Katie looked at the Honey-Do List on the refrigerator.
The first item had a line drawn through it. “Move the desk in the office to the other wall.” The desk was too heavy for her to move, but her husband had moved it around the office as if it weighed nothing. The item under it, “Change the smoke detector batteries,” and all the other ones that followed, remained unchecked.
She frowned at the list. Then she stuck her tongue at it. Then she tried to repress a giggle, but failed. It came out as a snort.
Tom knew she hated standing on a ladder. It gave her a mild case of vertigo, the feeling of falling while standing up. She could imagine falling off the ladder and landing on her head. Splat. Blood everywhere. Perhaps a broken neck. She could imagine a loud “snap” and then a feeling of oblivion before sliding into it.
She sighed. She didn’t want to do it. It was the husband’s job. Tom was a funny guy, he would do anything she asked as long as it was on a list and he could plan when he was going to do it, yet the items that remained undone clawed at her gut, a list highlighting a failure of… what, she didn’t know. Her husband? Her aptitude as a wife? How they were a couple?
Nagging of course was out of the question. She was not a nag. She was a beautiful, young, lady, thank you very much. Beautiful young ladies do not nag.
She got out the ladder and put on an apron. She put the batteries in an apron pocket, took a deep breath, and climbed the ladder.
When she got to the top, she grabbed the detector with one hand in a death grip. The feeling of vertigo was intense. A third of her felt like she was falling, another third felt like she was building up to an orgasm and the last third that she had to pee.
As she stood there, she briefly wondered if perhaps there was an upside to vertigo. That’s stupid, she thought. She closed her eyes. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. When she opened her eyes, the feeling was gone.
She changed the batteries. The worse part, actually, was pressing the test button. The noise hurt her ears. Then she got out earplugs, and that was that.
Look at me, I am all handywoman and stuffs, she thought. She crossed the item off the list.
She put back the ladder, went into her walk-in closet, and cried. She wrapped her hands around her knees and buried her face. Her lovely house didn’t feel so lovely anymore.
Katie wrinkled her nose at the next item on the list. It was a dozy. “Power wash the driveway.”
Using a power washer. Like she knew anything about that. Her dad tried to show her once, but by that time, she was putting on a cheerleader uniform and bouncing her boobs at athletic man-boys. One of them could do the power washing.
Her poor dad. Three daughters. And he was such a handyman. She made sure to find someone just like him.
Only Tom was a tiny bit different. Daddy never used a list. He just did it.
“Damn it, Tom,” she said, aloud.
She went to the garage with a little notebook, and wrote down what the washer was. Then she went online. Not only did she find the instruction manual on how to operate it, she found instructional videos.
She easily washed the driveway and porch. The next day, her arms and shoulders were sore. She took a hot bath and remembered the last time Tom and her made love it. She got several bruises, so he went with the not-so-subtle hint of cornering her in the shower instead.
She ran her hand down a soapy thigh before submerging it.
The Honey-Do List wasn’t the only thing under neglect.
The next item on the list was worse than the power washing. “Install a new sink trap.” She had to get under the sink, and couldn’t figure out how to uninstall the old one. She couldn’t find purchase to pry it out with her flat-head screwdriver. It seemed melded to the sink.
Vowing to do it all herself, she drove back to Home Depot where she got the new kit and the sealant goop, and tracked down the grandpa-looking guy who found it for her.
“Unhook the drain pipe, and then whack the assembly with a rubber mallet from the bottom.”
She smiled. She was thinking of something with a bit more finesse.
When she did that, the old sealant crumbled loose and landed in her eyes.
She envisioned hitting Tom with the rubber mallet. It was an unkind thought, but it made her feel better. She crossed off the item on the list with a vicious stroke of her felt pen.
She hated the next item, feeling like a complete and utter fool for putting it on the list. “Make slow, hot love to my hot little body,” she had put. She thought it would be a cute reward for getting halfway down the list.
Her hot little body. Oh, how vain and stupid she was. She still had a hot little body, all right.
Sometimes she wanted touch so much, she felt like going down to the seedy bar outside of town, in a miniskirt without panties, and fucking the first guy who sent a pickup line her way. Against the dumpster out back. Bonus points if he was wearing a ball cap and needed to see a dentist.
Instead, she got a glass of wine and drank half of it.
She walked over to Tom’s piano. He loved his piano almost as much as he loved her. They met that way. She was sitting in the hotel lobby during a sorority trip waiting for her sisters, looking at this cute guy with quite the bored expression on his face reading a book.
It must have been a bad book, because Tom threw it in the trash, looked around, and spied the piano there. He walked up to it, contemptuously tossed the “Please Don’t Touch the Piano” sign aside, and started to play.
And oh, how magical that was—it was beautiful and sexy and perfect.
