Toxic Soul

Like Mama used to always say: When you point a finger at someone else, just remember that you have two and a half more pointing back at you.

Mama had the diabetes.

Toxic Soul by Matt Mattila

Her presence was a gift. It didn’t matter that I had an office job that paid a quarter million a year, five days a week, at the largest investment firm in the country. It didn’t matter that I had money, a decent house, a nice car. You can have everything and still not be whole unless you’ve got a good-looking girl in your bed. That’s what I thought anyway.

Gabriella was perfect. She knew it. Beautiful girls always do. That’s the problem with them. The entire reason I worked all those hours to afford the house and the car was so I could have a girl like her. I was out of the house too much. She knew I wouldn’t dare cheat. I knew even with the house and the money I would never have a girl like her again—beautiful, sophisticated, intelligent.

Gabriella could have any man she wanted. She didn’t want me anymore. It didn’t matter that she lived in my house, wore the clothes I bought her, slept in my bed. Any man would be willing to do it just to have her.

Maybe that was why she cheated.

I didn’t follow her in the car to her lover’s house. I didn’t hire a private investigator, however much I thought about it. I didn’t raise a fuss when I heard her talking dirty into the phone at three in the morning, under the cover of the bathroom fan. I didn’t say anything when she sent me an accidental text saying she was glad I hadn’t found out about them, and would “I” like to meet her at the Pier at four in the afternoon for an early dinner. I said goodbye to her the next morning, said I’d see her in a bit, hoped she’d have fun out with the girls. I didn’t leave fifteen minutes later to follow her. I went out to buy a gun.

I knew I’d get away with killing her. I had enough to buy a juror off. Enough to make someone silent. Only one person out of twelve, and I’d be free. I love the American system.

I could always save my money (Market had been bad. Maybe that was why she cheated. She knew I couldn’t afford her anymore) and ask my father to pull strings, pollute the jury pool, get me a good lawyer, rub elbows with my judge. I could always say I was half-asleep and thought she was a burglar. Getting a gun was easy. Getting out would be easier. The hard part was doing it. I procrastinated. I waited nine days before I finally did it. I wouldn’t regret it. I kept switching the moment from the daytime, her walking in (“I thought she was burglar,” I would say, “and I panicked.”) to the middle of the night. The night would be perfect. I could tell them I was sleeping. I woke up, thought I saw/heard an intruder, picked my gun up, shot em.

I went to bed first that Thursday. She didn’t come in till midnight. She laid next to me without a word, in the millimeter-thin nightgown I’d bought her last week. She stayed silent. She did nothing. She drifted off to sleep. She wheezed out her nose. Maybe she had a cold.

I lay there with my eyes open, stabbing daggers at the soft skin on the back of her neck, the bulges of her vertebrae. I took a finger and poked her. She didn’t budge. She must’ve popped one of the sleeping pills I didn’t take tonight. She was passed out.

I swiveled my head around to look at the bedside table. The gun wasn’t behind the tissue box. It wasn’t under the lamp. It wasn’t near my glass of water on the edge, on the floor, under my pillow.

The gun wasn’t on my side. I peeked my head over her shoulder.

Then I saw it gleaming in the moonlight on top of her metal change basket. How did it get there? I didn’t remember leaving it there. Then again, I hadn’t been thinking clearly of late. Maybe she’d put it there, knew I was going to kill her, was testing me. Maybe the snore was fake and she was waiting for me to reach for it.

I didn’t care anymore. I had one chance at this. My arm trembled when I leaned over her, half my body twisting in something unhuman, my heart beating an inch from her warm skin. My shoulder almost scraped against her. My breath made her hair dance.

She might’ve been dead already. I couldn’t hear her breathe. Maybe my heart was beating too fast.

I had summoned the courage to reach an arm out. My hand landed on a pocket mirror. Her white teeth glistened in the darkness. She didn’t flinch when she slipped the gun from under her pillow and put cold metal on warm flesh and shot me.

Matt Mattila was published in Yellow Mama, Near to the Knuckle and Shotgun Honey before he turned 19. Moonlighting as a food runner, busboy and restaurant host, he spends his free time wishing he could come up with a pen name weirder than his real one. He lives on the wrong side of a Connecticut city. Find him on Facebook.