Ferguson stood dead still, his back pressed against the hallway wall, as he listened to Janice’s conversation. His chest felt as though a log had been slammed into him, taking his breath away. A single tear formed in the corner of his eye and slowly trickled down his cheek, leaving a thin dry salty trail.
It was not as though he’d not had any thoughts concerning his wife’s fidelity. Janice’s warmth toward him had definitely waned in the past year. It was little things that added up; a less than close hug here, a drawing away from a touch on the shoulder there. And their conversations had gone from waxing on past romantic interludes and dreams of their future together to more mundane exchange like discussion of bills and the weather, of all things. However, the stab of pain and catch of breath that came from confirmation of her deceptions and infidelity was rivaled in his mind by the reality of her actual contemplation of physical harm. It almost made him swoon from the sadness.
Yet he forced himself to maintain his place, both out of fear he would be discovered listening and out of anger that his wife of twelve years would do this to him. He knew he was not the most interesting of men, his few hobbies being amateur geology and reading dusty of tomes about same. And was not exactly exotic or romantic in ways many men were, no stories of old football injuries or past flames who had become screen idols. But he was a human being, deserving of respect and consideration; not deception and manipulation.
No, he, Ferguson Marshall, deserved more. If Janice was unhappy, she should simply have told him so. It would have hurt, but it would have passed.
Now, Ferguson was beginning to feel anger, probably the most anger he felt toward another person (‘persons,’ he corrected himself) in his entire life. Moving as quietly as he could, he tread lightly down the hardwood floor of the hallway and tiptoed up the stairs, stepping easily on the two steps that creaked every time he walked up them.
‘Should have fixed those last year,’ he thought absently to himself.
Reaching his bedroom, he closed the door and locked it. The hell with what questions Janice would ask. He could simply say he had accidently done it. She’d used that excuse on evenings when he was late to bed and had to sleep on the couch to avoid waking her. Then he went into the bathroom to gather up the ‘medicine’ Janice had been providing, ostensibly from Doc Brewster. He would take it to his family physician when he went to see him and ask what it might really be.
Suddenly, his head grew foggy and his stomach churned. Grasping on the curtain rod to steady himself, Ferguson fell to the floor in a tumble and the world spun out of control.
‘Oh, god,’ he thought. ‘Not again.’
When the wave of nausea passed, he was looking up at a cracked painted ceiling instead of the blown popcorn and fan grill he should be seeing. Getting up, he steadied himself on the lip of the porcelain tub. And then registered the clawed foot porcelain tub that should have been a nice fiberglass tub / shower set up. Gone also was the shower curtain he had pulled down as he fell.
“What the hell did they do to me,” Ferguson grumbled harshly.
“Hey, Marshall,” called a voice from the other room. “You almost done in there? We gotta git.”
The sudden intrusion of another person in his delusion nearly caused him to stumble again. Moving carefully, Ferguson Marshall opened the heavy wooden door and peered out into a bedroom he had never seen before. And in the middle of the fairly Spartan room stood a man in a gray suit and fedora, his back to a confused and startled Ferguson Marshall.
Before Ferguson could skitter back into the bathroom without being noticed, the man in the grey suit and hat turned.
“There you are,” he announced. “Let’s go, the Colonel will be waiting for us on the base. And you know how he hates to wait.” The easy smile and general lack of alarm made it seem as though he knew Ferguson. But he couldn’t believe that was possible. Then the man was moving toward him. As he passed the black wooden dresser, the stranger reached up, grabbed something and tossed it at Ferguson.
As he caught the rolled up leather bundle, Ferguson looked down and saw he was holding a holster and some kind of gun.
Just as this registered in his mind, he felt another wave of the now familiar nausea. Allowing himself to just fall, since he knew it was illusionary, Ferguson felt a renewed sense of anger at his faithless wife and her mystery paramour.
Soon, he heard pounding and someone shouting his name. “Mister Ferguson, are you in there? Open up.”
“Move aside, Bill,” another voice drifted to the prone man in the bathroom. “I’ll use my shoulder.”
“Please hurry,” a concerned sounding Janice cried. Ferguson snorted as he knew her concern was not for his well being.
“Don’t worry, ma’am,” the second male voice was saying. “As paramedics, we do this all the time.”
‘Crap,’ thought Ferguson, ‘she must have called 9-1-1.’
Then looking at his hands, he saw the holster and gun cradled in them.
“What the hell . . .” And his mind betrayed him once more by shutting down from all the implications all this might mean.
(Author’s note – As a courtesy to one of my most loyal readers, I decided to continue the story of poor Ferguson Marhsall. Thank you, Agnes, for encouraging my more creative side, For the first part, click here.)