This Is How It Happened

By: Jo Barrett

Hello, lemon face. I rinse my mouth with Listerine. I’ve rinsed it so much over the last eight hours the bottle is on its last drop.

I plod into the kitchen, rub my eyes, peer out the kitchen window and see a black, furry thing lying in my driveway.


I’m a murderess after all.

I pad down the driveway in my tatty robe and bare feet. A dead raccoon is next to my garbage can, the trail of brownie crumbs leading directly from its slack-jawed, wide-open mouth.

I stare down at the mess in my driveway, at the poor, dead animal, and the first thought that enters my head is: There’s never a man around when you need one. Stepping back inside, I don a pair of yellow rubber dishwashing gloves, my flip-flops, and waltz out to the driveway once again in my outfit du jour—my shaggy purple bathrobe. I pick the raccoon up by the tail, and swing its dead carcass into the garbage. It’s a little heavier than I thought, so at first, I accidentally bang the raccoon into the side of the can, before heaving it up and over.

“Rest in peace, little fellow,” I say, in case there exists some kind of raccoon Karma.

I sweep up the brownie crumbs. Then, I roll the garbage can out to the street, because tomorrow is garbage day, thank God.

Here I am, on the street in a purple bathrobe with throw-up stains on the front. I’ve almost poisoned myself and I’ve killed an innocent raccoon. And hey, it isn’t even 10:00 a.m.

I pull the rubber gloves off my hands, open the lid to the trash, and drop them in. I let the lid fall back down…but then I make a huge mistake.

I open the lid and peek inside.

The raccoon, its dead black eyes wide open, is staring straight up at me.

“It was an unintentional crime, it really was…little guy,” I murmur. Followed by, “I’m sorry.”

I drop the lid back down and use my body weight to slam it tight, like I’m slamming the trunk of my car. The garbage men are coming tomorrow, but still. I don’t want to risk having an entire dead zoo out here.

God help me if Pamela Anderson and her PETA pals saw this, I muse, as I plod back up my driveway.

I think of Pamela Lee Anderson and I start to get pissed off. I mean, sure. I buy lipstick that hasn’t been tested on lab monkeys, and I fully support the whole dolphin thing, but c’mon. Enough is enough. Some of us have to work around here.

What? Like Pamela is some kind of saint because she survives on berries and seeds? As if she’s never opened a can of tuna fish? Are her shoes made of plastic? Her belts of eco-friendly twine? Has she never accidentally run over a squirrel or hit a bird?

I pad back into the house. And swing the front door shut. Slam!

Carlton, by the way, was a huge Pam fan.

Chapter 8

I never thought that I’d be the type of girl who waited for some guy to marry me. It seemed old fashioned. To be that girl.

And yet a part of me wondered what was taking so long? Carlton and I were both in our thirties. We’d lived together for four years. I’d assumed marriage was right around the corner.

Of course, I wasn’t bothered by the idea of “living in sin.” I didn’t need the ceremony, the gleaming diamond ring—my girlfriends fawning over me in a sleek, white Vera Wang gown.

Carlton and I could live together for the rest of our lives, as far as I was concerned. The love between us was so great the idea of not getting married seemed terribly romantic.

We’d be modern. Like movie stars. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Hugh Grant asking Andie McDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral, “Will you promise never to marry me?”

And besides, I couldn’t complain. Behind closed doors, Carlton referred to me as his “fiancée.” As he put it, we were “unofficially” engaged.

He hadn’t asked me to marry him in the traditional way. There was no candlelight dinner. No diamond. No bending down on one knee. Rather, he’d told me late one night, and I might add—after sweaty, post-coital sex—that he “intended” to marry me.

This is how it happened:

One night, as we lay breathless and sweaty on my mattress, stark naked with the damp sheets kicked on the floor, he’d reached over to the side of the bed, grabbed my hand, and slipped a ring on my finger.

“I intend to marry you,” he said, simply. Instead of a diamond, he’d given me a simple white-gold band he’d bought at Zales.

“It’s beautiful,” I whispered. I twirled the ring around my finger. I loved the way it felt, heavy on my hand.

Carlton took it off and showed me the inside.

“Read the engraving,” he said.

I peered at the ring. Then I turned and threw my arm over his chest. Kissed him full on the mouth.

“Oh Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art thou?” I said, my eyes misting up with tears.

“Right here, baby. Right where I want to be,” he said, stroking my hair.

I wasn’t being a complete cheeseball. There was a reason for the Romeo, Romeo thing.

A few weeks earlier, on one of those gloriously lazy Sundays, Carlton and I had been walking down the street hand in hand when an older woman started waving her cane at us.

“Your love is so bright, kiddos, I’ve gotta wear shades,” she’d called out. Then, she donned a pair of hip, funky-looking sunglasses and blew us a kiss.