“To the Heart of the Matter” by Scott Kauffman

Image result for Buick fender

How will I know how you loved me?
I have left you, that is how you will know.
–Carolyn Creedon, Litany

Jude pulled the fender-rusted Buick into his driveway and braked it to a sliding
stop, the tires skidding on the gravel and off into the ankle-high grass. He cut the
engine and just sat, wet under his suit. Wet under his socks. When he got out, he
reached behind the seat for the fifth of Seagram’s and broke the seal and chugged a
long, throat-burning swallow and started for the backdoor. Across the street, near-
sighted Mrs. Roberts throttled back her mower and waved. Jude raised his free hand
and walked all the faster.

“Better get your windows up, Mr. Hardy.”

He turned to where she pointed. Clouds black as singed dogs ran along the

“Fixin’ to storm.”

Jude, his back to the old woman, raised the bottle.

“Fixin’ to be a bucketdropper.

He wiped his lips on his shirt cuff and nodded. “Looks like, doesn’t it?”

“We get those this time of year. Common with the change of seasons and all.”

Jude started again for the backdoor. “I better get our windows down. Christine
will be giving me hell from here to Sunday.”

His neighbor frowned. “You shouldn’t speak like that, Mr. Hardy. Your wife’s a
saint. So sweet, always asking after me since my mister passed. She works so hard.
I always hear her coming home at I don’t know what hour.”

Jude did not answer.

He went into the kitchen where he fished out a tumbler from beneath a stack of
dishes greening with pizza sauce and filled it to the rim. He sipped down the whiskey
and looked out into the living room. Through the picture window, shafts of blue-gray
light dancing with motes fell through the panes slant upon the raw cords in the worn

He emptied his glass and filled it and walked out onto the front porch and
slumped into their one wicker chair. Across the street, a dozen ducks sheltered
under a tangle of willow branches bowing into the pond. He watched the ducks,
watched the sky darken, the ozone-charged air growing sharp as angel hair. From
the driveway, a rumble like distant thunder from the headers on her Camaro. The
back door screeched. “Jude!”

He started to rise and sat again. He sipped the whiskey.

She walked back to their bedroom calling him, past the towel-strewn bathroom
and through the living room to just inside the porch door, its screen breaking her
face into squares of light. Jude twisted his glass in half circles inside the palm of his

“Are your ears petering out too? Did you not hear me?”

Beyond the pond, thunderheads knifed into the sky. A downdraft caught a
stray duck as it swooped low, the dark liquid beating of its wings fluid against the
pewter water. Jude jutted his chin. “Too much wind.”

“Too much booze.”

Jude shrugged. He drank.

“So did you hear the news?”

“Did I hear what news?”

Blackness leached into the woman’s eyes. “Don’t start out by copping an
attitude with me, Mr. Lawyer. I’ve had a hard one today too.”

“No doubt.”

He reached with his free hand and loosened his tie and undid the collar button.
“Sorry. I’ve a lot on my mind.”

“So what else is new? You think the whole world revolves around you and your
all so important problems.”

“Did something happen?”

“Yes, it did. Thank you for expressing an interest in something I said.”

“Of course.”

“Betty’s husband called before I left the office.”


Dr. Sullivan died.”

Jude nodded. A clammy breeze fingered his hair. “Yes, I heard.”

“Her husband hadn’t heard the juice. Only that Dr. Sullivan was found dead.”

Lightning veined the bruise colored sky, filling the air with a frail afterscent like
burnt iron.

“He killed himself.”

A roll of thunder swallowed Christine’s words. “Jude? I asked you how.”

Jude reached to his breast pocket for his Salems. “He . . .”

The telephone rang. Jude struck a match and flicked it out into the brown lawn.
The telephone rang again. Christine still stood behind the door.

“You know he’s not calling to ask me to meet him somewhere.”

Christine looked over her shoulder to where the telephone sat in their living
room, not on an end table because Jude had smashed the one they had, but on the
carpet beside a stained sofa that smelled of vomit where he had passed out. The
telephone rang again.

“You better pick it up,” Jude said. “If I do, he’ll only hang up, and you don’t
want to spend another evening with me. We can’t afford to lose the furniture.”

Christine pirouetted on one foot. “Be my guest. Prove to me that you have
some machismo and don’t worry. We have no furniture left worth losing.”

The bedroom door slammed, the squares of glass in the living room window
rattled in their panes.

Jude sat, watched the sway of poplars bordering the pond, their quicksilver
clash of leaves. He unfastened the cufflinks she had given him on his last birthday,
the hand-tooled ones she had her old man buy for her on his monthly run into
Tijuana where he traded meth for the chemicals he used to run his lab secreted in a
Mohave arroyo. Jude rolled his shirtsleeves halfway to his elbows and leaned back in
his chair and watched the blackness close in, listened to the murmur of Christine’s
voice drift from the bedroom window she had cracked open. He could not make out
her words, but he recognized the ache in their tenor from long ago, only now she
spoke her words for Tommy Grazioso.

He never saw the two of them together, but he no need to consult Madam Zola
to read him the signs. Like phone calls she took in another room. Late work nights
when she did not crawl into bed until near dawn, sweetly smiling in the moonlight,
smelling of Tequila and expensive perfume and hours-old lovemaking. Never any
purchases by her on their Visa statement, the full amount of her salary deposited
into their bank account, checks going where they always went, but Gucci blouses
and Armani dresses, their snipped tags in the bathroom wastebasket he puzzled
together late at night while he listened for her car.

Tommy worked for Nicolo Dominic, the boss of her firm’s biggest accounting
client. A narc who Jude once partnered with on a case had seen them a month
before at one of Tommy’s bars up on Youngstown’s north side, snuggling in a back
booth, she on his lap, a diamond bracelet dangling from her wrist. Three times in
four years The Vindicator had plastered Tommy’s face on its front page after the
grand jury indicted him, once for pushing numbers, once for running a call-girl ring,
the charges dismissed after Nicolo made his amends with the Democratic chairman
who ran the county. The third time it got serious when the State Police unsealed a
woman from a fifty-gallon drum some kids on a raft found floating down the
Mahoning River after the chain holding it to its concrete anchor snapped. The
woman, pregnant and Catholic, was seen on Tommy’s arm only a week before she
disappeared. Jude never heard what it cost, but he guessed fixing it cost Nicolo
plenty, fixed the election of Larry, Curly, and Moe to the Court of Appeals.

The bedroom window thudded shut. The skew of light thrown by the door
screen darkened across the floorboards. “So how did you hear about Dr. Sullivan?”

Jude stubbed his cigarette into the sole of his shoe. “When I came back from
court this afternoon, his widow was sitting in my waiting room.”

“You never told me they were clients of yours.”

“They’re not.”

“Then what was she doing hanging out in your office?”

“She dated George some in high school.”

“Oh?” Christine rasped a fingernail across the wire mesh. “That seems odd.”

“Does it?”

“Dr. Sullivan must be thirty years older than your brother.”

“I would say.”

“So.” She tilted her head. She smiled. “Younger wife. Older husband. Who’s a
doctor. My, my.”

A skein of lightning spiderwebbed the sky. Christine looked at her watch. “I’ve got to get ready.” She crossed half the living room and came back. “Wasn’t there a rumor making its rounds about his wife seeing someone?”

Jude tapped his wedding band on the rim of his glass.

“Judy, wasn’t there?”


Judy had been her term of endearment for him since college, and when she wanted something she still cooed it to him. They had met at Ohio State, he in law school, she an accounting major. When she teased him then, she sometimes called him Judy and sometimes Judas because Jude she had only heard in the Beatles’ song her mother sang along with when it played on her oldies station on those afternoons when she had not passed out.

Don’t tell me you can’t afford it, Judy Judas, she said if he pled student poverty, groping deep into both his pockets. I know you’ve got at least thirty pieces of silver, and I’ll find every last one of them after I get your dick out of the way.

He fell for her at 8:55 on a July morning, the elevator door opening, his shoes cemented to the marble foyer, the door closing, a giggle echoing down the elevator shaft. Fell for her Hispanic-Indian beauty, her obsidian eyes overflowing with pools of promise, deep and dark as midnight, fearless as she passed through life save for being overlooked, alone, forsaken by God.

Tina, as she was called then, had fled to the Midwest from Fontana, California, a
smoggy town of working-class houses, each painted a differing shade of greasy dogs’
teeth, birthplace of the Hell’s Angels, of which her father remained a redwing member.
Yet despite a childhood where more than one doper dropped dead in their kitchen after
sampling her old man’s product, Tina’s juvenile sheet consisted of a single shoplifting
offense where she had not even been the one performing the pinch, but had her back
to Sonia, picking out a wardrobe in Vogue, as the other girl palmed a pack of Winstons.

Because of her honor-roll grades, the judge gave the girl unsupervised probation, and Tina was thereafter scrupulous with whom she hung out. She had plans. Plans to be gone from a mother who downed a fifth of vodka before noon, gone from a meth mouthed father who snorted as much as he sold. A month after her probation ended, Tina’s guidance counselor called her into his office and handed her a fat envelope, postmarked Columbus, Ohio. Before she finished the first paragraph, tears were rolling down her cheeks, which she could recall happening only once without her having forced them after a customer squished a sleeping Felix in their driveway under his truck tires.

She never would have applied to Ohio State had her old man not been watching the Big-Ten playoffs on a Saturday too rainy to be out on his Harley, sitting on the sofa as he sealed a dime’s worth into Glad baggies, she puzzling her way through Monday’s trig problems, scratching on a tablet at the kitchen table. She took a stretch break at halftime and went in to watch the cheerleader routines when the announcer instead gave a photo tour of the campuses. She sat, a foot away from the screen. The green foliage and blue skies differed as much from the brown sand and browner air of Fontana as did Oz from Kansas. After the second half kickoff, she went up to her room and dug out the Rand-McNally. Columbus was 2500 miles away.

She applied for a scholarship too, but Student Aid regretfully turned her away. She had sent them no financial information. There was none to send. The three of them lived off whatever wad rode in her old man’s money clip. Her parents had never deposited a nickel into a bank account, nor had they ever filed a tax return. Her old man had no social security number, and her mother could never remember hers. The time her father needed one to post bond for a cousin, he rode up to Folsom and with two cartons of cigarettes bought it from a riding buddy pulling consecutive life stretches. He paid cash for their house and as a joke deeded it into the name of an old beau of her mother’s who disappeared at the end of their courtship, his identifiable parts dispersed over noncontiguous counties, no death certificate issued.

So Tina spent her graduation summer muling for her old man, dodging rip-off artists of limited talent and narcs with less, earning enough from the dopers she shorted to pay for her first year’s tuition and a Neiman Marcus wardrobe after she got to Columbus. She left their house on Garcia Street on a Sunday morning in September wearing a red frock that showed off her brown legs and carrying a backpack that held a change of underwear and her summer earnings and walked down to the corner Seven-Eleven. From a payphone she called a cab that carried her to the Ontario International Airport where with white-lined bills she purchased a one-way ticket.

“Christine,” she said, when the ticket seller asked her name.

She excelled in her classes. She paid for her sophomore year by interning at Arthur Andersen, one floor above the law firm where Jude clerked. They spoke for the first time a week after the elevator door shut in his face, eating their Wendy’s lunches as they sat on a shaded bench beside the fountain facing High Street. She could not look away from him. She adored his dark good looks, his wicked, unprofaned humor, his being almost an attorney, the respect he showed her, so unlike the pump-and-dump-undergraduates always putting their elbows to her chest when they bumped into her at bars. Each noon she watched out her window until she spotted him sitting on the bench, their bench. Once she saw him sitting there, rippling in the haze of summer heat, his eyes not then watery from drink, smiling up at her window though she had yet to point it out, and she took it as a contract with her world to come. How could she know it was possible to rush toward disaster the way dreamers rush toward desire?

They married the weekend after Jude passed the bar. The next day they packed all they owned into a four-foot U-Haul and drove the five hours up to Hanna, the town where Jude had grown up. He began his legal career as a prosecutor in juvenile court, and she found a job with an accounting firm whose major client was the Dominic Company, a construction company deep into developing strip malls funded by Teamster dollars.

