By now, it has become obvious that my husband, Charlie, is trying to kill me.
This point hit home as I stood atop Mt. Moosilake in New Hampshire Saturday, having huffed and puffed my way up the 4,100-ft hill in what Charlie had billed as an “easy hike.” (It’s rated difficult; look it up.)
I hadn’t climbed a mountain since the gentle slopes of Wales in 2006 and Charlie damn well knew it. My guess was that he’d had taken a gamble that I would pop a clot on the ledges, thereby enacting the ultimate exit clause “until death do us part.” He is a lawyer, after all. Assessing his opponents’ weaknesses is his jam and after 27 years of marriage, he had had plenty of time to catalog mine – hence the inclination toward uxoricide.
Not so fast, you bastard. I placed my hands on my hips, catching my breath and analyzing his next move.
He was a wily one, that’s for sure, scampering among the cairns as if nothing were amiss, heralding the spectacular 360-degree views into Vermont, the wonderful air and fantastic climb, as if, deep down, he wasn’t seething with frustration.
“Lunch?” he offered cheerfully, thrusting out crackers with cheese and summer sausage. Another attempt to do me in with a slow, artery-clogging demise. Crafty.
“Thanks,” I said, taking it. Because when it comes to psychopaths, you can never let them know you know.
This was a lesson I learned at the knees of my own dearly departed mother. Her husband had tried to kill her, too. One of my clearest childhood memories is of night falling on Cape Cod. My two older brothers and I were stuck on a fairly remote island waiting for our parents who had left to go fishing earlier in the day – and had yet to return. The tide was out. The sun was setting. A wind was kicking up. We’d have called the Coast Guard except we didn’t have a phone. So we walked to the dunes and huddled together for comfort, hoping for sight of their lifeless bodies.
And then we saw her striding through the bay, muck up to her thighs, rope in hand, pulling the small, incredibly unseaworthy boat my father had ordered from Sears – him in the stern supposedly “steering.”
“Children,” she announced, dropping anchor, “I have been on the African Queen.”
The next day, she tried to escape to Pennsylvania in our brown Rambler, but he coaxed her back. Typical.
It didn’t take long for Charlie to expose his Plan B: the downhill. “Just go lightly. Like this!” He proceeded to hop from boulder to boulder, trying to trick me into taking a head-splitting tumble by showing how easy this so-called “skipping” was even with his busted right knee.
Thwarting him, I carefully calculated each step downward, ignoring pitying glances from Dartmouth Outing Club students who bombed past me in glorious health and SAT scores. By the end, my legs were a jellied mess, but I was alive.
“Wasn’t that a blast?” asked my would-be murderer, running me a bath with epsom salts back home. “Let’s go hiking next weekend. I know a really easy one. You won’t even get above the tree line.”
That evening, I insisted on a barbecue. Burgers on the grill. With cheese. And mayo on the buns.
Sarah, The Survivor