It was just before sunset when Mrs. Kinnan met her monster. At first it was all rather disconcerting and troublesome. She had always adored those too-fleeting moments that lay between day and night. Even as a child she was enchanted with this time of day, believing that magical beasts lived amongst the lazy shadows and fairies danced atop the folding flowers of dusk. This time of day never lent itself to dark imaginings in Mrs. Kinnan’s mind, she had never considered that the beasts who flitted in and out of fading light may, in fact, be treacherous. But on that night, as the golden sun kissed the distant horizon, it was exactly these types of thoughts that stole into Mrs. Kinnan’s mind. As she stood in front of the kitchen sink full of dishes, she found she was unable to concentrate on her daughter’s impending wedding, or how the rift between Mr. Kinnan and their daughter’s betrothed could be breached. She was unable to think about Mr. Kinnan’s upcoming departure from his 23 year employment with Shorely & Sons Insurance Brokers; ‘too many sons’, the lifetime employee was told by Paul Shorely. Perhaps most surprising, as she washed and rinsed, was that Mrs. Kinnan was even unable to reflect upon Mr. Kinnan’s latest infidelity, and this thought had occupied her mind most incessantly over the past months. It seemed that the only thing Mrs. Kinnan was able to focus on was the exquisite sunset that was about to unfold outside her kitchen window.
Mrs. Kinnan’s husband had always fancied himself something of a renaissance man, dabbling in numerous different interests over the years. Mrs. Kinnan had tolerated the many different hats her husband tried on with the grace and patience of a saint. Beekeeping was just one of Mr. Kinnan’s passing interests. With an eye on the honey and bees’ wax market Mr. Kinnan had installed an entire bee colony in the back yard. When the bees became irate and went on a stinging spree, the neighbors saw to it that Mr. Kinnan’s apiarian days were over. Then came the furniture refinishing business; until he suffered a very long, very deep gash on his forearm from the sharp paint-stripping tool. Mr. Kinnan’s injury then became infected and he almost lost his arm. And then there were the financial missteps; Mr. Kinnan reckoned he was something of an investment guru, with insights into financial opportunities not widely available to the public. He had attended countless weekend seminars intended to unlock financial mystery while at the same time showing him how to ‘get-rich-quick’ through the stock market, through time-share property or through work at home schemes. Mrs. Kinnan had also endured several different pyramid schemes, one in which Mrs. Kinnan had the police sitting at her kitchen table attempting to ascertain if her husband had any knowledge of illegal activity. The upshot of Mr. Kinnan’s financial philandering was that the couples’ entire private pension savings was wiped out. All they had to rely upon when Mr. Kinnan retired in three years was his measly pension from Shorley & Sons. But it was the infidelity that really tested Mrs. Kinnan’s mettle. Her husband may be an imbecilic lummox but he was a rather attractive lummox who managed to turn the ‘imbecilic’ into an adorable naivete, resulting in frequent and verbal ‘aaaahhhs’ by various short-sighted women. During their 26 year marriage Mrs. Kinnan was aware of at least four affairs, but, standing at her kitchen sink rapt in tonight’s imposing sunset, she knew that there had been more.
With all of these issues currently clouding up Mrs. Kinnan’s mind, it was no surprise she couldn’t even muster up the wherewithal to hum along with her favorite song when it came pouring from the ancient clock radio perched on the window sill. But her inability to concentrate on any one single thing was unsettling. She chalked it up to nerves. She had been overcome ever since Paul Shorely had terminated her husband’s employment. And then this last affair…..she heaved a long, heavy sigh, blowing away the soap suds that had covered her hands. Those hands fell limp above the water, dropping the paring knife she held, and then rested on the front edge of the sink as her eyes turned toward the window into the backyard. She gazed at the tool shed and it’s lengthening shadows in the waning light. Everything in the yard stood stock still, eerily so. It were as if Mrs. Kinnan had just turned her attention to the yard as her patio furniture ceased frolicking on the grass with her gardening tools. She even supposed that she could see the swing chaise rocking back and forth, as though caught in a breeze. But there was no movement in the air. Mrs. Kinnan soon became spell-bound by the to and fro of the swing; the plaid cushions sunlit with the up movement and shaded with the down movement. Her unsettled feeling had abated with the lowering sun.
Then Mrs. Kinnan’s lips began to move. Silently, as though she were reciting a Hail Mary. When she first heard the music she supposed it came from her radio, but as she looked to the relic she was surprised to see that it had been turned off. Casting her thoughts back a few moments Mrs. Kinnan was unable to recall switching the radio off. She momentarily felt panic begin to rise in her throat, thoughts of Alzheimer’s, age-related dementia. But just as quickly as these thoughts arose, they dissipated, and were replaced with an unexpected feeling of euphoria, safeness and warmth. Mrs. Kinnan hadn’t felt safe in quite some time and it was silly to think that her very ordinary back yard could make her feel this way. Perhaps the impetus for her feelings was the gleaming sun which now emitted brilliant, shimmering incandescent colors as it met the earth. She cast her eyes back to the swinging chaise, still mouthing the words to the silent song. It was so hushed. The only audible sounds coming from the drip of the leaking facet, the rasp of rusting metal joints on the chaise and the rush of air between Mrs. Kinnan’s lips as she mouthed the words to the unheard song. The rhythm of the chaise, the words of the song and the colors of the setting sun seemed to have bewitched Mrs. Kinnan. And now, if she turned her head just so, she could hear the wind which rocked the chaise, and on that wind the music played.