Prosecuting mental defectives abused since infancy and often dragged crying from the courtroom left an acrid taste on Jude’s tongue that Seagram’s could not wash away. He acquired a few years experience and quit. When Jude opened an office above
the Hanna Bank & Trust, he told Christine it would take time to build a practice. The past April, he showed her their tax return before she had him sign her name to it and pointed out their progress. She saw the numbers but not the progress. Not the way her old man’s wad bulged in his hip pocket. She and Jude both worked, yet they could not buy a home. While they lived across the street from Hanna Park, it was a one-bedroom clapboard, painted white so long ago it had faded to the color of parking-lot snow. They could not start a family, not that she wanted one. She resented life in a do-nothing-but-go-to-church-on-Sunday-town. While she did not miss the destructive hedonism she had left behind, she did the excitement that came with it where a night’s action downstairs was juicier than a season of Dragnet. How many Hanna housewives, their hair rolled in curlers as they sauntered the aisles of Drotleff’s A & P, searching for pistachio ice cream, had, on the way to the refrigerator for her school lunch, skipped over a corpse spread eagle across the floor and head off to catch her bus, stopping only to turn out the stiff’s pockets and pinch his nose pin if its diamond stud complimented her earrings?

Jude’s working late, his attending Knights of Columbus meetings to cultivate clients, made Christine certain he had a woman stashed aside sucking up their money, notwithstanding the nights she had parked outside his office and saw him at his desk, his forefinger to his temple. She trusted few women and fewer men. It had been common when she came home from school to see strangers coming out of her parents’ bedroom. Once she found a man standing on his head in the middle of their kitchen,
naked save his mismatched socks.

“Hi there, sweetie,” he said.

“Hi there, yourself.”

“My name is Cosmo, and I’m a free spirit.”

“You don’t say?”

A dozen times her old man had thrown she and her mother out, and until he exhausted his supply, they passed from the house of one club crony to another.Don’t you be letting no sonofabitchinman pin your neck into the dirt, was her mother’s advice. You always keep a stick at hand, one with rusty-lockjaw-inflicting-spikes asticking out of it – one that’ll keep him on his knees, begging from you like the dog God made him to be.

It was advice her mother ignored. If within a week of throwing them out he failed to sober up, she would step out to Hendron’s or J&R’s or Fibber McGee’s. It took her no more than an evening in the back seat with a car full of the boys before her old man would be knocking on their door, clear eyed and holding two bags of groceries and a bottle of Smirnoff under his arms, smiling a toothless grin as sweet as candy a week after Easter. She always went back, tears glistening her eyes, no matter his strewing their clothes across the yard, no matter her cauliflowered nose. No matter. Until one of the two overdosed, he was all the security her mother would know.

Christine took to heart her mother’s advice, and at the office party last December,  she found her stick. While she waited for Jude to retrieve their coats, Tommy came up  behind and patted her bottom. For once she gave him the time of day. Maybe we should  discuss it over my lunch hour, she said, and smiled when he whispered that what he  had in mind would take more than an hour. Tommy nodded at Jude when he came back  into the room. I ain’t no jackrabbit, honey.

A week after New Year’s when he asked her if she wanted to meet him for drinks,  she asked him where.

“Do you think that’s why Dr. Sullivan killed himself?” Christine said. “Because she  was seeing someone?”

Jude looked out into the darkness. “I don’t know.

She studied him a moment, fixed him with her black eyes. “I supposed you want  me to believe she told you nothing?”

Jude shook his head.

“Like hell she didn’t.”

“You want me to get it?”

“You stopped answering, remember?”

She walked away and picked up the telephone in the living room, her back to  her husband, her voice low, cooing.

Before retiring to Florida, Tommy’s father worked as a bill collector for the  Dominics, looking so clean and bland when he appeared on a doorstep some debtors  mistook him for a Mormon missionary. His street name was “Thomas and his Singing Hammer,” but the homicide detectives called him Saint Thomas the Philosopher  because in his work he liked to quote the Montaigne the sisters had taught him at  convent school.

