Free Will, by William Kitcher

Free Will, by William Kitcher

1

She returned home and, as usual, put her keys on the hall table and walked to the back of the house carrying a book she had just bought, to the study, where, as usual, he was sitting at his computer, writing.

He turned and smiled, and went back to his writing. She kissed him on the top of his head, squeezed his shoulders lightly, then flopped onto the sofa.

He looked at her again, and smiled with recognition at her predictable and comforting way of stretching out on the sofa, book in hand. She smiled back at him and opened the book.

After a few minutes, she put the book face down on her lap, and said, “Huh,” as a sign of odd understanding. She looked over at him.

He continued to write. Sensing her looking at him, he turned his head. “You said ‘huh.’ Did you want me to respond?”

A puzzled look absorbed her face. “What are you writing?”

A story. Why?”

What’s it about?”

I don’t really know yet. I just started.”

What have you written so far?”

He snorted a tiny laugh. “Not much really. A woman comes home to her husband, drops her keys on a table, sees her husband, kisses him, and then she starts reading a book. I don’t really know what happens after that.”

Again, she said “huh,” because she didn’t know what else to say. She picked her book up, and waggled it vaguely, as if she didn’t realize she was holding it.

He swiveled his chair to face her. “What are you reading?”

It’s an anthology of new fiction. I’m reading the first story.”

And?” He put his hands on the arm rest and rolled closer to her.

She sat upright on the sofa. “Why didn’t you tell me you had another story published?”

He was confused. “What? I don’t have a story outstanding.”

Your name is on it. Look.” She showed him the first page of the story. There was his name.

Must be some other guy with my name.”

Not according to the bio at the beginning.”

Now it was his turn to say “Huh.” And then he said, “What’s the story about?”

So far, it’s about a woman who goes home, puts her keys in a bowl on a table, then she kisses her husband, rubs his shoulders for a bit because he’s a writer with bad sitting posture, and then she sits down and starts to read. And she’s reading the story that he’s writing right there in the room they’re in…”

Again, he said, “Huh.” And then, “Then what happens?”

She opened her mouth to say something but re-considered and closed it again.

What’s wrong?” he said.

Then it starts to get dark…” Her voice faded.

What do you mean?”

The couple talk about the story, and then they start arguing…”

And then?”

She trembled a little. “I don’t want to—”

He stood up, very agitated. “What?!” he yelled. “What happens?”

Don’t be—”

What’s the matter with you, for crissakes! Just tell me!”

She stood up, holding the book.

Give me the damn book!” he croaked, but she didn’t give him the book.

She moved toward the door. He moved slightly to block her, but she quickly went past him. He reached out to grab her shoulder but she was already by him. He went after her. She got to the front door and looked over her shoulder. She tried to pick up her keys with the same hand that held the book and dropped both of them. He came closer. She opened the front door, took a step toward it, stepped on the keys and slipped. She tumbled down the front steps.

He closed the door, picked up the book, read the story, threw the book into the recycling bin, deleted his story from his computer, and called 911.

2

He was sitting at his computer when she came into the house. He didn’t hear the familiar sound of her keys hitting the table and he turned to see her fuming down the hallway.

She threw a book at him with her left hand while, with her right, the keys between her fingers, she clocked him across the forehead. A long cut opened up as he fell backwards, hitting his head on the edge of his desk and passing out, blood oozing from two gashes.

How dare you do that to me!” she cried, then stormed out.

3

She came into the house, dropped her keys on the table, went to the study, and kissed her husband. She was carrying a package that was book-shaped, and gave it to him. “This was in the mailbox for you,” she said, and sat on the couch.

He opened the package, took the book out, opened it to the first story, showed it to her, and said, “Surprise! I had a story published.”

That’s great! Congratulations! Why didn’t you tell me?”

I wanted to surprise you.”

I have to read it now.” She took the book back and read the story, and he watched her. She closed the book and looked at him confusedly.

What?” he said.

I don’t get it.”

What do you mean?”

Well, a woman comes home and reads a story. That’s it?”

The editors took some of it out. They thought it was too dark.”

Oh. Well, OK. Did you get paid for it?”

No. Free copy.”

 


Copyright© 2021, by William Kitcher. All Rights Reserved.

Bill’s stories, plays, and comedy sketches have been published and/or produced in Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, England, Guernsey, Holland, India, Ireland, South Africa, and the U.S. Recent stories were published in Fugitives & Futurists, Inklette, Black Petals, and Slippage Lit, and he has stories forthcoming in The Bookends Review, Defenestration, Spank The Carp, The Sirens Call, and 2 stories (one co-written) in the Horrified Press anthology, “Twisted Time”.

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