A dozen knocks on the door were enough to wake Yuma from his profound slumber, but it took another half a dozen to convince him to roll onto his back. The sofa had dipped to adapt to his body’s contours and he realized his mouth opened while he slept; there was some saliva slopping out of it. Wiping it with his hairy arm, he sat up and stretched to get his eyeglasses from the small glass table. The apartment was pitch black, and through the patio’s glass door, he looked out to a sky that was black as a burqa.
Walking to the door was strenuous but he managed. His thoughts were still hazy. He had dreamt he was bluebeard… and… wow… crazy dreams. He unlatched the door and opened it. There stood Mr Jove, his neighbor, with a toothy grin. His wife stood next to him.
“Hi Mr Jove, Mrs Jove, how are you today?” Yuma said.
“How many times should I tell you? Call me Don and call her Emma,” Mr Jove answered, gesturing to himself and his wife. “But anyway, given the upcoming storm, I and my wife thought we would come spend the time with you. We should spend these trying times together.”
“Yes, the thunderstorm. It’s today. I’d forgotten about that.”
“‘Forgotten?’ It’s not every day we get to witness a thunderstorm in Chad.”
“And we also brought two bottles of the best wine from our cellar. Tempting huh?” Mr Jove raised the paper bag he was holding.
“Well yes, tempting. I’m groggy though. Any way we could do this some other…”
“The more reason why we should stay,” Mr Jove said, brushing through the half-closed door. “We will take care of you. Wow. It’s a pig sty in here. You might want to get a new wife to take care of this… and other things, if you know what I mean,” he said, smiling as he walked in.
Yuma winced at the comment.
“Some weird rumors have been circulating about you outside these doors, neighbor, and not good ones.”
“Donnie, maybe we should let Mr Yuma rest a little,” Mrs Jove said. “We may be intruding.”
“Nonsense. We’re not intruding. Are we, Yuma?”
“I guess not, do as you would at home. Debbie must be out for the moment. Her car’s not in the driveway but she should be back soon.”
“Good, good. We’ll be fine without her. But despite that, with the incoming storm, what is she doing out?”
“She probably went to get gas for the cars. We spoke about that last night. It seems I was out of it for a while. What time is it?”
“Well, 9 am. Why?”
“I’ve been asleep since 9 pm last night then.”
Yuma closed the door. Instinctively, he took off the keys and slipped them into his pocket.
“Why do you remove the keys,” Mr Jove asked.
“Oh, it’s an old reflex my dad instilled into me. He always said there’s no need to make a thief’s escape easier by leaving keys on the door.” He tapped his pocket. “Don’t worry, they’re safe here,” he added.
They walked to the living room and sat down. Yuma went to the kitchen and brought back a wine opener and cheese. He found Mr Jove tearing through the plastic cover on the bottle’s mouth with his teeth. An hour and two bottles of wine later, the rain had started beating the panes of the glass door leading to the patio but still no sign of Debbie. The wind was also picking up. They could see dust being hurled and trees’ branches bending through the glass door that led to the patio.
“Should we go look for her, Yuma? I am starting to get worried,” Mrs Jove said.
“She’ll be back. Don’t worry. If her phone had not been lost, she would have called already to reassure us.”
But despite the words, something troubled Yuma. He remembered nothing that had happened after last night’s dinner. There was dinner and then… a huge blank. The truth is he’s had issues with Debbie over the last couple months. The wine brought back some of these memories. He remembered how Debbie had left with that biker for three weeks only to show up drunk and in tattered clothes. He remembered how she had tried to steal some money and leave two days after coming back. He remembered how they had been arguing every day for the last three months. The day before, they argued so much that he went to the garden. Then, to drown her calls, he began sawing off their Sycamore tree. They planted that tree together when they first moved into the house. He loved that tree, but he cut it just to shy away from a stupid confrontation. He watched the sawdust leave the bark and slowly fall to the ground, almost iridescent in the little light that filtered through the patches of black clouds in the sky. Stupid as it felt, he envied the dust for its dullness and freedom. The saw was noisy, but not noisy enough to keep her out of his daydreams. Debbie had screamed his name from the house a couple times. I’ll just tell her I didn’t hear, he thought. Later on, as the tree fell, he wiped off sweat and headed for the house begrudgingly. She was in the kitchen, preparing lasagna, his favorite dish. He made it to his room without so much as a peep from her. She made the table and laid out three bottles of wine. Odd, but promising, Yuma thought. By the time they sat at the table, a slight breeze was blowing from outside. The meal was delicious. They were half through the first bottle of wine when his thoughts trailed off.
