her neck. Her legs had gone weak and her body felt sapped of strength. If John had dropped her just then, she would fall to the floor.
“And then it’s too late! I think that’s what I’ll call the story – It’s Too Late, or And Then It’s Too Late or something. Duh! But it was Too Late. Duh! Oh, sweet lord this is such a good idea.”
John squeezed his eyes tightly shut, tilting his head to the ceiling. “Do you think But Then It Was Too Late sounds like a good idea, honey?”
He opened his eyes and in that moment came back to himself the tiny amount necessary to unclench his hands. Rebecca Ravisham fell to the floor like a stone, dead.
Turns out it wasn’t such a great idea, after all.