There are times in a person’s life when everything just gets turned upside down. It happens to all of us at one time or another. It’s those mysterious valleys that wind us up tighter than an eight-dollar clock. In my experience, when things get bad it all comes down to two kinds of people; folks that breeze right through tryin’ times and those that don’t. You won’t know which kind of person you are until tryin’ times cross your path, just like how they barreled down mine at break neck speed a few years back.
I had a pretty normal family, just the same as most people. Dysfunctional as it was, it was still pretty typical. I was your all American lower-class Joe Schmoe; wife, kids and dogs. We thought things were going fairly well all things considered. Failure and youthful ignorance had not killed us off yet and I’ll be damned what don’t kill ya eventually makes you stubborn. That’s my philosophy anyway.
Life as an engineer was never as glamorous as those Discovery Channel documentaries made it out to be. I dunno, maybe it was if you worked on the Brooklyn Bridge, but for the guy designing farm equipment, it was as far from luxury as I had ever known. The pay was lousy and the hours far too early and much too late. Oftentimes my measly paycheck was a slap in the face. A real insult. My four kids learned to eat a lot of top ramen noodles and by god like it. Eventually I couldn’t keep the little boogers out of them. Morning noon and night I could hear the slurping sounds of noodles coming from somewhere nearby the microwave. The kids tried to make the noodles better by adding ingredients to the spiced up water broth, everything from cinnamon to cabbage. I think my son may have invented a new flavor at some point.
We had some rules in our house. Not too many but the ones we did have, we were adamant about. One of our rules was that we only bought clothes for the boy and our oldest girl, the other two rarely got anything new. Even then they all had to take turns. Most of the time we relied on hand me downs. If it didn’t fit, well there aint much a little needle and thread won’t fix.
The other and most important rule was that it was unacceptable for any of us to bring home someone that was pure trouble. We might not be the Cleavers but we didn’t need any more chaos than we created ourselves. The wife and I didn’t like it and we wouldn’t tolerate it. I myself came up with that rule after the boy my son hung around with had spent the night and convinced him to egg the neighbor’s house. Plus, I had reached my allowable limit on ratting on this kid to his mamma every time he stole something of mine, broke something or whatever it happened to be he was doing at the time. Anyhow I created that rule and I am also the very one that broke it. If I had not broken the most important rule in our home I just might have missed Virginia’s arrival.
There was nothing particularly different about that day. Only thing that had changed in our usual couch surfing Saturday was that our couch was riding the waves without us. We had decided our house needed a new roof and were doing the work ourselves to save money. Being the natural supervisor I am, I did what any other good boss would do… I got on the horn and enlisted people I knew.
First call I made was to Dave and Jen. I wasn’t too keen on them but Dave is taller than me and plenty strong to help out. Besides he still owes me one for letting him use my garage to work on his shitmobile. The wife wasn’t too happy they were bringing their 3 little terrors with them but hell, labor aint cheap. Second call I made was to my brother in law. He was a shoo-in for a case of ice-cold Coors.
It was hot that day. Bright as hell and downright smothering. You could smell Dave’s pits all the way on the other side of the roof. His fat ass was huffing and puffing before we had twenty shingles lifted off. I spent the day trying to stay upwind of him. My brother in law wasn’t any better as far as help goes. Only thing he was good for was restocking the beer and making us laugh with his wise ass remarks about Dave’s crack-attack as he called it. I wouldn’t have let that big oaf mess around with my tools anyway.
It was about 2 O’clock in the afternoon when my wife brought me a glass of ice water. I didn’t ask her to bring me anything to drink. If I had she would have told me to kiss her ass (which I would of course say yes to) and to get it myself, she also refused to be my love slave, as she put it. Whenever I wanted something I had to get it myself or wait ’til she was good and ready for me to have it. That woman drove me nuts and just plain infuriated me. But the moment I saw her my heart went up in my throat and my eyes bulged. She set me ablaze and got me all fired up. I always used to ask her why such a perty girl like her married an ugly little troll like me. I ain’t gonna argue with her about it though.
Only reason I got water on that day was cause she wanted an excuse to get away from Jen.
She says to me, “Good God if she says another word about her mother I’m going to fucking scream!”
That was my wife… ol’ Popeye mouth. Made her sound as mean as a cat in heat. She had a tough edge to her but if you were in her good graces she’d bend over backwards for ya. I gulped my water down, grabbed her by the waist and planted a wet, sweaty kiss on her perty little lips. “That bad huh?”
She pulled away, acting snotty and prudish as she gave me a good solid thump on the chest and told me to stop it. That was foreplay for us. She had the hots for a nice hard chest and when she was really feeling frisky she’d pound on mine. I walked around all the time with a hard on because of that woman. My therapist said she sexually frustrated me. She’s the ultimate tease.
I smacked her ass and told her she’d have me all to herself soon enough. She rolled her eyes and went back inside the depths of hell.
It wasn’t probably any more than twenty minutes or so before Jen came outside with a cigarette dangling from her lips. Jen was amazingly very much like my wife.
The Mrs. was tall but Jen was taller. They had the same long shiny hair, the same facial features and figures. Even their personalities were a lot alike. They both were probably merchant marines in a former life. Jen made me hot too. But once she started talking all my fantasies went south for the winter. Now see, that was one way her and my wife were different. Although my wife could out swear the guys down at the local Harley shop; you put her in a social situation and she became a completely different person. She was eloquent and soft. She was downright bewitching is what she was and she knew it. She was perhaps the most beautiful politician I’d ever seen. I still don’t know why she gave up a career as a lawyer to marry me. That woman had class.
Jen took a drag off of her smoke and blew it out of the corner of her mouth. She spent the next five minutes in a coughing fit. When she could breathe again, she hollered up at me. “You need to tell your wife to chill. She’s all pissed off about something.”
Then she looked over at Dave, “Hey I need you to go whoop your son’s ass. He just kicked their dog again.”
Dave groaned, but pussy whipped as he was, he set down his tools and climbed off the roof. He looked around the rooftops across the neighborhood. “David Lee kicked the dog? Damn it Jen, you know that’s why she’s pissed off.”
“Yea I know. I didn’t see him do it and besides the dog bit him again too. But seriously dude, she’s doing that thing again where she makes the house all cold. Need a fucking sweater in there. Tina Marie’s lips are already blue.” She finished off her cigarette and went back inside.
As Dave went inside mumbling I tell ya, what I heard right then sent chills crawling up and down my spine. A long, low screaming sound shrieked from one side of me to the other. It was so low that it almost sounded like the wind whistling through the trees. Hair on my head stood straight on end. Virginia was back.
Let me tell you about Virginia. Once in a while she would inhabit my wife’s body. Moved in pretty as you please. Whenever she showed up, shit happened that we never talk about. You could never be sure what kind of mood she’d be in when she came around. Sometimes she’d be horny; I liked her when she was like that. Sometimes she’d be pouty and boring. Other times she was the path of destruction herself. She had always had a southern draw we couldn’t place, sounded vaguely like Tennessee.
There were thirty-seven different visitors that took up room and board in my wife’s body. But there was one difference between them and Virginia. Virginia had a spirit guide. That was what we called it anyway. This guide came in the form of our female border collie named Boston. If you fucked with my wife, you were fucking with the dog. If you fucked with the dog, you were fucking with Virginia. It was a very weird triangle and it could be vicious at times. And what that kid did, was fuck with the dog…again. Virginia never liked Dave and Jen and even less their kids. She hated David Lee, their oldest son. The last time David Lee kicked Boston; he had met Virginia up close and personal. You would think that the kid would knock it off.
Standing up there on the roof that long solemn howl traveled around the block and back again. I dropped my hammer and slid most of the way down the ladder. Just as I got to the front door I heard Jen scream. Oh it was on all right! My wife sat ram rod straight in a kitchen chair mumbling to herself; her eyes had rolled back and what you could see, looked like two crystal clear gaping holes right through her head. The dog had a hold of the boy and was making lunch meat out of him. Blood and dog spit were flying in every direction. The dog must have killed him already because he wasn’t screaming or struggling. Hell he was like a limp rag in the dogs’ mouth.
I tried all the damned commands my wife taught that stupid beast but she had never listened to me before. Not from the day we brought her home. That dog only listened to my wife; and her 37 friends. I finally figured I was going to have to jump in and stop this. When I looked over at Dave I thought he was thinking the same thing because he had jumped on top of the dog and was pinning her down with his weight. That must have been horrendous. Next thing I know he’s got his pocket knife in his hand and stabs the dog in the top of the head several times. When the dog let go and dropped dead my wife screamed in a pitch so high it made my ears bleed. Virginia disappeared and left my wife in terrible shape. She was off mentally. She stopped walking and took to shuffling. She pretty much seemed incoherent.
I was too terrified to call the cops because I didn’t want them seeing my wife that way and then end up arresting us for murder. I had children to worry about. I threatened the kids not to say a word and kept them indoors. Good thing school was out for the summer. I managed to convince Dave and Jen to stay with me for a while, for moral support. They were homeless, living with Jen’s mother and already on the lam from the law. They didn’t think I knew about their arrest warrants in Oregon until I told them so. They saw things my way and moved into the living room.
Over the next three days my wife became somewhat coherent again. Strange thing was, she was only coherent about that dog. I buried the stupid animal twelve times during those three days. She kept digging her up and I would find both of them in the back part of the house, which was my wife’s office. I had designed it and built it for her. She loved ancient history and torture devices so I created a combination library, office dungeon. She even had a garden with grow lights in there. Took me a year of Sundays to save up enough money to build it for her.
The garden served her well in supplying her with herbs for her rituals and spells.
So anyway, I’d wander back there and she’d be in there meditating with the dog lying on the floor in front of her. Only thing I could ever audibly hear in her chanting was “37” she repeated it over and over.
