Introduction: Julie Showalter’s Unpublished Writing
Julie Showalter was the fiercely intelligent, sexy, and loving woman with whom I had a outrageously wonderful marriage that ended with her death in late 1999 from cancer diagnosed the week of our wedding nearly 20 years earlier. She was also a brilliant scholar, the mother of our two sons, and a prize-winning author. Many posts on this blog are about her and still others consist of her writings. Julie’s Story is the account of our unlikely romance, Information can be found at Julie Showalter FAQ.
Julie’s Unpublished Writing comprises a group of pieces I’ve found on Julie’s computer or in her office that range from workshop exercises to story fragments to projects set aside to finish at a later day to work that appears, at least to me, to be fully as polished and effective as her published stories.
Evil is the latest addition to Julie’s Unpublished Writing. It is based on an actual incident from Julie’s second marriage. It was originally posted Jan 1, 2007 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of AllanShowalter.com.
by Julie Showalter
Here’s the premise. A young woman marries a man who is a jerk, stays with him for 6 years, then leaves. If you read this as a story, you will want the man to be more than a jerk. You will want him two dimensional, you will want a way to sympathize with him. You will not be happy with this story, because, finally, he is not a man with whom you can sympathize.
Evil is not a word we are comfortable applying to people these days. Maybe terrorists who blow up airplanes or buildings. Or a man who enters a school in Scotland and kills a classroom of first graders. Sometimes, for such men, we say “evil.”
But the man in this story isn’t evil in that way. He never killed a person, but he wished many people dead. People who smoked. People who got in his way. People who disappointed him. Mean spirited. Emotionally controlling. Narcissistic personality disorder. A jerk, as I said.
If I do this well, I will show you why the young woman was attracted to him, why she stayed with him so long. I do not think I can make you like him, even a little. You may not like her either.
She was a sweet dog, a full-grown Dalmatian, when he brought her home the second summer we were together. She was supposed to be a present to me, a consolation prize for losing my daughter.
I hadn’t asked for a dog, didn’t really want one. I had spent all of my life before marrying him on a farm, and I enjoyed the freedom of not having to worry about animals – their schedules, their needs. Life was cleaner without animals around, and I took pleasure in floors without manure tracked across them.
I had lost my daughter because I exchanged my first husband, a farmer, for this one, a scholar. I knew the community where my first husband and I had lived our entire lives would judge me for this. I did not know that their judgment would be that I forfeit my daughter. I also lost my family, my friends, my home. I had entered into an affair with this man knowing all that was possible. I did not know it was possible that I would lose my daughter.
This man – I might as well name him now – Robert and I were entering our second year together when he brought home the dog. I took her in. I fed her. I moved her crap from the part of the yard where we walked to the part where we didn’t. I suppose the dog kept me busy and I suppose I loved her, but it has been my experience that cleaning up after animals does not lighten one’s load, does not cause the broken heart to soar.
Robert didn’t know the dog was deaf when he bought her, and for a while he felt cheated. But we discovered was that her deafness had made her exceptionally responsive. She was a sleek, beautiful, blue-eyed animal who watched us, waiting for praise, food, a command. In many ways she was a perfect pet.
Except for the barking. She had peed on the carpet one night so Robert made a bed for her outside. If something woke her, she barked tonelessly, endlessly. The only way to stop her was to get out of bed, go outside, and calm her. At first Robert took his turns, but after a time he could sleep through the barking. I lay awake waiting for the barking to start, afraid that my drifting off was what triggered her unhappiness. When I slept, I dreamed of her alone, needing me, barking, waking gradually to realize the barking wasn’t a dream. Through the summer, into the early fall, I was up every night. I kept shoes and a sweater next to my bed.
It was like having a baby except I didn’t have a baby.
One day a neighbor complained. She was apologetic, but the dog was waking her children.
When she left, I put my head in my arms and I cried, first tears of fatigue and embarrassment, then great hysterical gasps of grief. “We have to do something,” I said. “This can’t go on.”
You say words and you can’t take them back. You can’t stop what you’ve started. “I’m leaving you for another man,” I told my first husband. “We have to do something.” I told Robert.
The next day he killed the dog.