Tonight by Sharon Catley. A strong short story of love and hate, of feelings and fears, of real life in a different night. Enjoy it and have a nice Saturday!
Tonight is different from the other nights. He is in the living room. She stands silently in the hall watching him from the doorway.
In semi-darkness he does his dance, a fast and agile mixture of Asian martial arts and First Nation ritual movements. When the sequence is complete he stops, looks around the room and says aloud “What should I smash?” The dance is done again and again, each time ending with the same question.
On the floor she can see the two tequila bottles and wonders how he could be moving with such focus and precision after emptying both of them. Earlier in the evening they had fought over the purchase of the second bottle. In her opinion he was already drunk enough. She appeared to be winning the argument until he grabbed his paycheck and truck keys then threatened to drive down to the Money Mart which stays open late. Thinking that a walk to the liquor store would be safer for everyone she relented and gave him some cash. They had not spoken to each other since then. The dance ends once more, “What should I smash?”, then begins again.
She thinks about what might happen if he does start smashing things. How will she stop him? Will the neighbors complain about the noise? Will they have we have to move? She mentally adds up what is left in the bank account, his paycheck and what is still available on the credit cards. There is probably enough to cover it.
Tonight is different from the other nights. Usually when he drinks this much the Spirits that live in bottles take him away and don’t return him to her until the next morning. Standing in the bright morning sunlight, penniless and penitent, he tries to remember where he has left his phone, his wallet, his keys, whatever the Spirits have decided to keep as their souvenir of the evening. When they do send him home early he is like a sleepy child, content to snore loudly snuggled up beside her for the rest of the night. Manageable,usually.
She has heard all the stories (some funny, some horrific) of what these Spirits have made him do over the years. Stories from his friends, family, enemies, all annotated with a well-intended warning but she always thought their love would keep her safe.
Tonight is different from the other nights. She goes into the bedroom and sits on the bed, her back against the wall. Slipping her cell phone into her pocket she turns the TV on but does not watch it. “Things have gone too far this time” she thinks ,“Tomorrow, when he is sober we will talk about this – about how he will have to stop or slow down his drinking before something serious happens. We will find a way to fix this. Tomorrow”.
She listens. The living room is silent now, the dancing must be over. He comes to the bedroom doorway and glares in at her. A change in mood now and he is tottering unsteadily. The tequila must have finally taken him over. He says “Shut your f****** mouth bitch or I will come over there and shut it the f*** up for you”. She has said nothing, not a word.
A single tear rolls down her cheek as she tries to figure out how best to handle him this time. Tearful submission? Threats and anger? Both have worked to some effect when he started to get difficult on previous occasions. She decides on the submissive defense tactic.
Plumping up his pillow, she opens the covers and runs her hand slowly and invitingly over the sheet, beginning her best Siren Song. In a voice that is part lullaby and part seductress she says “The bed is warm and comfy, Sweetheart. We are tired and I have been missing you. Come and cuddle with me and we can watch TV until we fall asleep”.
The lilt in her voice is strong and sticky, like liquid taffy or warm honey, the energy powerfully hypnotic. It reaches out and envelops him, pulling him gently towards her but he will have none of it. He leans back, staggers then shakes himself briskly breaking off her spell. This has only made him angrier. He throws the lighter he has been holding in his hand. It bounces off her shoulder with a great force. Such physical strength! Such weakness of character!. She sits there, loving him, hating him, loving him, hating him.
They all told her it would eventually come down to this. What will happen now?
Like a predator he leaps onto the bed and kneels astride her, pinning her legs within his, his face frozen in a snarl just inches from hers. She is remembering those stories, the horrific ones. Closing her eyes tightly she clutches the cell phone in her pocket as his fist slams the wall beside her left ear. Tonight is different from the other nights.
Tonight More about the author