Although it was mid July, the temperature in our house stayed at an all time high of 37 degrees. It never went up or down. I tried turning on the heater but it didn’t make any difference. Moans and shrieks would rip through the night and yank you right up out of your sleep. Things fell off the shelves and came up missing. All this bullshit usually meant Virginia was having a temper tantrum but this time we weren’t sure if Virginia was there or not. The air tasted bad and the wind didn’t rustle right. We were all on edge and deathly afraid it was Virginia.
At any given time you might see flashes of light or dark swirling clouds inside our house while the rest of the world was bright and cheery. It seemed to move with my wife and I know now that it consumed her, whatever it was. The last time I found my wife in her office with the dog was when I knew that not only was Virginia inside my wife, but that she was my wife.
I peeked in the doorway and saw her sitting on the floor. There was nothing out of the ordinary in that so I walked in and stood a little ways behind her. When I looked down at her feet she had taken 37, foot long, steel hooks and pierced them into the dogs spine. At first it struck me funny how the dog looked like a stuffed coat rack, but my senses returned to me and it scared the hell out of me. Virginia had decorated the dog with strange looking weeds and was singing the hair off of its body in places. It sounded something like I imagined a hurricane would sound, windy and roaring as she chanted over and over. All I could make out was 37….37 even though my wife’s mouth moved like it was saying a whole lot more. She rocked forward, bending almost all the way over the dog and then backwards so that her head almost touched the floor. Shit was flying all over the room. I quickly realized it might not have been a good thing to add all those little knife blades to the décor of the room. They were whizzing by my head real fast and I found myself dodging books, pencils, pictures and basically anything that wasn’t tied down. She must have burned some of the flesh on that dog because the smell was strong enough to gag a bull.
I tried to sit down next to her to soothe her but there was some sort of invisible barrier that kept me from touching her. I would reach out my hand towards her and it would come back smoking. Now that will scare anybody. I thought about just running away and leaving her there but I figured everybody in town already knew she was my wife so what good would that do me. I crawled around Virginia and the dog in a large circle, every so often sticking my hand out to see if I could get closer and every time pulling it back with black smoke coming out of it. When I finally realized there was nothing I could do, I plopped down opposite her as close as I could get and watched. She didn’t seem to mind if I watched.
She began stretching her hands out over the dog, petting her lovingly and then commanding only God knows what in another language that the dog rise. At least that’s what it looked like she was doing but all I heard was 37. The dog didn’t rise. It continued to lay there with steel hooks in it’s back. She demanded louder and stronger but the dog didn’t even twitch.
I saw something move out of the corner of my eye and when I looked that way Dave was coming near me. I shook my head and motioned for him not to come in but he just barged in and yelled, “Hey man, I found this bible in your kid’s room. After what I saw through the crack in the door I think you might need it. This is some fucking poltergeist shit. Your wife’s fucking possessed and she made your dog kill my son. You gotta kill the fucking demon.” He threw the bible towards me but it never made it. It went right through that invisible barrier and thumped down on the floor next to the dog. The room went deadly silent. It was colder than a monkey’s ass and my wife; I mean Virginia, was glaring at me from the tops of her eyes.
She whispered something to me that sounded more like an old owl screeching and as I watched in fascinated terror the bible began to smoke. It poured black ashes all over the room coating us all in it. Virginia shrieked in laughter and I actually saw her step out of my wife’s body.
There’s no other way to describe it, except to say she simply melted out of her. That’s what it looked like. My wife, though, remained just the way she was when Virginia was inside her glaring at me. Virginia hovered in the air in front of me and pointed her finger at my wife. “You can not make me leave. She is mine. She gave herself to me and no one, not even her, can change that now.” Then she turned toward Dave who looked like he couldn’t move his own legs and said in that same hissing voice, “Without that dog she has no soul. Your rotten fucking child killed the dog and took her soul. He’s paid his price and as soon as the dog breathes again so will you.”
I know my mouth was hanging open wider than an airplane hanger but I think the look on Dave’s face was worth seeing more than the fright I felt. He had turned completely white and didn’t move a muscle. I whispered to him, “Dave…dude! You alright? DAVE!” he wouldn’t answer and when I looked back to Virginia that damned dog surprised us all. She suddenly jumped up, steel hooks and all, and lunged for Virginia. She opened her mouth bigger than I ever thought it was, showing all teeth and swallowed Virginia whole.
I don’t know if it surprised me, or the dog more when Virginia bellowed from inside. Probably the dog, because she tore out of the room, out of the house and right into the path of an oncoming truck. She was killed, (again) instantly.
Suddenly the temperature in the room went back to normal. And the heater kicked on. But my wife was still sitting there glaring at me. She started whispering and looking around, “Virginia…can you come out and play?” she’s been whispering that ever since from room #37 on the 37th floor of the psych ward at Helmsville Hospital; located at 37 Boston way.
Me, I’ve moved on. I never could understand what 37 meant and I know now that when we met Virginia and realized she was the 37th person in my wife’s body we called her #37 simply because at that time we didn’t know her name. I think my wife loved Virginia and Virginia loved her.