I am in a state of mental chaos. My mind is spinning like a top, and if I do not come up with a plausible solution soon, I fear that I will be caught and thrown into jail for the rest of my life.
My name is Vincent Studenberg. I am fifty-four years old. I live in Swampscott, Massachusetts. The other day, my wife and I got into a heated argument over groceries, of all things. You see, she had been getting on my case about how I never do anything around the house or run errands for her. I told her, honey, I work all day; I’m wiped out by the time I get home, and the last thing I want to do is go back out for a head of lettuce or whatever silly thing we need. My wife (her name is Betty) does have a job of her own, but she only works two or three days a week, you know what I mean? It’s part-time stuff. I know that she does chores around the house on the days that she is home- I never overlook those things- but she needs to understand that I work forty hours a week. Plus, shopping for groceries isn’t really my forte. I don’t do it enough to be good at it. I swear, if I were to go into a supermarket alone with but a list to consult, I’d be in there for no less than three days. That’s not an exaggeration.
So we were both in a sour mood that day on account of the fight we’d gotten into. We sat down at the dinner table around six o’clock for a nice meal of ham, mashed potatoes, and biscuits. We weren’t saying much to one another, just making an occasional remark about the weather or the news or whatnot. I scooped myself a helping of gravy and pushed the ladle down on top of my pile of mashed potatoes. It’s something I’ve done ever since I was twelve years old. You see, when you push down on the mashed potatoes with a ladle or a spoon, you create this kind of crater that you can pour your gravy into. My dad showed me how to do it when I was a kid; he said, Vincent, that’s how you make a mashed-potato volcano. Then he’d ruffle my hair and give me a big smile, the kind of smile only a father can give you.
So the other day I made my mashed-potato volcano, and Betty looked at me with this kind of patronizing glare. She said, my love, why on Earth do you do such a juvenile thing? That’s something an over-stimulated child would do. I said to her, sweetheart, I’ve been doing this all the years we’ve been married. This isn’t anything new I’ve been doing. I’ve been doing this since I was twelve years old. She told me, yes, my love, I know that. And I’ve told you many times before that it annoys me. It vexes me, for goodness sakes. Please don’t do it anymore. Don’t do something that a child would do. Then she went off about all the things that are wrong with America, and how all the men of the nation aren’t really men. She started to mumble under her breath that a man is just a little boy in a grown-up body, and that we should be ashamed of ourselves. Well, I didn’t take too kindly to that. I don’t like the idea of my masculinity being taken away from me.
I took the metal ladle in my hand- it was still dripping at the end with gravy- and just kind of flicked it at my wife’s forehead. It pinged off her forehead; she gasped and started shrieking in pain. Betty always made more of a situation than was necessary. She asked, why on Earth would you do that, my love? I didn’t have anything else to say to her. Well, I did have many things I wanted to tell her, but I didn’t have the strength or the inclination to do so. Have you ever felt that you wanted to say so many things to a lot of different people, but you just didn’t have the strength or the inclination? So instead of talking with her, I pounced on her. I wrapped my hands around her neck and began squeezing. She tried to resist, but I am stronger than she was. I’m no Incredible Hulk, mind you, but I can hold my own against a woman.
We dropped to the floor, my hands still around her neck. I enjoyed seeing the life drain from her eyes, yet the idea of choking her to death felt strangely unsatisfying. I got up off her and went out into the kitchen. I could hear her cough and sputter. I grabbed a steak knife from the drawer where we keep all the utensils and came back out to where she lay. She was looking up at me with this helpless expression on her face. I knew she was trying to tell me something, but I also knew that I didn’t want to hear it.
I got down on my knees and stabbed her many times with the knife. I don’t want to go into the gruesome and gory details of it- I’m a gentleman- but I will say that much blood was spilled. And that’s when I realized something very bizarre. You see, I’d gone out into the kitchen to get a knife so I could stab my wife to death with it. But what’s strange is, there were knives already on the table next to our plates. I’d gone all the way out to the kitchen for no reason! How silly is that, I ask you?
