“Why is the clock wrong?”
He jabbed a finger against the dashboard clock. “It’s not eleven-thirty.”
Grace checked her watch. “It’s past noon.”
“No shit.” He slapped the wheel. “That’s why I asked you what’s up with the clock.”
“Why did you change it?”
“I didn’t change it,” she said.
“Well, it’s wrong, isn’t it?”
“I know it’s wrong. Hey. Watch the road.”
He spun the wheel and the brakes squealed as a Chevy raced past. He parked against the curb and pivoted in his seat, one elbow on the wheel, the other against the back of the seat. “Why did you change the clock?”
“I didn’t change it.”
“How many times have I told you not to mess with any settings in my car.”
“Our car.” As soon as the words slipped out, she rapped her fingertips against her dry lips.
“What did you say?” He puffed his chest like he was getting ready to explode.
“Nothing.” She held up surrendering hands. He insisted the car was his. He insisted she was totally incompetent concerning it. “Didn’t you just have the car serviced?”
“Regular checkup. Yeah.” He relaxed.
“Maybe they disconnected the clock when they checked the battery.”
“Maybe they shut it down and forgot to adjust it.”
“Maybe that’s what happened,” she insisted.
Grunting, he straightened behind the wheel and pulled away from the curb.
“Where are you going?” she asked when he took a sudden left, moving away from their house.
“I’m going to the station.”
“To check and see if they screwed up my clock.” He hunched over the wheel.
“I am calm.” He spun the wheel and squealed into the lot.
“Let me talk to them,” she said. “You’re too upset.”
“I am not upset.” He pulled into a vacant spot near the glass office door. The open service garage was to their right.
Taking a deep breath, Grace patted his arm and got out to enter the shop.
“Hi, Grace,” said the thin man who stood behind the high counter. “Stan just picked up his Dodge yesterday. There can’t be a problem already, is there?”
She shook her head and moved closer to the counter, glancing back to the door to see if Stan could see inside. “I just have a silly question,” she said. “The time is off on our dashboard clock. Stan just wonders if you guys shut it down while you were working on it.”
“I doubt that.” His face contorted like he was struggling to pass a stone. “Let me check, though.” He attacked his computer terminal, clattering the keys like a tambourine. “Nope,” he said. “Just checked the oil, tire pressure and topped off all the fluids. They didn’t check the battery.” He squinted as he leaned toward the window. “What’s up? Is Stan ragging on you again? I tell you, I don’t know why you put up with it.”
“No. No. It’s nothing.” She glanced toward the door again. “Please. Do me a favor. I know Stan’s going to come in here. Tell him you guys shut down the battery to check it. You forgot to reset the clock. That’s all. Okay?”
“Sure. I guess.” He glanced toward the door. “What’s going on?”
“Thanks, Bill.” She hurried out.
“Well?” he demanded when she opened the door.
“Just like I thought.” She told him the lie about the battery.
“Calm down, Stan. It’s not a big deal.”
He sputtered and coughed like a dying engine before getting out of the car.
“Where are you going?”
He stormed into the office and she watched his arms pinwheeling as he shouted at Bill, who said little as he glanced toward the door.
When Stan got back in the car, Grace pressed a button on the clock to reset it.
“Hands off,” he snapped. “I’ll fix it when we get home.”
She backed off. “Okay. Calm down.”
“I am calm.”
“I forgot,” she said. Everything about the car was his. Just as everything about their marriage was his.
There was only one way to end this torture. But maybe, just as he thought, she was incompetent when it came to cars. Hours ago, she had rigged the gas tank to explode. That’s when she must have messed up the clock.
Any time now it would all be over. For both of them. But she was still waiting.
Robert Petyo is a Derringer award nominee whose stories have appeared in small press magazines and anthologies, most recently in “EconoClash Review,” “Hardboiled,” “Suspense Unimagined,” “Transcendent,” “Serial Magazine,” “Classics Remixed,” and “COLP: Big.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook and Twitter at robertpetyo.
Copyright © 2020 Robert Petyo. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.