They opened the store with a going out of business sale. They were them, a man and woman, whatever. Maybe they were married to each other, maybe divorced, maybe it doesn't make a difference. We can assign them names, say, Bill and Sharon, but it wouldn't matter. It wouldn't matter to them, the man and woman, and it wouldn't matter to Bill and Sharon, whoever they are.
The man and woman had overheard someone talking at a bad luck bar that a Christmas store, selling ornaments and trees and lights, was a can't miss. Said you only had to work one month out of the year.
The man and woman, they had opened other stores and watched them go out of business before, a laundromat, a delicatessen, a haberdashery.
Last year it was a puppy mill. But then sometime around the holidays the puppies all died, probably of distemper. That sort of thing changes most people, and Bill and Sharon, if those are their names, are no exception.
On the other side of town from the store, in a modest house, Sharon sits on a love seat. There is no one sitting next to her. There is no room for anyone to sit next to her, as the love seat can only accommodate one at a time. In fact, it is not a love seat at all, but this is what she calls it. She has her legs folded beneath her. She is comfortable. She is not reading or watching television. She is not knitting or listening to music. Perhaps later she will go for a walk around the block.
She should be at the store right now, taking care of the register or helping customers, but she isn't. She's in the love seat.
Her husband is down on Division hawking trees and tinsel. His name might be Bill and he might be her ex-husband by now. They have been married and divorced to each other several times over.
Bill will be there all day and most of the night. He will wonder where his wife is, if she still is his wife. He will most likely come home at midnight, drunk from the flask of Four Roses he fills each morning and drains throughout the day. He will crawl into bed, probably next to Sharon, who sometimes will fall asleep in the love seat so sometimes he has the bed to himself, which he enjoys, and he will pass out and then wake at 4:30 to go back to Division Street.
At the store, the man is hanging tinsel around a door frame. His right hand is battered and bloody. It looks as though he were in a street fight, but there's no way of knowing if this, in fact, is the case. It's possible he put his fist through a wall during a conversation with Sharon. It might've had something to do with the puppies from last year and who was responsible for what happened.
It is five days before Christmas and the business is going well. On December 26th they will burn the building down. Then they will flee, probably to British Columbia. This is the plan they have in place, though it is subject to change because Sharon hasn't been at the store in days. She hasn't been in the bed when Bill has crawled into it the last few nights. It is possible she has left him or will leave him. It's also possible she's dead. Bill hasn't heard from her. He doesn't know if the plan is still in place or if he is the only one going through with it.
The woman named Sharon, who is probably still alive, is thinking about leaving her husband and filing for divorce. She has talked it over with some friends, the ins and outs, the implications and consequences. It's unclear if she will ever make up her mind. She is the kind of woman who can consider something for years and never make a decision. The love seat is a perfect example. She has wanted to either reupholster the love seat or get a new one for five years. She's discussed both options with her husband, Bill, who is indifferent. He has told her to do whatever she wants with the love seat. This is one small example of why she might leave him someday.
She is not one for violence, so she's never considered stabbing her husband while he sleeps. She's never considered drugging him and then smothering him with a pillow, either.
This is one reason she hasn't slept next to him in days. Last week she hid a butcher knife in the nightstand drawer on her side of the bed. She had no real intention of using it on her husband, but wanted it there in case she changed her mind.
It's possible she took it out of the drawer in the middle of the night and brandished it like she's seen in the movies. It's possible she leaned over her husband with the knife in her hand and wondered what kind of sound it would make. It's possible she decided it would depend on what part of his body she'd plunge it into.
The man is down on Division, hawking trees.
The man doesn't know where the woman is, either his wife or his ex-wife, Sharon. He is hanging tinsel and she is somewhere else. She is supposed to be here helping him. She is supposed to be watching the register, helping customers. There are only five or six people wandering around the store and now the man has to be available to answer questions and cover the register while hanging tinsel at the same time.
It is too much for one man to do, any man, but especially Bill, because just look at him.
The woman is not at home sitting on a love seat. She does not have her legs folded beneath her. She is not comfortable.
They do not own a love seat. They considered buying one once, but decided they couldn't afford it. They decided they couldn't see themselves sitting in a love seat.
It is currently snowing in British Columbia. It has been snowing for three hours and will continue for another six. By the time it stops snowing there will be nearly a foot on the ground.
It's possible this is where the woman is. It's possible she is there by herself, but it's just as possible she is there with another man, whose name doesn't matter, but if it does we should call him Alberto.
It's possible they are sharing a woodpecker pie, which is a recipe that has been in Alberto's family for generations. You can use real woodpecker meat, but you don't have to. The Alberto family makes it every year for Christmas.
The man is hanging tinsel in the store and talking to customers. He tells them he opened the store with his wife but that he is a widower now. It's possible he is telling the truth. When he talks to customers he calls her Lorraine, but he means Sharon. And she might be anywhere in the world, with anyone, doing anything at all. ♦
Robert Lopez is the author of four books, including Good People, a collection of short fiction to be published by Bellevue Literary Press in January 2016.