The utility of living consists not in the length of days, he recited when he swung his ham-thick arm behind his head as the sisters had their rulers, but in the use of time.

Jude was in the third grade when a hardware store that was part of a discount chain opened up across the street from the one owned by the father of his best friend. His friend’s father matched their prices and tried to keep his store open by sitting in on Thomas’ poker table. In a fortnight he ran up a ten-thousand-dollar chit. Jude’s friend began staying over so often at the Hardy house that he kept two pairs of pajamas in Jude’s room. On the afternoon of the last day of classes at the start of the Christmas holidays, his friend’s mother came home from her job as a biology teacher at the high school, opened the garage door, and found her husband sitting on the floor, his gelatinous eyes open, slivers of brain sliming down the wall, in his hand a .32 revolver with its serial numbers filed off she told the police could not be his.

He never even got drafted on account of he had flat feet. What would he be doing with a pistol?

The police labeled it a suicide, notwithstanding the revolver was clean of even the deceased’s fingerprints, notwithstanding every bone in his right hand had been pulverized to rice grain bits and pounded into the worktable. To the left of the bits of bone fingernailed grooves gouged the soft pinewood. Near the revolver lay a strip of masking tape with facial hair on its sticky side, the deceased looking like he had shaved a square around his mouth into which was stuffed a card hand of aces and
eights, all spades.

Christine hung up the telephone and came back to the door.

“So?” Jude said.

“So I think even if she was seeing someone, it was silly of the doctor to check himself out.”

A raindrop thudded on the porch roof, solitary as a church bell.


“He was a doctor, for Christ’s sake.”

“A doctor can’t have his heart filleted out?”

“What’s it matter?” Christine said. “He should’ve paid her some humongous alimony – that would take him maybe a week to earn if he didn’t pay the taxes on it like you would – and moved on to wife number two.”

“Wife number three.”


“She was number two.”

Christine rolled her eyes. “Well, you certainly learned a lot about his married life in just one afternoon.”

Jude did not answer. Black clouds crossed the horizon, their dark tendrils following.

“Or was it only one?”

An hour before, Jude had walked the doctor’s widow to the parking lot in the alley behind his law office. She wore no makeup and none of her jewelry except a wedding ring she fidgeted off and on her finger. At the door to her pink Jaguar, she put her arms around Jude’s neck and kissed him on the cheek, and as she drove away she watched him in the rearview mirror until he had shrunk to a flyspeck.She and Dr. Sullivan had celebrated their anniversary ten days earlier with her going on vacation to Nassau without him. They had met the year before when Christine was working as the seating hostess out at the Oak Tree. Their marriage three months later gave excuse for some snickers in town, but most respected the girl for her moxie and said good for her that she could snare a doctor after all she had gone through.

Her parents had died in a car crash minutes after dropping off her and a sister with an elderly uncle and aunt, the account of their deaths retold on endless evenings as their aunt tucked the girls in after returning from her prayer meeting and tipping back the gin bottle a second time. She swore to them she had heard the scrunch of steel, the screams in the gasoline fire and had turned away from her front window where a mile away a pillar of black smoke snaked heavenward and looked at the girls as they sat in their flannel nighties, drinking hot chocolate and watching the Lennon sisters sing on The Lawrence Welk Show and knew they were now hers.

Taking the girls in proved no small hardship for an uncle and aunt who struggled to get by on the miniscule pension Youngstown Sheet & Tube paid for a forty-foot fall their uncle took where he missed by inches dropping into the bucket
that fed the blast furnace. Yet, while there was much the girls would have liked, prettier clothes, a fancier car to be seen in, they never suffered want. Though they were popular, the worst said about them at the time was that for Baptists they knew
how to have fun. Save for his brother who dated Denise when they were seniors. He told Jude he now found his memories sullied after he learned at a class reunion that on those nights when he had stayed home to study, Denise found her way into
more than one backseat.

