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Something in Common

Welcome to the Love Boat, or is it Love American Style?

In this week's episode: cash trumps commitment on the high seas

Something in Common by David Summers



Keith never dreamed his wife would block his way to the top, yet she was doing exactly that. He’d just sold his software company for a bundle, and now was in a position to make even more money, serious money. He assumed Pamela couldn’t wait to become wealthy, but he was wrong.

“What’s the point of just making more money?” she said. “We have all the money we need, more than we need, actually.”

She told Keith she had her own goals, and becoming rich wasn’t one of them. It was her money too, she said, and she wanted to use it to benefit the community. “I want be known as someone who’s done something to improve the lives of others, like building physical fitness centers for disadvantaged youth.” When Keith tried to talk some sense into her, she just shook her head, and looked at him as though she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

He could have guessed she would bring physical fitness into it. Unlike Keith, she was a regular at their fitness club, and worked hard at staying in shape. She looked great, he had to give her that, but her looks weren’t the problem.  Her attitude was the problem, thought Keith.

He remembered thinking they were a perfect match when he first met her ten years ago. Fresh out of college, she had impressed him with her drive, her determination to get ahead, but something apparently had changed. If they had anything in common now, he couldn’t see it.

The more he thought about it, the more he was convinced that Pamela had to go. He was young—only thirty-five—and not bad looking. He shouldn’t have any trouble finding someone else, someone who wouldn’t try to give his money away as fast as he made it.

He assumed that making a change would cost him, but when he broached the idea with his lawyer, he was shocked. “You can divorce her or she can divorce you,” his lawyer said, “either way, she’ll get half.”

Never, thought Keith.

Afterward, Keith spent hours trying to think of a safe way to get rid of Pamela, and had always drawn a blank. He might have given up had it not been for this Alaskan cruise she’d insisted on.

*****

It was past midnight and most people had left the bar to head back to their staterooms, but Pamela wasn’t ready to call it a night. Several of her friends from the fitness club were on the cruise and a few were still in the bar. Keith had heard their names before, but couldn’t keep them straight, the men especially. They were just big guys who looked like they worked out with weights. Keith barely listened as they blathered on about muscle-building supplements and other meaningless crap.

Tuning out the babble, Keith fantasized about Pamela sliding beneath the waves and out of his life. He pictured her walking on deck and being thrown off balance by the rocking of the ship, stumbling out of control, then hitting the railing and pitching over into the sea. How nice, he thought. He wondered if he could do anything to make it happen. 

Pamela finally signaled she was ready to leave. “Let’s go out on deck,” she said, clinging to Keith and brushing her lips against his neck. “Just you and me, a couple of lovers enjoying the moment.” She seemed unsteady on her feet.

Could she be drunk, he wondered, or was it the ship’s motion? He doubted the ship was rocking enough to cause her to stumble, but with his help she could still end up in the water. If she decided to lean against the railing, all it would take is one hard push, up and over.

He would yell for help, but in water this cold she’d be gone by the time the captain turned the ship around. She might not even survive the fall. Even though this was a small cruise ship, from this deck, it was a good fifty feet to the water, probably more.

The story would be simple: She’d been drinking and had carelessly leaned too far over the railing. Before he could pull her back, she lost her balance and went over. There might be doubters, but unless there were witnesses, his story should hold up. He quickly glanced around, and saw no one else on deck.

Was it ruthless? Sure, he thought, but sometimes you have to be ruthless to get what you want. Everyone knows that.

*****

“Come stand beside me,” Pamela said, leaning against the railing and gazing into the darkness. She had begun to breathe deeply, as though savoring the tangy aroma of the sea. 

Keith joined her at the railing, and looked down at the black water, wishing he had thought everything through before now. How could he move behind her without arousing her suspicions, and then, once he was in position, where should he grab her to gain the best leverage? While still trying to visualize his moves, he sensed that Pamela was edging away.

Puzzled, he turned his head toward her. As he did, he caught a glimpse of a large figure moving quickly toward him out of the shadows. Before he could do anything but try to strengthen his grip on the railing, he felt powerful hands grab him by the seat of his pants and the back of his collar, and then in one fluid motion hoist him over the railing. In an instant, he was tumbling toward the frigid sea below.

The brutal shock of hitting the water left him almost paralyzed with pain, unable to do more than flail about weakly. In the half-minute or so before he took his final breath and slipped beneath the surface, he was vaguely aware of someone shouting, “man overboard.” He even thought he heard Pamela crying out for someone to save her husband, sounding almost like she meant it.

David was born and raised in a small town in the Midwest, corn and soybeans for miles in every direction. He headed out of town the earliest opportunity, and eventually ended up in the Pacific Northwest, where he keeps his head down, does some writing and enjoys life. His fiction has appeared in Thuglit.