This past fall Mike and I dropped off our youngest son for a overnight visit at the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse. On the way home we made a quick pit stop at the local AM/PM MiniMart. We both headed for the back of the store. By the time Mike was out of the men’s I was still waiting in the line for the ladies. He rolled his eyes as he passed me and the women and children in front of me. I shrugged.
A women with long, translucent blond hair, and a pink face pushed past our small line and tried to open the bathroom door. It was locked. She let out at loud sigh and turned around. Her red face deepened as she realized we were standing there ahead of her.
“You can budge ahead of me.” I said to her. “I don’t mind.” I was the last one in line.
She took her place between me and another woman who was busy chatting with the mom and her kids. The kids were holding their privates and teetering on tiptoe.
Finally, the door opened and old woman exited. An odor of rotten eggs followed her as she passed by all of us. The family squeezed their way into what had to be a small one-holer, holding their breath as if they were jumping into the deep end of a pool. Mike walked by me holding his nose. He asked if I wanted chips and diet coke. I nodded.
The blond woman shifted from one foot to the other and sucked wind between her teeth. “I don’t think I can stand it.” She said just above a whisper.
“Why don’t you check and see there is anyone is the men’s. I’m sure no one would mind.” I said.
“No, it’s not that.” The woman said facing me now. “It’s that I just came from my ex-husband’s house.”
“Oh, that can be hard.” I replied.
“He’s dead. I had to be the one to find him. Dead like that, just laying there” She said giggling. She wore large dark rimmed glasses that were teared stained and greasy. “Why would anyone laugh at a dead man? I’m pretty sure I’m traumatized.”
“I’m so sorry.” I looked down at my feet. Don’t make eye contact.
“He was face down, in a pool of blood. Or I guess it was blood. The big stain was dried all brown. His body was huge and bloated. Ugh, the smell.” She faced me now, she moved in closer. I looked around for Mike, he was in the next aisle and had a big smile on his face. I know he had to have been within earshot of our conversation. He had that look.
“We raise a boy together, but he’s away at college now. My ex was supposed to pay the tuition. Our son, left a message. I left one too. Then his work called me. He still had me as the emergency contact I guess. Can you imagine? After all these years still had me as his emergency contact. He must have had no one.”
“Hmm, I can’t imagine that.” I said.
“When I went to his house, the papers were piled up and the mail too. I went inside. Do you think I should have done that? You don’t think anyone will think I had something to do with it?”
I looked around the mart, pretending to have lost something. Mike, after hearing her last question, spun a quick 180 degrees on his heels and headed for the door. He waved at me.
The woman moved in close to me, to put her head on my shoulder. I had no option but to give her a hug. “Why would they think that?” I said as I watched my devoted husband make his way to the car. I patted the woman on her back and flipped him the bird.
“Oh, honey that must have been awful for you.” I said. “You just went in to check on him right?” I tried to back away from her, but she moved with me.
“Yes, that’s what I told the police. He had a heart condition and stomach condition. Maybe his stomach exploded. That would make all that blood right? But, where would that blood come from, his mouth?”
“I have no idea.” I didn’t even want to think about where exploding stomach blood would exit a body, but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be the mouth.
The woman and the kids finally got out of the bathroom. The other single woman in front of us stepped in. She gave the blond woman a good once over and shook her head at me.
The blond lady stepped a bit closer to the bathroon. I hung back. “I’m so worried. I don’t think the police believed me. They didn’t want me to leave. But, I just had to get out of there. You should have seen the way they were looking at me, like I was some sort of suspect.”
“Maybe you should step into the men’s room. Splash a little water on your face, freshen up and head back.”
“Ha! I don’t think so! They would just love that. I know what they’re thinking.” She walked over to the window and looked left and right. Finally, the other woman left the bathroom. She ignored us both as she passed by. The blond took one more look around outside before she entered the bathroom. She turned on the water full force and bayed like a bloodhound.
I went for the car. Mike was inside laughing.
“Were you just hugging a murderess?” He asked.
“I don’t know. Thanks, for leaving me hanging in there Sir Doucher. Her hair smelled like sweaty feet. I can’t get it out of my nose.”
Mike just kept on laughing. I hit him on the arm. “Super. I have my new motto. Have you hugged a murderer today?”