(Continued from “Why I Don’t Play Farmville, Part 2”)
“Is this what you’ve been doing all day long? I was worried you were sick and trying to hide it, but you’ve been hiding something else, haven’t you? How many hours a day have you been playing?
Gertrude didn’t answer him.
“Gerty, this has to stop.”
“It’s not like I play all the time. Just today,” she said. “I don’t even like to play.”
“Then, why do you play at all?”
“I only play when I’m bored.”
“Gertrude, you have so many interests. How could you be bored?”
“That’s what I’m saying, I hardly ever play.”
They went round and round without ever resolving the issue. Jerry threatened to take the game off the computer, but he didn’t.
Only to herself would she admit she despised the Solitaire. But she couldn’t stop. He, the Solitaire, wouldn’t let her. She tried, but her finger always found his icon. She, too, thought about taking the Solitaire off the computer, but she was ashamed to be so weak. She couldn’t resist him. She should be able to do it by herself. She couldn’t talk to Jerry about it. He wouldn’t understand. All through the years, she had been the strong one. And now this. She blamed Jerry, just a little, for introducing her to the Solitaire.
Jerry cut back his consulting to spend more time with his wife. He told her they were still young. They should be traveling, going out to plays, dinners, musicals, all sorts of things. They should be getting fit.
Gertrude was not happy with Jerry’s new schedule. She forced herself to kill the day doing things that hung on her time and foiled her from her Solitaire. She went along with Jerry and, gritting her teeth behind his back, pretended to like all the things he scheduled. But she couldn’t deny the Solitaire.
Gertrude pretended to fall asleep every night when she and Jerry went to bed. She waited until he started his intermittent hiccup-snore. Then she slipped silently out of their bed, down the hall, and into the den. She always closed the door, barely able to suppress the thrill as she approached the Solitaire.
One night she didn’t come back to bed.
Jerry woke at six-thirty in the morning to find Gertrude’s side of the bed empty, except for the pillows she’d bunched in her place.
One of the few times Gertrude was able to leave the throes of the Solitaire was to relieve herself, and then only after long ignoring the signals. On a trip to the bathroom earlier in the night, she set out the breakfast dishes, and on impulse decided she would have bacon and eggs the next morning instead of boring, boring oatmeal. Yes, she would have bacon for breakfast, damn her cholesterol. That was Jerry’s fault, too. It had shot up when he’d retired. How about that for proof? She set out the frying pan, too.
Jerry quietly opened the door to the den and saw the back of his wife, scrunched over the computer screen. The only thing moving was her right hand, clamped upon the mouse. He watched a moment.
“Gertrude,” he began.
Like a cornered raccoon, Gertrude spun around with a feral look. She’d seen the red zigzag’s in her eyes earlier when she’d splashed cold water on her face; she hadn’t looked very pretty in the bathroom mirror.
“How dare you sneak up like that!” she screeched at him. Her eyes stung. Her head thumped. Her back had frozen in place. And her husband was trying to interfere.
“I didn’t sneak up; you just got caught.”
“How dare you spy on me!”
“What are you doing Gertrude?”
“I was going to prepare breakfast for you, but since you weren’t up, I decided to kill a little time, that’s all.” She stood up, defiant.
Gertrude brushed past him into the kitchen, turned on the light, and with a grand sweep of her arm, indicated the set table.
Jerry laughed in her face. “Admit it, you’ve been up all night, haven’t you? You’ve been playing Solitaire for hours!”
“I have not.” Gertrude couldn’t believe she was lying to her husband over something so stupid, but it was his fault after all. And his. They were in it together.
“You’re lying, Gertrude.” His accusation hung in the air.
Gertrude chose a bad path. “I am not.”
“I’m not!” She was screaming now.
Gertrude tried to walk out of the kitchen toward their bedroom, but Jerry caught her arm and stopped her. She struggled, but he didn’t let go.
“How dare you touch me!”
“I’ll call the police. You can’t manhandle me. Let go!”
Jerry did not release her, but forced her to look at him. “Gertrude, you have a problem.”
“You’re the problem!” Gertrude was so mad now, spittle flew in his face. “Let go of me!”
Jerry threw down her arm. “I’ll let you go, all right. You disgust me.”
He started to walk away.
“Where are you going?” A sudden fear clutched Gertrude.
“Away from you.”
“Don’t you walk away from me!”
Jerry pivoted to face her. “I don’t know you anymore. I’ve had it. I’m leaving.” He turned away.
“Jerry, come back!” Gertrude screamed so loud, her teeth shook. What was happening?
Jerry kept walking.
How dare he walk away from her? Gertrude grabbed the cast iron skillet from the top of the stove and followed her husband. When she screamed again for him to stop, and he didn’t, she hit him on the head with the skillet. Just to stop him. Show him he couldn’t walk away from her.
When the ambulance arrived, they took both husband and wife to the emergency room. Gertrude was suffering from shock and Jerry, well, Jerry was dead.
While the police were conducting their investigation, one of the officers noticed the blinking monitor on the computer in the den. An ongoing solitaire game had scored over twenty-five thousand dollars. Someone in the house played with skill. He wrote down the exact figure in his notebook before he turned the computer off.
When it was time for Gertrude’s case to be heard, she waived her chance with a jury for a speedier bench trial. She hung her head and pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter. The Judge gave her a chance to speak, but she choked. What was there to say? It was the Solitaire’s fault?
She was sentenced to life imprisonment for ending the life of a man she’d loved for over thirty-five years. As she was led away from the courtroom, she looked back at her lawyer with tears in her eyes.
“Don’t forget. You promised.”
The lawyer nodded his head solemnly in agreement.
A week later, Gertrude received a package from her attorney. In it, she found the deck of cards.
Please note: none of the names were changed because there is no one to protect. This is a work of fiction. My husband is alive and well. Just for the record.
If I could harness that hauntingly dedicated attention span to my writing, I’d have a library!