Short Story Fiction: Getting to Know You...

Mount McKinley: Alaskan Mountain Range

Denali (a.k.a. Mount McKinley)
Denali (a.k.a. Mount McKinley) | Source

The Beginning: A late night snack

Twisting ham and cheese until the sandwich fell apart in her hand Kay choked on her words.

“My first husband cheated on me.”

I stared at her not knowing how to respond. We’d known each other for about a year…worked together at the Hello-Hello Café , but, this was our first night out together. Shamefully, I hadn’t even realized she had been married-well, married more than once, apparently.

“What happened?” I asked in a noncommittal voice. To be honest, I didn’t want to know-I had the feeling the details weren’t going to be pleasant.

“I caught that son of a gun with a floozy from the neighborhood. He never could keep his pants hitched!”

“Where are you from, exactly,” was my meager response. I was quickly earning the award for ‘worse friend of the year’.

“Oklahoma,” Kay replied. “Came out here to Alaska in ’93 and never went back.”

Her hands swept bread crumbs into a little pile on her plate. “It’s hard for me to talk about this,” she smiled embarrassed. “I can remember it all like it was yesterday-it never really leaves you.”

“Sorry to hear that. I mean, I’m sure it was painful, but…it happens to a lot of people. Heck, I’ve been cheated on more than once myself,” I gave a rueful laugh, “definitely not fun…”

Again, the noticeable tension in the air; there was more to this story than the ordinary-sleaze-bag-cheats-on-wife story.

“Well, I haven’t told too many people this,” and she leaned towards me, her voice dropping to a whisper.

I sat up straighter, goose bumps sliding down my spine, “what happened,” thinking to myself, “you are one original commentator!”

Before I could kick myself too long, she began again, her chubby fingers moving nervously around the table picking up a fork, laying it down again, then the salt shaker, resting that in the corner unused; my eyes roving the table along with her movements.

“He had this hat he loved to wear,” she said, “He wore it everywhere. It wasn’t anything special by the looks of it-just some ole trucker’s hat he picked up on one of his runs. It was black, had a little emblem of a cardinal on it-can’t recall where he got that thing now,” she mused.

I waited quietly.

“But, that’s how I knew-I began to notice that he would go out without it. After a while when I noticed it hangin’ on the bedpost I got to wonderin’. Pretty soon, I saw other signs-like him showering to go out with the boys. Anyway-I followed him and sure enough caught him red-handed doing it in his truck with this whore.”

Unable to stop myself I chuckled aloud. “I’m sorry, you are so dramatic about this…how many years ago did this happen?”

“Oh, it was over ten years ago now,” she smiled. “I fixed him good. He knew it when I came up to that window, my eyes glaring and yelling to beat the band!”

I began to giggle. “Well, what happened?"

“I held his hat in one hand and my lighter in the other and set that baby ablaze! He tried so hard to get his pants back on and get out of his truck, but he couldn’t save her. Then, I ran to my car and chased him back down the street.”

I was roaring now visualizing the drama of this domestic scene. “Oh, Kay,” I laughed wiping tears from my cheeks, “You tell a good story.”

“Well, the worse of it was I loved him…still do I suppose, but he’s remarried now. Couldn’t make it work after that bit of infidelity. So, I married the next guy that swept me off my feet and off to Alaska we went leaving him far out of sight. But, I left my boy with him. He didn’t want to leave his daddy and I couldn’t see tearin’ him away from that no good…”

“I’m sorry,” another fact I didn’t know about. I realized how little I really knew about this comical co-worker of mine with the positive disposition and sunny attitude. “I didn’t know you had any kids.”

“Only my boy; he visits every year, but he prefers to be in the lower 48. Can’t say I blame him- Alaska is not for the weak hearted, only for the cold blooded…”

Her eyes drew a vacant stare and again I saw this dark haired, stocky woman drift into a place that was unreachable, her voice turning into a monotone.


The story unfolds

“Butch was brutal,” she said. "I got used to tasting the wrong side of leather real quickly. He took me up to Barrow…her voice drifted off, then, “ever been to Barrow?”

I shook my head, “No, I hear it’s damned isolated.”

Aware of some of the stories the bush pilots talked about in the café I could only imagine the cold, dark village at the edge of the Arctic Ocean.

“He isolated me from everyone I knew and I was stuck-no way to get around, knowing no one.”

My breath slowed as the dread of the real story unfolded.

“Every month provisions would be flown in, including our mail and booze. He’d get drunk and mean.”

“Oh, hell, he was always mean,” her mouth twisted into a wry sneer, “just doubly mean when he was drunk. He was Satan in the flesh.”

I nodded dumbly.