The week before George left for college, he and Jude drove out to take Denise and her sister on a farewell picnic. Behind the tar-papered farmhouse, their uncle had already laid in a seven-foot pile of coal for a furnace he had not cleaned since his fall.
The next February the house burned down to its sandstone foundation. A son took in the uncle and aunt, but his wife sniffed something of herself about the girls. They were much too pretty she said for her to be worrying whether she had married a
man who could resist anything except temptation. If he did not bed one, he would with the other, no doubt seriatim, and after her hysterectomy she could not again go out and trap a new one into marriage. She doubted anyway if God made men beyond forty that randy and stupid.

The girls rented a one bedroom in town. Denise’s sister took a job clerking at the discount hardware store, and she found employment at the Oak Tree, first washing dishes, then waiting tables. Once outside the kitchen, Denise raised her hemline, catching the attention of the owner’s son who suggested to his father that she was a natural to seat the upscale dinner crowd they wanted to attract. His father, eyeing her from behind, voiced no demur. A week later when the son and Denise stepped into the alley to share a cigarette, he laid a hundred dollar bill atop a stack of liquor boxes and ran along it from a prescription bottle a needle line of cocaine. A line on Saturday nights became a line a day. Some afternoons she did a line so she could roll out of bed before her sister came home and began questioning her about when she was going to come up with her share of the rent for the last two months.

When his wife moved out with their children, Dr. Sullivan started coming into the Oak Tree. He had never learned to cook anything more exotic than an egg sandwich, and he hated going home to a house without children even if he saw them as seldom as he did his wife. He came in early, having quit surgery because he said his focus had deserted him with his family. Denise often sat at his table until customers began to come in, and the two would share a glass of wine from the bottle she had picked out. As they drank, she liked to kick off her heels and watch his face blush when she ran a silk-stockinged foot up his trouser leg past his knee.

The first weekend after his divorce, she pressed him into their taking a flight to Vegas where for a hundred dollars he hired an Elvis-look-alike off a Strip corner to act as his best man. He hung in his office a picture of the three of them on the steps of the Love-Me-Tender chapel, he and Denise shoulder to shoulder, Elvis’s arm behind her, angling down from her waist, he winking into the camera, her eyes darting to him, smiling. When a month later The Hanna Bank & Trust called to ask about the checks a dozen bars had cashed on his wife’s endorsement, Dr. Sullivan closed the account and moved it up to Youngstown.

He soon had to return to surgery, and as he worked late, Denise killed the hours trying to make friends with the other doctors’ wives. When one after another failed to return her calls, she caught up with her old ones. She sometimes telephoned George, who worked the police beat for the Columbus Dispatch, complaining that marrying skinny-legged-Old-Man-Sulkivan was like caring again for her invalid uncle and aunt. She questioned him once if he had ever blown coke. When she asked if he was still there, he told her that every corner hooker he had ever bought a cup of coffee for seemed always to have gotten there by blowing coke.

So Denise returned to the Oak Tree in the evenings. She put on her midnight blue gown cut in the back almost to her sacrum and sat at the bar, wearing her Las Vegas jewelry and drinking champagne cocktails, chatted with Sammie, who, besides tending bar, earned her extra tips as the go-between with Denise’s dealer. One night Jude wandered in after finishing a drunk driving trial that ran late when the jury hung and Judge Biltmore refused to send them home, a night whited out by a blizzard on which Jude dreaded going home to a cold house.

“Or,” Christine said, laughing, “he could have gotten a little chicky on the side. Saved on the alimony. What do you think, hon?”

Jude swiveled the whiskey at the bottom of his glass, considered the storm-darkened night. “So a man discovering his wife is seeing another isn’t sufficient reason to check himself out?”

Christine’s laugh stilled. She studied the silhouetted figure before her for a long minute, and when she answered she spoke in a whispery voice out of their past. “No, of course not.”

Jude shook his head. The storm had broken, and white sheets of rain harried down the street. Phantoms unloosed. “If on the night they first sat together, clinked their wine glasses and smiled into one another’s eyes, she had seen in them the corpse she would one afternoon give her breath, would any of it had differed?”

The wind rose and rippled the pond. Jude sat, his forefinger at his temple. Christine studied him. “What did she say to you?”