Mr Jove was still talking. “As I said earlier, we’ve been hearing rumors Joe. And they are being spread by your wife. She says you’ve been threatening her lately. All I can think is: Joe? He would never do that. I mean, you’re a bit weird, goofy, and you don’t socialize often. But you haven’t so much as hurt a fly in all the years I’ve known you. Then there was the rumor that you’re not so good in bed…”
“What rumor?” Yuma said. His eyes widened.
“Donnie.” Mrs Jove tried to hold his arm but he brushed it off.
“That you can’t please your wife. And so she left with a biker. But you told me she was away on holiday, so I choose to believe you.”
Yuma looked down, a bit ashamed.
“Then there is the rumor that she is leaving you. That’s a lot of rumors, Yuma. Buck up. Do your duty. Your wife should not say things like that outside your house.”
Yuma suddenly felt a thirst for more wine. “Give me a second,” he said. He went to the kitchen and came back with three bottles of wine: Two unopened bottles, and one half drunk. He settled them on the glass table. The one that was half drunk was one of those Debbie had set on the table for dinner, the previous night. She refused to drink alcohol that night, saying she was trying to quit. He’d found that weird at the time; Debbie never refused a drink.
Yuma sat down beside Jove. “Tell me more about these rumors,” he said, filling their wineglasses. They all kept drinking as Jove kept talking, but the more Yuma drank, the weirder he felt. After his first glass, he had to get up and walk around the room. He excused himself to go to the kitchen and wash his face, since he felt hot. When he got back, Lilian and Jove were not there anymore.
“Jove.” He shouted. “Lilian, where are you? Jove?” Something told him to go up the stairs, so he went up. Then he walked towards the bathroom. There was noise coming from inside. It was a dull, thumping, repeated sound. He opened the door and found Debbie on the floor. He ran to her. Her hands were tied to the railing by the bath tub and she was gagged. He tried to untie her but she kicked him back. He held her down and told her to shut up. He took off her gag.
“Leave me alone. Leave me alone. Let me go,” she shouted. “Let me go.”
He untied her, and as he finished, she pushed him, screamed, and ran out the door of the bathroom. She tried to get out of the house but the front door was locked. She looked for the keys in the living room. Having heard screams, Jove and his wife came out of the bathroom that was in the in the hallway by the living room. They were half naked. Debbie too was half naked. The sight turned them on. They grabbed her and tried to strip her completely naked.
Yuma had walked to the stairs, from the bathroom and was looking down at the scene. When she ran out of the bathroom, he had remembered what happened after dinner the previous night. He had chased her too. Debbie had drugged him by putting some LSD in his wine. The dose was probably meant to kill him, but she had not put enough. When things did not go according to plan, she called her biker friend, as Yuma still rolled on the floor, in agony. When the biker refused to show up, she then tried to tie him up in the living room. But by then, Yuma was not just suffering from mild hallucinations, he was also very angry. A swift kick to the chest left her out of wind. The LSD she put in the wine caused a surge of adrenaline in Yuma that led to her demise. He grabbed the pick by the chimney and hit her on the arms and legs, then broke one of her ribs. After dragging her up the stairs, he tied and gagged her in the bathroom, then went back down the stairs and crashed on the sofa.
Debbie pushed off Donnie and his wife, and ran. She picked a stool by the bar and tried to throw it on the patio door when Yuma came down the stairs and walked into the kitchen. She threw the stool. It cracked the glass door, but did not break it. She threw the stool a second time, with all the strength she had left. This time, the window broke.
The thunderstorm was at its peak. Rain fell into the apartment, onto the carpet and the thunder strikes were deafening. Yuma stepped out of the kitchen with a cleaver. The wind was so strong it almost knocked Debbie over, but the sight of the cleaver gave her strength. She stormed out the broken door, onto the patio and into the fields that surrounded the house.
Yuma followed her outside. He caught up with her and pinned her down.
“I don’t satisfy you enough in bed huh? You want to leave me, right? Well, come. I’ll satisfy you now. I’ll satisfy you now…” He raised the cleaver to the sky, ready to strike.
Yet raising a cleaver in a grass field as rain falls, during a thunderstorm, is not always the best idea.
Robertson Klaingar thinks thunderstorms are exciting and electric, though he’d rather watch them on television, protected by an underground bunker. His works have also been published in Every Day Fiction and Visions with Voices.