“No, seriously, psychotically mean. His eyes would glaze over and he would go after me and…”

Her brown eyes welled up with tears and I noticed mine were glassy as well. We had both stopped eating by this time-I had lost my appetite, too captivated by this woman’s life story; and she, well, I don’t believe her intention ever was to get a bite to eat as she had originally suggested.

I wondered why tonight, of all nights, she decided to share with me her earlier trauma. I thought back to our evening at work and could not remember any possible triggers-a customer perhaps that had looked like her ex; a particular remark…nothing rang a bell.


Stars and Northern Lights

“One night it got worse than ever,” she whispered, “he had been drinking all day and I couldn’t get away from him. Finally, I fell asleep in a corner, the blankets were kind of shielding me from his view and he fell asleep in the rocker across the room. The fire was burning in the wood stove and it was going out. I could feel it getting colder and colder and I had to get to the wood pile or all hell would break loose.”

“I crept by him slowly, stopping any time those floor boards would creak and managed to get open that squeaky door without disturbing him. Stepping out into the frigid air I scrambled to catch my breath. It was so cold, but so invigorating, I could clear my head for a moment. And, as I gathered an armful of wood I looked up and there was the most awesome sight. A million stars blinked above and the Northern Lights danced in the sky-greens, whites and even red that night. You don’t often see the red, but when you do-well, it’s just special.”

For a brief moment a smile swept over her face and her eyes met mine.

“I felt the butt of his shotgun hit the side of my head and I went down hard. I could feel the blood trickling out because it was the warmest thing happening to me at the time. He pointed the gun at my head and mumbled something about being a no good whore who was doing every guy in the village. I tried to protest, but that was the wrong thing to do.”

“He kicked me in the ribs and told me if I didn’t shut up I would eat the bullet, and I didn’t doubt for a second that he wouldn’t make that happen. At some point I wondered what I had done to deserve this treatment and I made my peace with God as he poked that rifle in my chest again and again.”

“When he ordered me up and into the house I could barely walk, I was so scared. He had that psychotic look in his eyes again and when we got into the cabin he told me he was going to kill me-I was a burden that he could do without.”

I listened, both mesmerized and nauseated. It was incredulous, this story. I wanted to be supportive, yet, inside my head I was screaming shrilly, “stop, stop, STOP!”

I heard her say, “He took the bottle of whisky and started to drink again, sat down in the rocker and pointed the shotgun at me. I knew I was going to die that night. I prayed to God to forgive all of my sins and began to feel real calm. I was praying he would drink and pass out like he had before, but he got restless, started shouting like a madman, and then began laughing out loud.”

“It was the most evil, blood curdling laugh I had ever heard and it ran chills through my body. I don’t know how I knew, however, I was sure he would fire at me. I jumped out of my chair, which startled him, and yelled loudly, running towards him.”

“Well, I grabbed that gun with all of my strength. I figured if I was going to die, I wasn’t going to go down without a fight. I wrestled that drunken bastard for that gun and in the fight the gun went off. I shot him…I shot him,” she said, looking quietly into my eyes.

I sat not moving, afraid to blink, breathe or talk.

“He died. I shot him dead; shot him clean through the heart. He lay in a pool of his blood and I sat in bed curled up in the covers and waited. I waited for a week before that plane came in with supplies. I moved his body out into the shed and the pilot found him there.”

“What happened, then?” I asked, nervously, “Did you go to prison?”

“They had a trial; everyone knew the kind of abusive man he was. I was acquitted. They said it was self-defense.”

“I’m so sorry, Kay, I had no idea.”

I was stunned silent by her story. Who knew? How can any of us ever know what another person’s sorrows are?

“Kay,” I asked puzzled, “Why did you tell me this story? You certainly didn’t have to share it with me and I’m just curious.”

“Don’t you remember our earlier conversation,” she reminded me, “we were talking about things we would never do and you told me you would never commit murder.”

Written by Denise Handlon

November 18, 2011

All rights reserved. No portion of this original story may be copied, printed or reproduced in any way without the written permission of the author. This story is purely fictional and any resemblance to any person, living or deceased, or situation is purely coincidental.




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Comments 29 comments

Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

Ph Wow. You never know someone until you get to know them do you.

I felt sorry for her, who knows what secrets people hide.

I enjoyed the story, havd me captivated to the end


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks Rosemay. You're right. I think of that saying, "you never know what is behind closed doors" frequently. How many times have we discovered that the 'nice' man next door is a pedophile or something...

I'm not usually into gruesome, but its so true...we cannot really know what evil is in another person's heart or what trauma someone else has had to endure.

(Do I have a warped mind? LOL Maybe I've been in my line of work too long!)


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

Haha no you don't have a warped mind. Many things happen and neighbours and family have had no idea. You hear about it all the time, just makes you wary of strangers


raciniwa profile image

raciniwa 5 years ago from Naga City, Cebu

uh uh...it's all coming back to me as i read the story...the pain of suffering from an abusive husband...it's really hard to pick up the pieces of your old self when the person you love would shatter it...


