This is part of a dark little series called Fucked Up Ways to Die.
Nick heaved a huge sigh of relief as he pressed the “leave meeting” button on his work zoom call. It was a meeting about another meeting and before the call ended, someone had suggested that they all meet again to prepare for the next regularly scheduled meeting of the meeting they’d just met about it. He’d never seen anything like it anywhere else he’d worked.
He allowed himself to meet his dog Gary’s eyes. Gary had been staring at him for the past two hours, a not-so-subtle cue that he was tired of being ignored and ready to be entertained with a walk or even just a few minutes of belly scratching.
“Hang on, buddy,” he said to Gary. “Just gotta put this in the dishwasher,” he motioned to his empty coffee mug, as if Gary could understand.
On his way to the kitchen, he passed a laundry hamper full of clean clothes that she’d promised to fold, four two-foot high stacks of books that were inexplicably sitting in the middle of the floor in a U-shape around a recliner that had been moved to the middle of the room. What the fuck, Alice? He thought.
Alice was his girlfriend of 11 months. They’d moved in together at the 6-month mark — a bit early, he knew, but all signs pointed to THE ONE, true love for a lifetime, so he’d figured why not just get going on it already?
Yes, he’d ignored some of the warning signs: Alice had made an average of $21,000 a year for the past 5 years, something she’d told him with a bit of pride around date three. “I just don’t really like working,” she’d said. “I’ve always gotten by and I’m okay with not being part of the machine.”
Maybe 21K a year cut it in, say, Bigfoot, Texas or Bat Cave, North Carolina, but that definitely wouldn’t cut it in the Bay Area.
Also, did anyone like working? Surely some people must. But he’d just left a meeting about another meeting, so it was a hard no on the liking-of-working, at least for him.
The thing about moving in with someone, Nick had learned a little too late, is either the lower-paid person punches up to the higher-salary lifestyle — going out to dinners, taking vacations, buying a home or a car, buying … well, anything really — or the higher-paid person punches down and gives up all those niceties. He couldn’t imagine that anyone ever chose the latter. He didn’t, so suddenly he was completely supporting two people and a new dog, something Alice had begged for.
No surprise, Alice had turned out to be a lazy slob — a lazy slob that he’d fallen out of love with almost as soon as they’d moved in together. He’d been trying to figure out how to get her to move out without being a complete asshole. Another fun tangle about the higher-lower salary scenario: If the higher-paid person wants to kick the lower-paid person out, do they have to help out with rental deposits, moving vans, etc? He saw no way around it but it really pissed him off to think about shelling out deposits, first and last month’s rent, moving van, and “restocking” supplies, as Alice called it when he tried to have a discussion with her about it. She told him she’d need at least 10K.
“But that’s based on what … $3,000-a-month rent? Even if I can scrape that together, how are you going to afford that every month once you move in?” he’d asked her.
“Well, you’re gonna have to help me until I find a job,” she’d said as she kissed him lovingly on the forehead.
There was no way that was happening. It’s like she didn’t hear a word he said — she was in complete denial. They weren’t married, they weren’t common-law partners. He owed her absolutely nothing. But he knew it was in his best interest to help her get out, so he offered up what he thought was generous: 5K.
“I just don’t see how I’m gonna be able to make that work, babe,” she’d said, shrugging. Babe? They’re talking about moving out and she was calling him babe?
He tripped over her yoga blocks on the way into the kitchen. He was about to rinse his cup when he noticed a stack of dirty dishes and utensils in the sink.
“Come ON,” he said angrily to no one but himself and Gary. May ten thousand dollars would be a good investment in his future sanity and happiness.
“Did you say something, babe?” Alice asked as she walked in the kitchen from the back yard, where she’d been communing with the sun or some bullshit for the past three hours. She didn’t seem to notice the mud and leaves she was tracking in.
“Yep, I was. Can you just put these dishes in the dishwasher? PLEASE?”
He lifted up the dishes to hand them to her — no time like the present — and saw coffee grounds and potatoes from Alice’s dinner last night swimming in murky sink water. He dropped the dishes on the other side of the sink angrily.
“Really, Alice?” he said, gesturing to the sink in frustration. “A little help here would be fantastic.”
She smiled as she calmly turned on the water and flipped the garbage disposal switch. It puttered to life then stopped, started, and stopped again.
“Great,” he said. “Another thing to fix that I have to pay for.” Alice continued to flip the switch on and off as though that would somehow miraculously make it work.
Suddenly, there was a guttural rumbling from the disposal.
“Alice, turn it off,” he said, still irritated..
The entire sink began to shake. The potatoes jumped out of the water like soggy, starchy fish. A dirty fork and spoon clinked angrily.
“Alice,” he said, now alarmed.
Everything in the kitchen began to rattle — a wine glass from the open-cabinet plan Alice had insisted on fell from the shelf and shattered. The guttural sound got louder, almost unbearable. He covered his ears.
Alice bent over the sink, one eye looking directly into the black abyss.
“There must be something stuck in here.” She pulled her face back and flipped the switch off on the wall, then stuck her hand down the hole and began digging.
“Be careful,” he said nervously.
“Uh-huh, I think I got it!” She dug and swirled her hands around the hole and finally pulled out a beer bottle cap out — a cap from the beer Alice had been drinking last night. Why couldn’t she just throw things in the trash like a normal person?
“Yessss!” she yelled victoriously. “I fixed it!” She turned on a stream of water and switched the disposal back on at the wall. The guttural sound was gone, but the disposal wasn’t working. Alice flipped the switch rapidly, ten, fifteen, maybe twenty times.
“I think I got everything,” she said, as she put her face close to the hole again, her single eyeball surveying the sink’s underworld.
Suddenly, the guttural sound was back. The entire kitchen was shaking again, but Alice stayed right where she was, still looking for whatever offending object was still down there.
In all the flip-switching, Nick had lost track. Was the disposal on or off?
Just then, a steak knife shot up from the disposal with considerable velocity, piercing Alice in the tear duct of her eye.
“Oh my god, oh my god, OH MY GOD! Alice!” he screamed at her. But Alice didn’t respond. Her wound began to gush blood. It trickled from her nose and out of her mouth. Blood was even coming out of her eyes, which now looked like the dead shark eyes they’d joked about the live sharks eventually having on their second date at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
“Alice?” he said with a whisper.
And then she collapsed, face down, hitting her head square on the edge of the sink, driving the knife deeper into her skull.
“Alice,” he repeated quietly, this time as a statement. He bent over to check and see if she was breathing. She wasn’t. Gary watched, his head tilted to one side.
“Alice?” he said again, his heart practically pounding out of his chest.
And as he dialed 911, he began to think about all the things he could do with the ten thousand dollars his sink had just saved him.