Environmental Measures

He lifted his head from his pack. The black garbage bag, holding aluminum cans to exchange, set in front of him. He had been sleeping on the cold cement of the store entryway, far back, near the door, in order to hide from everyone, especially cops. Anyone walking by would think there was a bag of garbage near the door. The smell had woken him up. He’d been smelling it around 2 a.m. every morning for the last two weeks. A sort of chlorine smell tinged with rotten egg. It started when the new fracking facility was built at the edge of town. The town had protesters for a few weeks but that had died down. He wondered what it was they did there since it wasn’t only the smell that woke him up but the dull ache between his eyes that came with it. He laid his head down again and covered his nose with his coat sleeve. The ratty coat smelled better than the air and helped filter the stink from reaching his nose. He breathed through the coat fabric and fell into a light sleep, the dull ache a painful monotony.

Four blocks away from the storefront, were neighborhoods of houses. He sat with his can of beer that was quickly warming up from his large hand. That dull ache was back. It pounded between his eyes and he couldn’t get rid of it. Over the last two weeks, he’d tried aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen; nothing worked. He drank more these last few days, trying to take the edge off the pain enough to sleep. Not that sleep was necessary. As a retired cop, he no longer needed to keep a schedule but his wife, sleeping in the bedroom, would like to enjoy the time they now had. He’d like that, too, except, this damned headache kept him awake. He pushed the chair into the reclining position and closed his eyes, setting the almost empty can on the side table. His mind couldn’t ignore the pain enough to sleep. A half hour went by and the dull pain was almost a banging in his head. He got up and walked through the kitchen and down the hall to the bedroom. His wife was laying on her side, asleep. In the closet, on the side shelf, was the lock box. He pulled it down and opened it. He should keep it locked but never did. Inside, his companion for thirty years, five days a week, his old revolver, was sitting on top of the cloth he regularly used to clean it. He pulled out the gun, turned around, looked at her sleeping and shot her in the head. He aimed the barrel under his chin, and pulled the trigger.

Across town, in another residential neighborhood, not as nice as a retired cop could afford, he paced the living room. He and his wife had just bought this house six months ago. His son loved the neighborhood and already had several friends. The job was a town over at the state penitentiary; a short 15 minutes away. He worked four ten hour days and was now on his three day weekend. He paced, his mind racing, the dull ache between his eyes seeming to get worse. Two weeks of this. He was coming to the end of his ability to ignore it or work through it. One of the COs he worked with noted that he seemed like he needed his weekend since everyone had noticed how short tempered he’d become. He paced. He hadn’t even taken off his holster much less his uniform. His wife came out of the bedroom, down the hall, her eyes squinting as she reached the doorway into the living room. His son was asleep in his bedroom that was next to theirs. The living room windows had shades rolled down and thick curtains that were kept closed. He’d recently demanded that. His wife looked at him, half hidden in the hall doorway and quietly asked him to come to bed. He smirked. If he could do that, would he be pacing? He paced. She waited a few minutes and moved to go back down the hall. She stopped, turned back, her mouth open as she started to say something and he looked at her. In one smoothly practiced move, he pulled his gun out, shot her directly between the eyes, then put the barrel in his mouth. The pain was gone.

 


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