In addition to Ralph’s nasty cracks, indifference, and drinking, there was the absolute monotony. Mei-Lin recited this litany of grievances to her sister in Taiwan. “And, he always walk around naked, think he look like some kind of Superman, but he really just an old guy with wrinkled skin.”
They both spoke English with the familiarity of having grown up around Americans, but Mei-Lin had hit the jackpot marrying a rich, big nosed mei-guo devil.
“Maybe people see him naked they think he just wearing old clothes that need ironing.” her sister said. The sisters, five thousand miles apart, shrieked in laughter.
“Shut the hell up,” Ralph shouted. “I’m watching the damn election news!”
That did it. Stupid elections of ugly old white men! She wanted to dance, hear music, have people serve her. Mei-Lin felt old at age 36. Better that the old fart die instead. She had a life to live, perhaps with Dr. George Abernathy. He listened to her and loved the bento lunches she brought him at the hospital. Pork chops, fried rice, stir-fried cabbage, pickled cucumbers. Affection, if not undying love, was packed in Ziploc dishes. She was an hospital orderly who cooked superbly; he was a cardiologist who fixed broken hearts. What a pair.
“You could make it big as a restaurateur,” Dr. Abernathy said more than once. “I mean it. This is soooo good.” She knew he wasn’t referring to her cooking. Dr. Abernathy appreciated her body — in empty hospital rooms late at night. Not like Ralph, who called her Mei-Fun, referring to the skinny, tasteless rice noodles.
It would be easy to say dzay jin, goodbye to Ralph. Even easier was knowing how to murder him. He was 68 years old, had quadruple bypass surgery and a pacemaker implanted under his rib cage. Mei-Lin not only knew the details of his condition, she’d been at his bedside in the recovery room.
The computer was the answer, the American way. She learned the pacemaker sent signals over the phone to the doctor’s office where he would nod and call later to let Ralph know he was mending quite nicely. She downloaded the simple EKG program Dr. Abernathy used to monitor the pacemaker and brought it home on a flash drive. Now, the little program slept in the computer where she played mah-jongg.
The opportunity came when Ralph threw himself down on the sofa in the family room. “There, the damn grass is cut and the car’s washed, so let me relax before you go asking me to do some other damn job.”
“Thank you, honey. I make dinner now — unless you want to take a nap first.”
“Maybe I’ll take a nap. Can you get me a beer? It’s this tightness in my chest.”
“Muscle strain, I think. Want me to massage?” Mei-Lin hovered.
“Yeah, okay — then get me that beer.”
“This is Chinese method. Not shiatsu. Call it Genghis Khan Massage.” She laid her hand on his chest.
“Old Chinese secret, eh? A little tai-chi?”
“You mean acupressure?” Ignorant old man, she exhaled in disgust.
“Why Genghis Khan? He was that little Mongolian who invaded Europe. What’s he know about massage?”
“Technique.” Mei-Lin cupped the small transponder in her palm and ran it over his heart. The PC in the bedroom transmitted a signal, which was picked up by the disk and dutifully re-transmitted to Ralph’s pacemaker. Wonderful American technology, Mei-Lin thought, rubbing his chest. Things that can start can be stopped, and muscles that can be defibrillated can be told to twitter and jerk like spastic frogs. She smiled as Ralph’s eyes opened wide.
He screamed, “Stop it, goddam it! Call the hospital! I’m having a heart attack!”
Mei-Lin continued to depress the device in her palm, shooting the signal through centimeters of bone separating it from her husband’s heart. “Should I call Dr. Abernathy?” she asked. “Or the police?”
“Call anybody! Call 911!”
Mei-Lin cupped her chin in her hand. “I maybe use my cell phone, but I think the battery is low. I better go in kitchen. Use the wall phone.”
“Goddamn it!” Ralph was screaming as the weight of a pickup truck crushed his heart.
“Okay, I have to think where I put the phone. Oh,” she said, as if remembering his question, “Genghis Khan, he was warrior who take no prisoners.”
* * *
Ralph’s funeral was exciting. Her first. So different than Chinese funerals. Everyone looking sad — except to her it was a celebration. His family and a few friends each put their arms around her. His brother-in-law murmured, “At least you’ll be well taken care of.”
“I think so,” she said. “Ralph was cheapskate and put all his money into bonds and stocks.”
After she placed a flower on Ralph’s chest in the coffin, his lawyer took her arm. He was another old guy with a name she couldn’t remember.
“Mei-Lin, I have something to tell you.” He nodded his head in embarrassment. “Some news you should know.”
“What you tell me? Ralph have secret wife? Why you act funny?”
“No. Not another wife. But he left all his money — close to a million — to a couple of heart associations. You get the house and a small annuity, but none of his financial assets. That’s all going to charitable foundations.” He walked away, his head bobbing.
“Nooooo,” she screamed, echoing Ralph’s heart attack sounds.
“Mei-Lin.” Dr. Abernathy sprang forward. “Dear Mei-Lin,” he whispered, “I’m sorry. It was the pacemaker that failed. My technician in Cardiology called. He just analyzed the data. There was outside interference with the signal I used to monitor Ralph. I’ll have all the details — the source of interference — when I get to the hospital in the morning.”
# # #
My fiction has appeared in Bewildering Stories, Big Pulp, Every Day Fiction, Liquid Imagination, OG Short Fiction, Paradigm Journal, Pif Magazine, Short Fiction World, Short-Story.Me, Southern Fried Weirdness, The Short Humour Site, and Everyday Weirdness . Two volumes of short stories, Cruising the Green of Second Avenue, have been published by Wild Child (www.wildchildpublishing.com).