And damn it all, if that man didn’t even know she existed. The music consumed him so, that she might as well have been invisible.
But he stopped playing when she sat down next to him on the bench. He looked very surprised.
“I know chopsticks,” she said, and he laughed. She played it for him and he smiled with flashing eyes and that’s when she knew her heart wasn’t her own. Two weeks later, she gave him her virtue.
Now his piano, like her body, had been silent for months.
She drank some more of the wine, and dumped the rest on the hammers in the middle.
“Whoops,” she said.
Tom’s piano tuner wasn’t the cuteness of her husband. He was an older gentleman, with an elegant wedding band. Where Tom was tall, he was average. Where Tom was muscular, he was almost too skinny. Where Tom had bright, brown eyes, Rich’s eyes had the beginning of crows-feet behind glasses.
But his eyes were blue. They went quite nicely with his blond and grey hair. She always liked blue eyes on an older gentleman.
Rich played the piano with precision and perfection. Tom played it with passion. Rich was Bach. Tom was Beethoven.
When she called, Rich said of course he could fix it. She insisted on making sure he replaced the felt, not simply repaired it.
How much wine did you spill? he asked.
An entire glass, she said. I feel so stupid, she added.
No worries. I just wanted to know how much time to book.
I would appreciate it if you took your time. The piano means a lot. Could you come on Friday?
I have a volunteer gig at my son’s school, but after that, sure, Katie. You bet. Be there at 1:00.
More importantly, Rich loved to look at her legs. Rich had a fine appreciation for the beautiful things. His occasionally friendly-wandering eye had made her feel appreciated.
Rich was punctual.
“Hey, how are you?” he said when she let him in.
She closed the door. She locked it.
“I’m okay. Do you need something to drink or something?”
“No, I’m good,” he said, heading towards the piano.
She went upstairs and stripped. She put on black stockings, reapplied her makeup, and put on a black silk slip that stopped halfway up her butt.
She came downstairs as Rich was leaning the lid to the piano on the wall.
“I lied,” she said, feeling hot. She was sure her face was red. “I only spilled a bit of wine.”
“I know you’re married, Rich. That’s why I picked you. I’m not some pathetic basket case. You’ll never tell, and neither will I. I don’t want men sniffing around me like I’m some lonely loser.”
He stood up straight. He looked uncomfortable, but his eyes betrayed desire.
“You’re taking one for the team, Rich, no more, no less.”
She walked over and kissed him.
Where she would ride Tom’s passions in bed holding on for dear life, Rich was altogether something different. He was in bed as he was—gentle, giving, precise.
But he was also an experienced man. She wanted him to take her from behind, but he did not, ignoring her request and pressing down on her, face-to-face. She wanted him to satisfy his lusts and leave, but he kissed her and filled her with loving strokes until she peaked. She wanted to lie there like a passive lump, the prom queen taken by the band nerd, but she wrapped her legs around him and used her body as she best she could.
Afterwards, Rich held her. She felt like biting him, hard, but kissed him instead.
She watched him warily as he dressed. Snuggle time over. He had to go home to his wife.
“You need a lover who isn’t going to leave you lying there, Katie,” he said, stating the obvious.
“That’s what I had,” she whispered, turned her head, and stared at the closed blinds.
When he was gone, she took her pen and put a line through the item on the list.
As if anyone would notice.
Surprisingly, she didn’t cry.
What did that mean?
“Put rat poison in the attic.”
The last item on the list.
It took her a long time to find the stuff. She found it in a locked cabinet in the garage of which she had to search all around for the key. The box had a Mr. Yuck sticker on it.
Like she was going to have children. Ha. That would mean having sex. With a husband. Or, at least, with a man without a vasectomy.
As she put down the traps and baited them, she sniffed at the poison. She briefly wondered what it tasted like, and then thought that was the most stupid thing she had ever thought, in, well, ever.
Enough, she thought.
She grabbed her list, crossed the last item off of it and headed towards the city.
Halfway there, she pulled off the road and threw up.
Confession may be good for the soul, she thought, but it was certainly eating her insides.
“Tom, I had an affair. I made love to another man. It wasn’t just get-it-over sex, either. I loved every minute of it,” she said.
Tom didn’t say anything back, of course, his headstone silent as always.
She sat next to his grave.
“I finished your list, Babe. See?” She held it out. Then she rolled it up and put it in the flower holder.
“I want someone to pick me,” she said. “Next time. Man Number Three. I’ve picked you and I picked Rich.”
The wind rustled through the trees.
“Yes. I think it’s time for me to be chased. I’m chased-able material.”
She closed her eyes. She could practically feel his arms around her.
“Damn, Tommy, I miss you so, so much.”
She got up and walked away, vowing never, ever, to put a list on the refrigerator again. Her daddy didn’t need a list, and neither did she.