He strangled her on the grass out front. Anyone could see, though he’d never thought to hide it. He acted out, mindless of the consequences. She wasn’t going anywhere. Neither was he. It had been a clash of wills. He won. At least he thought he did. Her overwhelming presence subsumed him. Challenging his questionable existence. She never saw him. Or, so she said. Who says things like that? She did. A vocal, self-assured denizen of her own small sphere of existence. She considered herself above all. Beyond reproach, far beyond regret. Plain-spoken, simple. She’d harassed him. Squawked in his face, never behind his back, she reminded him. That was beneath her. Her days eclipsed his affairs and permeated his mind. He couldn’t stand her. A mistress of countless machines, embroiled in compulsive, obsessive cleansing. Morning, noon, night. Fog the mosquitoes, wack the weeds, spray wash the entire house. Again. And don’t forget to rinse all the sidewalk cracks and every mortar joint in the brick façade. Always too much to do. Those unceasing, raucous mechanisms enabling her preoccupations. She was insensitive to the clamor and duress caused him by her virtuoso cleaning cacophony.

He watched her from his kitchen window. She, a loving, nurturing, encouraging, soul convivialto her plants. When they died, others appeared. Newer, better, fresher victims. Her self-established societal rank was crystal clear. She considered herself a symphonic conductor of eternal order. She reigned supreme. Not him. She made that clear, there was no place for him. She put him in his place…in no uncertain terms. She sucked him into her domineering miasma when he first moved into the neighborhood. It hadn’t taken long for her to slather him with insinuating insults. Flicking off her filters, she wielded her vengeful judgement. He could see that she alone determined what was best for everyone. Especially him.

She lived in a detached reverie of pious, impatient, omnipotence. Guiltless. Vapid. Verbose in the negative, forever issuing abuse in premeditated doses. “Live the way you want,” she’d assert. But you can never be as good as me. He knew what she was thinking. Good thing she failed to realize the conclusion he’d come to. It would make it easier for him. Because, he had to do something about her. They would come and go as always, amicable adversaries. He always watched for her. They both practiced keen avoidance. Never sharing yard time. That air conditioned queen, thriving in self-perceived, palatial splendor. So clean. So neat. Disaffected by everyone else. The unseen, the uncouth, the useless masses. Him.

He didn’t have a plan. Ignoring his oft-insulted feelings, he resigned himself to life in close, uncomfortable proximity to her. He had no choice. “Things are happening over here that I didn’t expect,” she said. Identifying him as white trash had been a turning point. A point of no return. He’d wave and smile when appropriate. Greet her husband by name albeit, another man’s name. Kept them uncertain, unsettled, unsure. Uneasy. He decided to remain unseen…to her. Don’t antagonize her. She can’t bear seeing me. She’s in total control. She has to be. “We’ll see,” he said to himself.

Footsteps echoed off mirror-finish floors, coming for him. Inexorable, death sentence-suggesting, squeaking reminders. She’d won. In absentia. Were these apparitions from latent dementia? A moribund cluster of black shapes halted before his cell. Bars grated and receded into the prison wall for the last time. At least, for him.

He’d made this happen. Because of her. To her. And, to himself.

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