He raised his glass as if to drink, but lowered it again. A black Cadillac had turned at the corner. It cruised by and slowed for a moment in front then continued on. It pulled into the last driveway at the end of the street and dimmed its lights. No one got out.



“What did she say?”

Jude pulled at a loose thread hanging from his tie. Its seam slowly unraveled.

“An easy chair in their bedroom was turned to the window, looking out over
the corral where they kept the blooded Arabians he had bought for her last birthday.
On the nightstand stood a bottle of Jack Daniels. One, maybe two shots gone. Next
to it, a notepad with her flight number. Her arrival time. The coroner reckons he killed
himself a few minutes before she found him. Maybe as he watched her car coming
down the road.”

“Did he leave a note?”

“Oh, yes.”

“What did it say?”

He shook his head.



Christine let go a breath. “Well, as this conversation, like so many others, is
going nowhere, I might as well shower. Girls’ night out.”

“Wasn’t that last week.”

“No, you weren’t listening. Last week was some of us celebrating Kathy’s
divorce from her sonofabitchphilandering husband. Not that there is any other
species inhabiting the planet.”


She disappeared into the darkness of the house. Jude rose and refilled his
glass and came back and watched the rain. Thirty minutes later she returned, doxy
eyed and smelling of the perfume she wore when she came to bed near dawn. She
had on a too-tight skirt and an orange and green sweater that showed off her
breasts. She again had left her wedding ring by his toothbrush. When she leaned
down to peck him on the cheek, she covered with her hand a diamond pendant
pinned above her heart he recognized from a catalog she had dog-eared and left on
the sofa last Christmas, and he had thrown out with the newspaper.

“I won’t be late,” she said. “But don’t wait up.”

She turned on her stiletto heals and went inside. At the door, she looked back,
holding the door open the thinnest of cracks, studied the man at blackness’s edge.

“You going to be ok tonight, Judy?”

“Oh, sure. I think there’s still some pizza in the frig.”

She tapped a plum-shaded fingernail on the screen. “Maybe I should pass on
going out tonight.”

The Cadillac had backed out of the driveway and was driving by their house
again, its headlights out.

“I can if you want me to,” she said softly.

The car stopped at the corner. A cigarette in the back seat reddened and faded.

He shook his head. “No, that’s ok. You go.”

“You sure? I can, you know. Stay home with you.”

“You need time with your friends.”

“I can have time with them some other night.”

Jude shook his head. “Please leave.”

The nacre paring of a dying moon shown through the clouds. Thinly. Briefly.
“What is it, Judy?”

The air had cooled, and with his words Jude’s breath rose in a gray bouquet.

“He stabbed himself. Standing at the window, he watched her coming up the
road, and with his scalpel he stabbed himself. Dead center in the heart.”

They listened a long time to the hiss of rain.

“When I was a girl, I thought of the past as a thing I could repair. A thing that
existed and the wrongs within it awaited my righting. But what righting is there for a
thing no more? What righting carries a price we are willing to pay?”

Jude said nothing. The windowpanes behind him refracted the staccato

“Why did you marry me?” Christine asked. “Why haven’t you left?”

Rainy light from the street lamp fell on Jude’s face. “Because you’re the woman
who loved me. With all your heart. No one will again. Like Doctor Sullivan, I have only
one answer.”

Christine pushed on the screen door as if to come out. The Cadillac headlights
came on, illuminating within their beams the pencil drizzle of rain. She let go the
door. Jude stood. He looked at the glass in his hand and cursed and threw it out
into the night, shattering beside the Cadillac. The driver and rear doors opened. He
went inside as Christine was going out. He waited to hear the deadbolt click home,
and when it did not, he walked back. As he reached for the bolt, the doorknob
turned, slowly, first one way, then the other. Once, twice. Three times.



Scott Kauffman tried dozens of criminal cases, first as an assistant state prosecutor and then as an assistant public defender in a rural Ohio community, which provides much of the background for his first novel, In Deepest Consequences. Scott now resides in Newport Beach, California. He maintains an active law practice, which includes the representation of those charged with white-collar crimes. He is currently at work on a second novel and a collection of short stories. When not working or writing, Scott gardens, reads, and listens to baroque music.

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