They don’t know I had no choice. They don’t understand, Allan thought while wringing the arm of his jacket that lay limp across his lap. He sat stiffly and calmly as if on a wooden church pew rather than a bench in the holding room of the 8-6 precinct. The light was yellow and soft. The air was stale and heavy with an aroma of old paper and dust mixed with notes of bleach or something medicinal, the scent almost visible in its weight. Such a stark room with a rectangle table not quite in the center, two folding chairs, lifeless walls, bare except for a large, round-faced clock, and the one well-worn bench seat Allan occupied. Dr. Margraves understands, Allan said to himself. He gathered his jacket and rolled it into a fabric sphere.
Unresponsive to the young policeman who peeked in to check on him, Allan unraveled his jacket and pushed it under his forearm as best he could. The handcuffs restrained him. The phones, the conversation between the cops outside his door, the banging, and the chairs rolling on hard floors were silent to him. When a policeman told Allan his wife was outside and that she had phoned his doctor, Allan remained immobile, like one of Madame Tussaud’s creations, and stared at the housefly slowly pacing on the stained table. He used peripheral vision, not wanting to turn his head and attract the fly’s attention. He was afraid the fly would see him. He was afraid the fly would leave. Allan leaned back and pressed his head against the wall behind him to be sure he was out of the fly’s field of vision.
The policeman said, “We’ve got a few more questions for your wife, some papers, then we’ll bring her in to see you. Want some water or something?”
Allan remained still and silent. The fly, like a jet, took off when the policeman closed the door. Focused on the fly circling the room, Allan never noticed that the policeman had left. He fingered his jacket, transfixed on the housefly, and spoke to the insect in a whisper. “Don’t be afraid. I wouldn’t hurt you.” The blood that had stained his jacket sleeve now left blotches and blots of red, like little Rorschach images, on the cuff of his shirt and the front of his jeans. I know you can hear me, Allan said silently to the fly. I didn’t do it, you know. I am not a murderer. You know I wouldn’t kill anyone unless I had to.
In a soft voice, Allan said, “Poor Mrs. Bellows. I’m sorry she had to die. Bad people have to pay, though. It really wasn’t my fault. She should not have been so mean.” His voice disturbed the bug which sent it speeding across the room until it landed exactly in the middle of the small square window in the center of the thick, beige, metal door. Allan yelled, “No! Don’t leave me!” He didn’t notice the door guard jump up and peer in at him through the glass. He focused on the fly. Everyone leaves me, Allan thought. Now, my wife will leave me, too. I wish she didn’t know. There’s so much she didn’t know. It was better that way. He pulled at his crumpled jacket.
Allan spoke to the fly in silence. Mrs. Bellows called me names. Those people laughed. They were laughing at me because of her. She shouldn’t have done that, especially at work. I never bothered her. I never bothered anyone. People were always calling me names. She was just like them, like the others. She said terrible things to me. Mrs. Bellows was not nice at all. She made me do it. Allan’s gaze moved slowly away from the fly to the scratches on his own hand, smeared with dirt. No one else was hurt. The parking lot was empty. And I cleaned up after. Things should always be clean. I didn’t bother anyone. I had to make things right. You understand. I had to do it.
The fly circled the eight-by-ten room. Allan followed it to every beige wall, every paint chip, every crack. You believe me, don’t you? Dr. Margraves believes me. I didn’t tell anyone else about the people that follow me and call me names, only him. I didn’t tell my wife. I never wanted her to know about them because then maybe they would follow her, too. I only told Dr. Margraves. I wouldn’t hurt Dr. Margraves. I wouldn’t hurt anyone.
The fly swooshed past Allan’s ear and landed on the clock’s face. The large, round wall clock ticked. He stared at the insect. His brows constricted into folds above his small, flaring eyes. I know where you are. I’m watching you. Allan waited for the fly to react. His face softened. Friends watch out for friends. Dr. Margraves said he was my friend, but he wasn’t there when that woman said those things and made those people laugh at me. He didn’t watch out for me so I had to take care of things myself.
The fly leisurely paced in circles on the glass, tiny, quick steps. It jerked and twitched and retraced its path until it finally came to rest atop the number four.
Allan squeezed his jacket. As he loosened his grip, the jacket slid off his lap. He looked at the heap of fabric on the floor, mounded beside his shoe caked in mud, blades of grass, and blood. She said terrible things. It was unfair of her to be so cruel to someone who wouldn’t hurt a fly. That’s why I had to do it. You understand.
The fly moved in minuscule steps, forward and back and around, an insect dance. It rotated until it faced Allan. The second hand approached, and the fly dashed away, swooping through the small room, bouncing from wall to wall, and finally, it landed on Allan’s sleeve. It twitched, sniffing the red stain. Allan slowly looked down and stared at the fly. Don’t tell them about the others. That was such a long time ago. They were mean. No one misses mean people, so I had to do it. You understand. You know I wouldn’t hurt a fly.
About The Author
Maureen Mancini Amaturo is a New York based fashion and beauty writer and columnist. She teaches Creative Writing, produces literary events for Manhattanville College, and leads the Sound Shore Writers Group, which she founded in 2007.
Her publications include: two beauty how-to guides for Avon Products, personal essays, creative non-fiction, short stories, and humor pieces published by Ovunque Siamo, Boned, Bordighera Press, Months To Years, Bluntly Magazine, Mothers Always Write, Pink Panther Magazine, Eunoia Review, Baseballbard.com, Flash Non-Fiction Food Anthology published by Woodhall Press, a poetic tribute to John Lennon published by Beatlefest, articles and celebrity interviews published in local newspapers and on line. She was diagnosed with an overdeveloped imagination by a handwriting analyst. She is working to live up to that.
If you would like to check out some of Maureen’s other work, we have provided some links below.