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An Ordinary Man
James Smith was an ordinary man.
He woke up every morning at seven o’ clock. He showered and dressed. He went downstairs and kissed his wife good morning. He read the paper in an armchair by the window. He sat at a circular table in a kitchen with his children and talked to them in a kind voice while they ate pancakes with syrup and he drank coffee. When he was done, he brushed his teeth and rushed out the door, his briefcase in hand. He got into his small red Subaru and drove down sunny suburban streets to his office. He listened to music and radio and hummed along, his hands tapping the steering wheel. He stopped at a red light and waited for it to turn green with a patience born of utter complacency.
He pulled into a commercial center along a busy road and parked his car in a spot with a nameplate on it. He looked at the sign of the business with a sense of great pride and adjusted his suit. He went to work starting at eight and crunched numbers in a pleasant office with pictures of his children on his desk. He had a meeting with a rich client at ten and he emerged from the conference room feeling rather pleased. He worked until noon, listening to the radio all the while, humming a song that seemed so familiar, yet so alien at the same time. He went to lunch at noon with his partner. They ate in shadowy corner of a chain restaurant and talked about work. James invited the other man to dinner on Friday. His partner accepted.
He went back to work at one. He hunched over his desk until five, moving the numbers in his head and tapping out totals on a computer. The radio played the whole while and James hummed along with it. At five, his secretary bid him good night. At five-fifteen he turned the radio off and packed his brown briefcase with important papers. He hummed as he locked the doors. He turned the radio on as soon as he got in the car and sang with it, the windows rolled down. He stopped at one red light as he drove, but he took it in stride.
He arrived home at six and kissed his wife. He watched the news for a half hour and complained about the government. At six-thirty, he sat down at the dinner table and chattered with his three children about their days. They ate steak with green beans and potatoes at quarter to seven. His was rare. He enjoyed it. Steak was his favorite meal. He watched a game on television and chatted about her job and the neighbors. At eight he went outside and drove Mrs. Johnson’s dog out of their lawn, where it had just deposited a gift. He asked his wife to call the neighbor and complain about the dog. Mrs. Johnson was apologetic and the two women talked while he returned to the game. At nine he turned off the television and got into bed. He kissed his wife goodnight and told her he loved her. He turned off the light and fell asleep at nine-thirty.
Tuesday was the same. He had waffles but didn’t read the paper. He was stopped at a red light. He came home early. He hummed to the radio. They had hamburgers for dinner. There was no game on. The dog was in the yard again. He made love to his wife.
Wednesday was the same. He had eggs and ham for breakfast. He hummed to the radio. Lunch was in a paper bag. He had another meeting. He was stopped at a red light. He went to his son’s soccer game and cheered. He ate pizza for dinner. The dog was in the yard again. He read a book to help him fall asleep.
On Thursday, he came home for lunch. His humming stopped when he saw the dog was in the yard again. He chased it off and went inside. He had a ham sandwich and a Coke for lunch. He played no music at all. At twelve-thirty, he went into the garage and put his wife’s gardening shears in his pocket. He went next door to the Johnson’s and knocked on the door. When Mrs. Johnson opened it, he smiled and said hello. She opened her mouth to reply. He stabbed her with the shears. In the throat. Twice. He got blood on his shirt. She died on the carpet of her suburban home. She did not make a sound. He picked up the body and took it outside. He shut her door carefully.
He took the body to the tool shed on the back lawn. The door was locked. He opened it with a key. He put Mrs. Johnson’s body on the workbench and began to cut it with a hacksaw. He didn’t hum. His clothes got more blood on them. He didn’t care. When he was done, he stacked her body on top of the mailman who had kicked their dog, who was on top of the man who had offered his youngest son candy, who was on top of the woman from three streets over who never stopped at stop signs. He washed the saw off in the backyard with a hose. He locked the doors of the shed.
At one o’clock, he got in the car and drove back to work. He turned the radio on halfway there and began to sing the words to a song that was familiar and distant at the same time. He was not stopped at any red lights. He worked until five and headed home to see his family.
James Smith was an ordinary man.