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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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Blood, Sweat, and...

It was Thursday, so Suzanne stripped the beds, gathered up the contents of the hamper, and started the first load of wash. She steeled herself and scrubbed down Ira's bathroom, thinking vicious thoughts about invulnerability and how inoperable it made cataracts.

The kitchen wasn't quite as bad as she'd feared. Her best saucepan had something carbonized to the bottom, there was a fine layer of eggshells over every counter surface, and the potato peelings were mostly contained in the sink. It only took her about an hour to clean this time.

She moved the laundry to the dryer and start a second load in the washer, mostly comprised of Ira's uniforms.

Her reward for all this was another glass of wine. Some days, she wished she liked any of the stronger alcohols.

The house was silent. Even the traffic on the street out front had gone still. She sat with her feet up, sipping the wine, feeling blissfully alone.

She heard the washing machine buzzer, then sighed. No point delaying any more.

Josh was in the master bedroom. It was the only room big enough for the hospital bed and the tables and chairs and IV stands and all the other accoutrements of home care.

She took a quick turn around the room with a cloth, dusting anything that needed it, including Ira's bizarre altar to his "dead wife." There had never been a superheroine named "Tin Lizzie," and neither of Ira's ex-wives were dead. Josh's mother, Andrea, came by about once a month on an evening when Ira was at the YPCA. Andrea had, for a time, been Mrs. Metropolitan to Ira's Mister, but had retired when she was pregnant with Josh. Andrea was very understanding about the issues that came with living with Ira. Violet, Ira's second wife, never darkened their doorstep, and it was probably just as well.

Finally, Suzanne looked at Josh. She forced herself to actually look at him at least once a week. Every time she did, he seemed to look older and more shrunken. His cheeks had long since drawn tight over his craggy cheekbones, and his chin always sagged. His hair, which she shaved into a military flattop every two weeks, was graying heavily. The PT kept his muscles from wasting away entirely, but he was at most half the man she'd married.

"Hi, Josh," she said as she moved to check his peg tube. "Still inexplicably comatose, I see." She winced at the bitterness in her voice as she flushed the tube with some water, but couldn't keep herself from saying more. "The doctors still can't figure out why you're not conscious. You were badly injured in that last battle, but your brain wasn't damaged at all."

She started the feeding pump that would run overnight. "I used to tell you this every day, hoping that you'd hear and decide to wake up. But you know, after all this time, I think this whole thing was all your revenge for my asking for a divorce. You get to play desperately tragic hero, and you've trapped me for ten endless goddamn years. I'd be pilloried if I ever left you."

Suzanne sagged against the bed, wondering if she looked as old as Josh did. She wanted to cry, but it stuck in her throat, as usual. "At least he had the decency to just die and get it over with. You, you vindictive bastard... you couldn't even die cleanly."


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Wonder City Stories

June 2017

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