Ray Martin lay prone on the shag carpet of his living room and waited for the Japanese army to move in on him. Outside, the rain coming through the barren branched trees of late fall splashed against the house’s roof and into the driver’s car seat, where Ray left the window rolled down.
The sound of downpouring rain put Ray Martin back in the jungles of Guadalcanal and made him tremble with fear. The traumatic stress of war created neuroses he struggled to control. Now changes in his brain turned neuroses to psychoses, and rain triggered this conscious absorbing flashback,
As Alzheimer’s shut down his entorhinal cortex, eradicating memories, stark fear replaced his recall of how to cope. The recollections from the jungles of the Pacific island stayed vividly present, as did his remembrance of his wife’s betrayal.
Mildred Martin, an attractive woman in her late fifties, made frequent trips to the beauty salon to keep her hair well-coifed and its emerging gray out of sight. Long walks, originally initiated to get away from Ray, and a self-imposed restrictive diet kept her shapely figure in trim. Three days earlier, she had left her husband.
Ray, always tough to live with, had recently become horrible. He would not remember what he said five minutes earlier and, when corrected, would fly into a rage that always brought Mildred’s infidelity of long ago to the forefront. Ray Martin would request something and then deny doing so. He mixed up days, missed appointments, and always blamed Mildred.
“You’re a liar and a cheater, Mildred,” he would shout. “Always was and always will be.”
Mildred Martin did not love her forbidden partner, and he did not love her. The two lovers used each other for sexual fulfillment, temporary companionship, and respite from the domestic ordeals they separately endured. When her lover’s angry wife exposed the assignation to Ray, he went into a rage, slapping Mildred repeatedly. He threw her out of the house, and she sprained an ankle as she tumbled down the front steps.
After months of counselor meetings, they were the pretense of a happy couple. She came close to losing her children to Ray’s erratic custody, and to avoid that, she stayed married to Ray and never cheated again. The children were grown now.
When Mildred Martin left to stay at her son’s house, she had no intention of returning to her husband. The possibility of a new life, a chance to travel denied her by her marriage to a man who never wanted to travel further than the grocery store filled her with excitement.
But after a few days alone in her son’s guest room, thoughts of penance logged deep in her memory from her days as a Catholic emerged. Was Ray’s slide into mental disarray the cross she had to bear for breaking the adultery commandment? Tears filled her eyes when she realized that Ray’s growing mental illness was not her cross but his, and he would drag it with him to his death.
The following day Mildred Martin pulled into the driveway next to her husband’s car. It had rained again during the night. She took rags from her trunk, mopped up the rainwater from her husband’s car seat, and then went into the house. Mildred Martin found her husband in the master bedroom, lying prone on the floor. He turned his head towards her and said in a whisper.
“Get down, Mac. There’s a Jap sniper out there taking potshots at us.”
Mildred got down and did a low crawl until she faced her husband, her cheek pressed against the bedroom floor.
“It’s ok, Ray,” she said. “I got him. I shot the son of a bitch right between the eyes.”
Ray looked at her and grinned.
“Good work,” he said. “Hey, what’s your name?”
” Simon. ” Mildred replied.
“So, where are you from, Simon?”
“Oh yeah? And where is Cyrene?”
“It’s a small town in Georgia. Hey Ray, how’s ’bout we head back to the camp, and I’ll rustle us up some chow.”
The two got off the bedroom floor, and as they headed towards the kitchen, Ray Martin put his arm around his wife. “You are the best friend in the entire world.”
Steve Bailey is a retired middle school teacher starting a second career as a freelance writer. He lives in Richmond, Virginia, where he writes fiction, creative non-fiction, long stories, and short. He has a novel long manuscript in search of a publisher. His blog is https://vamarcopolo.blogspot.com/.