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia

Gripping story! Reading it gave me goosebumps! Voted up.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas

Very nice story Denise. It ended all too quickly, I wanted to keep reading more.

You never do know about people - that's for sure.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

raciniwa-I'm so sorry. Yes, it does shatter lives, self esteem, love, delusions of happily ever after...Thanks for reading and commenting.

Hi Habee-glad you liked it...goosebumps,eh? Must be that frigid Alaskan air, LOL

Homesteadbound-if only this was NOT a short story, LOL Thanks for reading.


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

Thanks for breaking the story in parts. It is easy to follow. You have tried to tell your stories in dialogues, and I loved the interplay of interesting phrases in your dialogues.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Vinaya-I appreciate your keen observations. Your feedback is valued-you give great substance to your comments in a positive way. Thanks!


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Great story! You are so good at imagery! Here's my favorite line: "...her chubby fingers moving nervously around the table picking up a fork, laying it down again, then the salt shaker, resting that in the corner unused..." Voted up, etc!


bizzymom profile image

bizzymom 5 years ago from New York

This is a great short story. It is very well written, suspenseful and definitely kept me interested. Congratulations!


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

Denise, What a great story. I would never believe it was fiction. ( That's because you're a superb writer ) It reminds me that we really never know another's story. Thank you..


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

Great story Dee! I really enjoyed it. I agree with brittanytood regarding imagery. You know how to capture a mood that's for sure. Voted up and awesome!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Awesome story. Reminded me of Stephen King's writing. Vivid imagery especially toward the end. The thought of her waiting for a whole week for the pilot to return was truly chilling.

Voted up, awesome and interesting.

BTW: The photo was stunning.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Brittany-thanks for your comments, I appreciate them.

Hi bizzymom-nice to meet you. Thanks! Glad to know you were held captive, LOL

Hi Ruby-superb? Wow, thanks. I agree--we will never know unless they reveal their inner most secrets, right?

Hi Danette-thanks for your comments and the vote! I'll be catching up with you this w/e.

Hi Gail-Stephen King really has a knack for the suspense and horror, doesn't he? I'm glad you enjoyed it. As for the photo-this was sent to me via my oldest brother. He and I went camping in Denali Nat'l park when I was working in Alaska and he turned the big '50'. It was AWESOME. There is often a cloud coverage and we were fortunate to see Denali in all of her magnificent glory that morning.


inthenickoftime77 profile image

inthenickoftime77 5 years ago from New Zealand, aka: Aotearoa, aka: The Land Of The Long White Cloud

Yes, I can relate to this. I dont know that anyone can say they wouldn't commit murder 100% if they have'nt been in this situation. You or him, is what it comes down too & the instinct for survival. In this case I say good ridence and a job well done. Not without Trauma though ! Was this a story or was it a blast from the past ? Whatever, it was great


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Awww, you're on to me, inthenickoftime77-a little of both-lived in Alaska for three years and took care of lots of psychiatric patients. The story is a combination of many people who have crossed my path...

Thanks for reading and your comments.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Amazingly gripping all the way through.

An up up and away and here's to a long time to come of hub sharing.

I wish you a great weekend.

Eddy.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thank you for reading, Eiddwen. :) Best to you as well.


ImChemist profile image

ImChemist 5 years ago

Your awesome write and hubber ,voted and rated.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi ImChemist, thanks for reading and commenting. :)


Lauren 5 years ago

Wow.....that's all I can say right now. I'm going to go read some more of your writing. I love it.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Oh, you DID make it over here...LOL Thanks. Glad you liked it. It was interesting to write.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Good writing. Enjoyed the read. Lynda


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Lynda, thanks so much for your feedback. I appreciate it. :)


femmeflashpoint 5 years ago

Denise -

This was excellent!!! Provacative, realistic, great dialogue, intriguing and intense subject matter ...

Really good! Up, up, up!!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi femmeflashpoint-Wow! Thanks for the great compliments, I appreciate it. I've just returned to HP after being on my work assignment for three days, so that is the reason for my delayed response. Thanks for the vote up.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 3 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

OK, Denise...I am happy your story ended when it did because this is exactly how long I can hold my breath...!!

Wowee...now I can see both the nurse and the writer alive and kicking in this propelling, compelling and very exciting story! Thanks for sharing and I am so delighted I dropped by, as I always am with you...

Happy and healthy 2013! Voted UP and UABI. Hugs, Maria


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 3 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Maria-well, I'm glad that you were able to breathe again, ha ha. Thanks so much for dropping by and reading this one. It was an interesting change of pace. Happy New Year and the best of everything to you, as well. Thanks for the votes. ((((Hugs))))

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