The Pity Queen

Madeline stripped the sheets from the king-sized bed, the two metal posts staring at her from beyond the pillows, which depicted the faces of a king and a queen. Her husband had been a blacksmith, a talented craftsman who had been forced to vanquish his art for another man’s fire and steel. For twenty-three years he had toiled pushing buttons, as a machine did the work his calloused hands had once performed.

He was dead now. Everyone said he would most likely die before his wife. Stress had grayed his hair and work had grinded down his joints. He was like a stone continually sanded in the rolling tide, growing smaller with each new moon.

“The poor guy,” his sister would lament and,
“It’s a shame. He could’ve really done something with his craft,” a family friend would comment.

And Madeline, over time, began to feel insignificant.

“What about me?” she wanted to say. “I clean and cook and I’ve raised three children. Could I not have been more?”

She was grateful for her husband’s income. She was not resentful of his manhood or even his occasional late nights out with buddies from high school who had since divorced and were on the prowl. Questions of infidelity never once placed a skip in her day to day. And yet, she despised his pity; the pity others wrapped in silver foil and presented to him like a chicken dinner while she remained starved for attention. She could smell him still on the sheets, the scent of Old Spice aftershave mixed with the sweat of chronic nightmares, now crumpled and subdued on the carpet. She missed him and so began to cry.

But this was what she wanted, was it not?

The ambulance and police sirens would soon trumpet through the glass windows of her house, causing her to shake for just a second before regaining the certitude of her actions.

"Woman Brutally Stabs Husband in Their Bedroom" tomorrow’s paper might read. Everyone will surely read it in bold letters on the front page. How could they possibly miss it?

“I thought she loved him,” a close neighbor will say before quiet contemplation and then, “There must have been more going on there than we could see…the poor woman.”

Madeline wiped the tears from her right cheek with her hand, allowing her husband’s blood to leave it rosy. “Ironic,” she thought, “how even his blood smells metallic.” A smile crept upwards to her ears while she fantasized the outcome of her decision; as she fantasized the pity that would be solely hers at last.