Roy saw the new Chaffinch’s Almanacs sitting near the cash register. He paid for the odds and ends he was getting at the hardware store and plucked two of the free almanacs from the displays.
Chaffinch’s was the only almanac sexist enough to publish his and hers editions, in blue and pink covers. The women’s edition contained all sorts of stuff about that time of the month and children and homemaking that the men in Chaffinch’s target audience were certain they didn’t need to know.
Roy picked up a pink almanac for Enid so that if she saw him with his blue-covered almanac she couldn’t complain about his not getting her an almanac. Married life was full of little preemptory strikes like that, he mused.
When he got home, Roy trudged through the house and tossed Enid’s almanac on the kitchen table. He kept walking and went out the back door to his workshop in the barn. He didn’t feel like finishing his latest project just now, so he set his bag from the hardware store off to one side of his workbench and sat on the old metal stool he had made from a tractor seat to look at the almanac.
He flipped through and looked at the weather forecasts for the coming year, noting some things with satisfaction and other things with disgruntlement. Then he went back near the front of the booklet where the pages of best times to do things began. Most readers believed these were often more useful than the weather predictions. The almanac told the best days to plant what crops and vegetables, the best days to get a haircut, to castrate animals, to cut firewood. The women’s version included the best days to wean and potty-train children, to butcher chickens, to wax the floors — like Enid would ever trouble herself. Anything you needed to do, whatever your sex, Chaffinch’s Almanacs knew what phase the moon was in with what astrological sign to bring the best fortune.
Roy turned another page and on the right side of the booklet saw a big, bold headline: Best Days to Kill Your Wife.
Roy’s eyebrows shot upward. This had to be a bad joke. But the page noted certain days when it would be best to kill one’s wife without being caught. There were handy hints on methods and cleanup and what to do with the body if an old well weren’t conveniently located.
Roy looked at the dates. The first one was January 17, exactly two months away.
Roy stared into space for half an hour, wondering whether he hated Enid enough to kill her. Most days that was a no-brainer; of course he did. What’s more, after thirty-two years of marriage, the feeling was probably mutual.
How many times had she scorched part of their supper and given that to him? How many times had she kicked his old dog for no reason? How many times had she purposely flushed the toilet when he was in the shower? How many times had she told him off for staying out a little late with his friends? How many times had she said he was going to go to hell and deserved to? When was the last time they had been intimate? And how long had it been since she’d been pretty enough for him to care about the answer to the previous question?
“January 17th, huh?”
They had a disagreeable Thanksgiving at her sister’s.
They had ceased to acknowledge Christmas once the kids were grown and moved out.
New Year’s Eve was merely a reminder to change the calendar.
And Roy plotted. He memorized the helpful hints for carrying out a successful uxoricide (“killing one’s wife,” the page said). He drew and then, for security, burned little diagrams of the farm and where Enid might be standing to receive the coup de grâce (French for “the deathblow,” the page said) in varying ways.
At last, he had everything prepared to his satisfaction: the method, the best way to inform the authorities, the cheap burial — near her parents where there would be no room, later, for him. He had it all worked out to the minute.
But Roy’s plans died with him when he fell from the hayloft onto the tines of his harrow, folded upward for storage.
A more imaginative man might have considered and investigated the possibility that Enid’s pink-covered copy of Chaffinch’s Almanacs contained a page about mariticide: “killing one’s husband.” The first best date — this year — came on January 15, two days before the first best date for uxoricide.