Self Defense by Julie Benesh

The Artist Ponders by George Stein

It was February and the snow squeaked beneath my shoes.

My husband was refusing to pick me up after my evening shift at the job he insisted I take, to supplement the one I already had, so I could pay my “fair” half of the bills, be responsible, grow up. I imagined him two ways: one, sitting at his computer, conflicted, guilty, obsessed and resenting me for putting him in that position; the other, sleeping or engrossed in TV, having blissfully forgotten I even existed.

Projection: I was one half detached, a pious nun setting one numb foot in front of the other counting down the 1.6 miles, the 30 minutes, the minus 15 wind chill; the other swirling in fevered unbeloved panic. Besides my husband, my cats, my warm home and everything in it were waiting for me, but it was all fraught and contaminated.

Perhaps the cold would at least keep any muggers or rapists away?

I’d always liked to read true crime, still do. Serial killers, sure, but especially domestic crime, crime between supposed loved ones. Not for the physical gore of it. Partly for the Schadenfreude of it. But more like a mystery, but not a whodunit. No, the suspense of seeking the precise moment when they went from jointly happy and cute to separately murderer and murderee.

That seemed the inevitable endgame of my own psychic trajectory, nothing but trouble, any happiness I had ever felt a mirage born of a need for compensation.

So I killed her, my ego, that night, the first time. It was her or me. I would to do it again—I did do it again, and I will do it again, as many times as necessary.

Julie Benesh’s writing has been published in Tin House Magazine, Bestial Noise: The Tin House Fiction Reader, Crab Orchard Review, Florida Review, Gulf Stream, Berkeley Fiction Review, and other places. She has received an Illinois Arts Council Grant, earned an MFA in fiction from Warren Wilson College, lives in Chicago and is a professor and program director at a school of professional psychology.

George L Stein is a photographer in the New Jersey/NYC area focused on art, street, urban decay, surreal, and alt/portrait photography. He has previously been published in a number of literary magazines such as Beyond Words, Juste Milleiuzine, and NUNUM.

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