The sing-song voice of children joined by a one-finger piano rendition of an old nursery rhyme. Played on the wind, rising and falling with the swells and dips of the indiscernible air current. The young voices ethereal and fragile, the piano melancholy and haunting. ‘Ring around the Rosy; A pocketful of Posies; Husha, husha, We all fall down!’ Mrs. Kinnan recalled how, as a child, her Sunday dresses flounced around her as she fell to the ground on the final line of the rhyme. Over and over the melody played in time with the rocking chaise. Mrs. Kinnan resumed washing the dishes that still lay in the sink. ‘Ring around the Rosy, A pocketful of Posies, Husha, husha, We all fall down.’, as she scrubbed in time to the music. ‘Ring around the Rosy, A pocketful of Posies, Husha, husha, We all fall down.RingaroundtheRosy,Apocketfulof
Posy,Hushahush,Weallfalldown. RingaroundtheRosyApocketfullofPosiesHusha hushaWeallfalldown.RingaroundtheRosyapocketfulofPosiesHushahusha weallfalldown.RingroundthRosyapocketfuloPosiesHushahushaallfalldown.Ringroundthrosypocketfulposihushahushaallfalldown.’ Ever faster, the song played on twilight’s invisible zephyr until the words came so quickly they were indistinguishable one from another, melding into each other until the only noise coming from Mrs. Kinnan was a guttural cry from depths she was never even aware she had. Out the window, through which Mrs. Kinnan still gazed, she watched as the breeze that carried the chaise became faster, stronger. As the tempo of the nursery rhyme increased so too did the speed of the wind. At the height of her ‘spell’ the wind had grown into a full blown gale, and this time Mrs. Kinnan was privy to the dance of her patio furniture as the backyard storm blew these items off the ground and careening into each other. She watched her belongings tumble through the air, silhouettes against the bright, sinking sun. By the time this strange occurrence had come to an end Mrs. Kinnan was soaked with dish water up to her elbows. During the release of what could only be called her primal cry, Mrs. Kinnan had violently churned the sink full of soapy water, causing it to dissipate by at least half as it breached the edges of the sink. Now, she rocked back and forth while this deep-rooted cry tired itself out. Tears left tracks down her cheeks, tears that had fallen freely during her strange episode. Quietly, Mrs. Kinnan reverts back to the soft, inaudible mouthing of words, still repeating the nursery rhyme. Still scrubbing the dirty dish. And still staring out the window where her perfectly positioned backyard items were all in their respective places.
The sun had sunk half way down the horizon, the sky becoming an ominous pink and green, color. ‘Red sky at night, sailors delight.’, she thought as she continued to wash the dishes blindly. Mrs. Kinnan was entranced by the sky, by the sun, by the shadows. It was an attraction that was primitive, rudimentary and unsophisticated, even savage. Anyone who might have happened upon Mrs. Kinnan at that moment may have been quite alarmed and fearful by the way she gazed fixedly at the nightfall. The words of the nursery rhyme had undergone another metamorphosis, this time taking a darker turn, ‘Ring around the Rosey, Pocketful of Posies, Ashes, ashes, We all fall down. Ashes in the water, Ashes in the sea, We all jump in, One, two, three. Mammy in the teapot, Daddy in the cup, Thunder, lightening, We all jump up. Ring around the finger, Lifetime full of meager, Hush now, hush now, You won’t be made to linger .’
Mrs. Kinnan’s mind was being thrashed with thoughts of Mr. Kinnan’s bad behavior. Small blunders and transgressions on the part of Mr. Kinnan were magnified ten fold; the way he chewed his food, tied his shoes, even sneezed, angered Mrs. Kinnan to such a degree that her eyes watered and her hands shook. Looking out onto the horizon, the ominous colors of the sky and the ferocity of the red setting sun seemed to egg Mrs. Kinnan onwards. Mr. Kinnan was a sore loser, once upsetting a Scrabble board while playing with their daughter and some high school friends. He was a man who picked his nose while driving and, she suspected, furtively popped his findings into his mouth, like a chipmunk filling his cheeks when he hoards for winter. Mrs. Kinnan’s stomach revolted, leaping and heaving up into her throat, her wet hand instinctually coming to her mouth. He snored, he was cheap, his feet stunk, he drank too much and he just wasn’t very smart. And then the music ceased. But looking straight into the eye of the evening sun Mrs. Kinnan felt something stir within her, a disquieting feeling she sensed she had no control over.
It started as a low rumble which escalated into words; angry, hateful words. ‘Silly little man. Petulant. Grandiose.’, and Mrs. Kinnan was momentarily blinded as she lifted a pot out of the sink, it catching the still strong setting sun and reflecting it into her eyes. After she set the pot down Mrs. Kinnan undertook a string of verbal epithets so hostile, it guaranteed that any remaining dusk fairies in the yard had now fled. ‘Supercilious self-aggrandizing ass repulsive snot-eating pig impotent dick-less missionary man braggart loudmouth coward milksop weakling bald blowhard contemptible ignoble insufferable cheater yellow-toothed chowderheaded simpleton pompous overbearing puffed-up donkey.’, Mrs. Kinnan kept a steady tone and rhythm throughout her condemnation of Mr. Kinnan. And this verbal censure may have continued if it were not for the next item Mrs. Kinnan lifted out of the sink. Again glinting the sun on the way to the dish drainer, this time stopped mid-air as the lines of the item became clear. Now Mrs. Kinnan’s view of her backyard and the purple hues of the sunset were impeded by a large stainless steel butcher’s knife.
Mr. Kinnan lay on the floor of the garage in an ever-widening pool of blood. A large stainless steel knife protruded from the left hand side of his neck. Just as the last life ebbed from Mr. Kinnan a reflection of the disappearing sun was visible in the reflective surface of the carving knife Mrs. Kinner had just washed.
Written for the !Creative Writing & Poetry Group where it is entered into the latest challenge(April 2010) – Sunset. Here is the link if you would like to vote in the challenge: