The Exterminator

I am sitting in the living room trying to study when my husband walks in. I see that he is frowning. It is never good when he frowns. He sits down directly across from me and shakes his head in dismay.

“Ali, why must you do these things?”

I smile and look lovingly at him over the top of my glasses.

“Oh! You’ve heard?”

He winces.

“Have you lost your mind? I carpool with Ed Stevens.”

I set aside the trusty book of mythology in my lap.

“Ed Stevens? This has nothing to do with Ed. This is about his wife Celia and you know it! The woman is a harpy and all you care about is that I am going to ruin your current carpool opportunity?”

He points an accusing finger at me.

“Yes! It took me two years to get into that carpool. If you kill his wife, I’m seriously screwed in the carpool department, aren’t I? And it’s not like you can manage to be discreet. By the time you’re done, everyone east of my elbow will know, won’t they? I am telling you right now, if this makes the newspaper, we are soooo getting a divorce!”

I laugh, shoving his finger away from my face.

“Divorce? You’d be lost without me! Besides, I’m just doing my job. You knew what I did for a living when you married me. If I don’t take care of this unpleasantness; who will? You? Ed Stevens? Global warming is a fact of life darling. Polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate, and sea levels are rising. It’s not my fault that monsters which were once frozen under all that ice decided to walk among us again. Jon, you do not want to live next door to a harpy. She’ll rip your eyes out!”

My husband gets up from his chair and begins to pace the room. Every so often he glares at me. I wait.

“Celia is a lovely girl. Sure she gives Ed an earful every now and again, but she is not a harpy; and do you know why? Because harpies are not real Ali! They are myth; and may I remind you that had I known what you did for a living, I never would have married you. You lied to me! You told me you were an exterminator.”

Yup there it was; the cornerstone of all of our arguments.

“I never lied to you! How you managed to confuse dragon slayer and exterminator I have no idea. I was very clear when I told you that I slay dragons for a living. I can’t tip-toe around it. I really don’t think the armor I go around wearing all day screams ‘Hi, I kill cockroaches!’ By the way, have you seen my pocketed-sized, spiked harpoon gun anywhere?”

He scratches the back of his head with an exasperated sigh.

“Yeah, I think I saw it in the basement. It’s on the rack above the washing machine. I knew you didn’t use that thing to kill spiders.”

Actually, I did, but in his current state of mind, there wasn’t any need to mention the large prehistoric arachnid that I had killed last week in the backyard.

I continue to smile sweetly trying to lay out the facts for him.

“Harpies are beastly little creatures. They steal anything that isn’t nailed down and they splatter bird poop on everything that is. I can’t imagine how Ed lives with her.”

My husband, having had enough of our discussion, gives me a disgruntled look and storms out of the living room. Having my peace and quiet again, I go back to my mythology. Killing a harpy was no more difficult than killing a dragon. However, harpies were as fast as the wind.

“Maybe you don’t have to kill her. Maybe you could just clip her wings or something!”
I turn to see my husband standing just over my right shoulder.

“No! She is an ancient and vile creature. She has been abducting commuters every morning and dragging them off to Tartarus.”

My husband looks at me with disbelief.

“Tartarus!?! Ali, no one is going to miss a few corporate ladder-climbers! Besides, if they were smart, they wouldn’t take the train in the morning, would they? No, they’d carpool.”

I rake my fingers through my hair and gingerly ease closed the book of mythology. I do not speak, but I know my husband is waiting. He expects an answer. Of course I can’t tell him the truth. My husband does not do well with the truth. It makes him theatrical and he suddenly worries about what the neighbors will say. Not that I condone lying to my husband. I tell him the truth. I just give him the backward version. All the facts are there; it’s just that I arrange them in a different order. I turn and touch my husband’s arm.

“You don’t really want to let innocent people spend eternity in a dank pit, surrounded by three layers of night, just so you can keep your carpool? And what if she carries Ed off to Tartarus—what happens to your carpool then?”

My husband shifts uncomfortably.

“All I am saying is that you shouldn’t provoke her.”

“Jon, I am not going to provoke her. I am going to go over to her house for coffee like I do every Sunday afternoon. Then, when she asks me if I want sugar in my coffee—I am going to pull my harpoon gun out of my boot and shoot her between the eyes. When I am done, I will come home and make you a lovely Sunday dinner like I always do. Pot roast would be nice, don’t you think?’

My husband ponders this momentarily.

“Well, I guess…but only if you drive me to work on Monday!”

I smile at my husband and reopen the book of mythology on my lap. As I turn to the section I’d been reading, a large brown feather smeared with bits of blood falls to the floor. I quickly cover it with my foot so that my husband doesn’t notice.

“Yes darling. I will drive you into work on Monday.”

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“The Exterminator” was previously published in the Imitation Fruit Literary Journal.