Seth Wilson knew he would soon have to lock up his wife. It was Tuesday morning. They were having breakfast together. Finishing his coffee, he stared through the kitchen window out into the darkness, gathering his courage. Then he said:
"You know, Angie, it's almost that time of month."
Angelica disagreed. "No," she said firmly, "I only had my period a week ago.”
"Maybe you're right," he answered mildly. "I don't know what I was thinking."
Seth poured himself a second mug of coffee and drank it slowly before rising from the table. Angelica, immersed in The Croton Monthly Journal, ignored him. Steeling himself with a long breath, Seth snapped one cuff on his wife quickly, but she didn't make closing the second easy for him. Then he had to hoist her upon his shoulders and carry her upstairs to the padded room because she refused to walk. Before releasing her hands, he made sure the leg irons fit snugly. Angelica glared at him.
"You should have asked," she said. "You know I don't like surprises."
"I'm sorry. I couldn't tell if you were rational."
"Rational? Of course, I'm rational. You're the one who isn't rational.”
"Maybe so. Let me bring you something to read."
Unfortunately, the coffee pot had been upset directly upon the Journal during their brief
struggle. He suspected this would further upset Angelica, and it did.
"Can't you do anything right?" she asked.
Seth ignored the question. "Would you like me to get you another dress?" he asked.
"What's wrong with the one I'm wearing?"
"Nothing, Angelica. It's just that I don't know if it's appropriate right now."
"Since when did you become the judge of fashion around here?"
Seth shrugged and left the room, barring the door securely. The kids had woken up and
were regarding the mess in the kitchen somberly. Jessica, who was twelve, understood what it meant. Andrew, at seven, still had to be reminded each month.
"Where's mama?" he asked.
"Mama needs to be alone. She's not feeling well," Seth answered. He turned to Jessica.
"Will you make sure this gets cleaned up?" he asked her. "And see that Andrew brushes his
"OK, Dad. I'll have lunch ready, too."
"You're a great girl," he told her, meaning it with all his heart, loving his daughter so much that it hurt. Then he put on his boots and went out to the barn. The two cows were stamping their hoofs impatiently. He greased the teats of the old Holstein, pushed with his shoulder against her barreled side, and sat down with the pail clamped between his knees. It was easy to milk the Holstein. But the young Guernsey was nervous, having come into her first milk only recently. Seth kept an eye on the strong hind legs and pulled the pail out of the way whenever the Guernsey kicked.
He put the full pails outside the barn and turned the cows into the pasture. He forked
clean hay into the stalls and threw the manure onto a pile next to the door.
By daybreak Seth was pruning deadwood in the orchard. The apples were coming in
well, and he knew that there would be a good crop this year. Later on, after a couple hours of
tending to his acreage, he met Abe Kravitz at the fence separating their properties. His
neighbor noticed Seth's scratches and remarked, "Angelica?"
"She was a little early this month. She's never truly regular, you know.”
Kravitz nodded wisely. "Neither is my Peggy.... Can't be too careful where women are
concerned, that's the truth."
Both men glanced soberly to the north, at what had been the Randalls’ place. Even from
afar they could make out how derelict the house had become in the six years since Elaine ran amok. Seth still missed them all, Roger and little Sarah and the baby whose name he couldn't remember, and Elaine herself, and he knew that Abe did, too.
Kravitz was first to shake off the memory and return to the present. "Fred Smith's
getting together for a party to take a wagon into the city next week," he said. "Word is, there's a Costco store that ain't hardly been touched.”