Anyway, I had yet to finish my meal. So I sat back down in my chair and resumed eating the food that was still on my plate. I took a nice, big, gravy-coated chunk of mashed potatoes and shoveled it into my mouth. I looked down at my wife, who still lay on the floor, and said, if I want to make a mashed-potato volcano with the ladle and the gravy, then I’m darn well going to. What does it matter if it’s a tad childish? Who is here to see what I’m doing? No one’s here. I can do whatever I want without having to worry about scrutiny from others. And I’m going to keep making my mashed-potato volcanoes for as long as we keep eating them, and there’s nothing you can do about it now.
I finished my meal and stared at my wife on the ground. I felt a wave of remorse for what I’d done, a melancholic regret. I saw the way my life could have been had I not killed Betty. I saw the two of us growing old together, bickering about inconsequential whatnots but never letting it get in the way of our happiness. I saw all the smiles we would have shared, all the little kisses we would have stolen, heard all the sweet things she would have said in my ear. But it always ends in death. Divorce just isn’t something either of us ever would have considered. If we were going to part ways, death would have done it. No matter how long we might have been together, she would have eventually died anyway. Or maybe I’d have died first. But the point is, we would have been separated by death at some point in time, and that made me feel less bad about what I’d done.
I am by no means a violent man. I had a wonderful childhood; neither of my parents was abusive. I had a lot of friends; I was never really lonely. Betty and I were happily married for a long time. Never before this incident had I ever touched her or struck her. But all my life I’ve had these bizarre, sporadic thoughts- thoughts of hurting other people, maybe even killing them. One example comes immediately to mind. When I was fourteen years old, I went away for the summer to a camp in the woods right on the outskirts of town. There was a huge oak tree right outside our cabins, from which hung a tire swing all the littler children would often play on. Sometimes, when it got dark, the older boys and girls would sneak out of the cabins and go behind that tree so they could kiss and make out. I never did, but I had some friends who told me they’d snuck out many a time for a nice little midnight spit-swapping session. Anyway, I spent a lot of my time at the camp with another boy named Timmy Robinson. Timmy was about the same age as me, but he might have been a little older. I had no ill will towards him; he never did anything to me that I remember feeling cross about. But often times he would stand by that oak tree and the tire swing, and I’d think about cutting the rope down from the low-hanging branch and strangling him to death with it. The notion may have occurred to me once or twice- maybe three times, I can’t really recall with certainty. But my point is, is that I’ve had these off-the-wall thoughts for a long time, and when Betty and I got into that argument the other day….well, it just set something off in me that I couldn’t control. It was like an animal inside me that had finally been released after years and years of being pent up in a tiny cage.
But that analogy is so poor. I have never been one to suppress my feelings. If I’m feeling a certain way about something, I have no problem telling someone. And the fact that I’m a relatively open person makes those violent thoughts all the more bizarre. I understand that there’s a primal nature to everyone. I understand that, if you take certain things away from us- our culture, our food, our identities- we’re no more than animals. But is that enough to sufficiently justify my actions? I don’t think so.
I don’t need my feelings sorted out for me; that’ll come with time. But I do seek your advice, Abby. I’ve heard that you can find out anything about anything on the Internet, but, truth be told, I don’t own a computer. I don’t know the first thing about them either. I couldn’t figure out how to use one to save my life. What I need help with, Abby….is the body. It’s been a few days since I’ve murdered my wife, and the corpse is really starting to stink. I’m worried that the neighbors might call the police and complain. What I’m trying to ask is, how should I dispose of Betty’s body? There are no bodies of water around our home into which I could dump her. I’ve thought about burying her in the back yard, but my neighbor’s mangy little dog always manages to scoot underneath the fence that divides our property and dig himself a nice little hole in search of a bone or whatnot. What if I were to leave her right in the middle of the street? Do you think the police would be able to tie me to the murder? Are there distinguishable fingerprints on human flesh? If so, would they, you know, fade away after a certain period of time? I suppose I should get rid of the knife I used to kill her too. But I do so like that knife. If I were to wipe the handle off with a cloth, would my fingerprints still be detectable? Oh, for Pete’s sake, what am I saying? People leave fingerprints on their utensils all the time; they couldn’t possibly use such evidence to link me to her murder. Sometimes I think I’m the most dim-witted person in the whole world.
Please write back soon, Abby. Before it’s too late.