Welcome back, Stephen...
Lacking oxygen, lactic acid was one of the chemicals that solidified in muscle fibers after death, creating the condition known as rigor mortis.
My wife bled out a year ago today. Perhaps the breaking of my heart affected the oxidation of my blood since I now walked as if I'd been sold without moveable parts.
I hadn't been very fast on my feet that day, either.
Instead I simply stood there, just inside the store, shouting at my wife to freeze, and the scumbag who had been robbing the place shot her twice before his gun jammed.
As it turned out, that mechanical rigor mortis was caused by the scumbag loading the gun with bullets of a different caliber. A real rocket scientist. Him and every other metal shop dropout who fancied themselves gunsmiths.
People lied. Every single day. They lied to themselves and they lied to each other.
I'd stopped at the convenience store for a water to wet my whistle, to flush my pipes, to oil my hinges.
I went through the door and froze. My wife stared at me over a display of junk food, her fitness instructor so close he must have had his arm around her.
As her mouth opened, someone yelled, "Everybody freeze."
The scumbag at the counter waved a gun. "On the floor. Empty your wallets and purses." He turned to the cashier. "The register. Open it now!"
My wife reached as she moved towards me. For reassurance? To stop me from confronting the scumbag? To stop me from confronting her lover?
I yelled at her to freeze as I vowed to start carrying an off-duty piece.
The scumbag shot her twice before his gun jammed.
Too late, I folded him in half at the waist and crashed into shelving that crumpled and snapped back at me, pinning me in place as well as any cuff, shackle, prison cell.
The scumbag staggered to his feet and ran.
The fitness instructor dialed 911.
My wife bled out.
I listened to the rasp of her breath until there was nothing left to hear.
A year ago today.
I motored through another four months at the department, collapsing in on myself, a junk car in a compactor. The driver pressing the accelerator. Leaning on the horn. Hammered.
Hammered. Battered. Forged.
People didn't change. They hardened.
Sometimes they cracked.
When had my wife started sleeping with him? She could not answer, and he would not even speak to me at the church, the grave, the trial.
Justice. For all her complaining about the overtime, she used it against me to have an affair, an affair I discovered only when I refused the usual extra shift. Let someone else cover Delaney today. I'm going home, maybe stopping along the way to pick up a bottle of water that doesn't taste like the locker room.
Bitter. Brittle. Metallic.
Undercut with the smell of sweat and fear and blood that poisoned the lungs and choked.
A year ago today.
BIO: Over five hundred of Stephen's stories and poems have appeared in more than two hundred publications. His website.www.stephendrogers.com, includes a list of new and upcoming titles as well as other timely information.