Joseph Pinto ’19
The greatest day of my life occurred on April 17, the day I dueled seven hundred German cockroaches at the Stewart household and then went to see my daughter Dahlia’s second-grade play. They performed a version of Romeo and Juliet that was dumbed down for second graders, but if you ask me the play could hardly be called Romeo and Juliet given that Romeo and Juliet sailed away together happily in the end as the Capulets and Montagues waved while hugging each other.
I understand that death and tragedy can be difficult for second graders, but they didn’t omit the scene where Romeo and Juliet sleep together for the first time, so I’m not sure what was going through the mind of Mr. Gabbiadini, the music teacher who moonlights as a play director. Dahlia played Juliet’s Nurse, and man, did she do a great job. Heather recorded it, but halfway through the play, a really tall guy sat in front of her, so the second half of the recording is slightly tilted to avoid the back of his head. Sometimes when we watch the recording we like to count how many times his head bobs into the frame.
Heather and I got married after three years of engagement. We had been dating for six years before I proposed and had known each other for two years prior to dating. Altogether, Heather had been in my life eleven years before we finally agreed to spend the rest of our lives together. I’m not sure what took us so long to finally seal the deal, but I imagine it was due in part to the wild phase I went through in my early twenties. I turned 43 seven months ago, and to celebrate Heather thought it would be fun to poke through the photos we had taken during our early twenties. Many of them depicted us at parties, getting hammered. I guess we had forgotten the exact contents of the album because we had Dahlia and our younger daughter Isabelle look at them with us. For weeks after, they were trying to replicate the stunts shown in the pictures. The climax occurred when Dahlia tried to drink a gallon of milk through a tube and funnel while doing a handstand. Normally I would have found this hilarious, but she was trying it on the antique rug in the family room. The rug is the only fancy thing Heather and I own. My job at Pests Be Gone! doesn’t pay much, so we don’t spend much on nonessential things, but every now and again Heather wants something pretty, so we splurge a bit. It only amounts to a week or two of overtime to cover the expense, so I don’t mind. Anyway, Dahlia tried to do this stunt from the picture and spilled milk all over the rug. She ruined the rug and also almost killed herself because she started choking on the milk, and then fell out of the handstand, smacking her leg on the table and twisting her neck in a weird way. She went to the hospital for a week and a half and had to keep her spine perfectly straight the whole time. The doctors all thought I must have been beating her because of all the bruises she had, but if anyone was beating Dahlia it would have been Heather because she loved that rug. We had to get rid of it because no matter how many home remedies we tried, we couldn’t get that horrid milk smell out. Heather cried for a month. She’s only just starting to get over the rug and has even suggested we buy another one. I suggested we enjoy the hardwood floors instead, and Heather told me to go to hell and stormed out of the house. I guess despite our long history, I still don’t really get her.
I feel down about my relationship with Heather a lot, but whenever I do I just think of April 17. The first half is the part I really love. I fought valiantly against those cockroaches. They fit the German stereotype perfectly in their brilliant tactics and discipline. The final battle occurred after weeks of gathering intel. I learned where they hid, how great their forces were, and even where they fed. I’d been leaving bait traps around the Stewarts’ house, with some degree of success, but couldn’t quench them all. On the day of the battle, I entered the house in a fumigation suit, prepared to kill every last one. Pests Be Gone! doesn’t get to go into battle often, so everyone from the office came out to watch me, including my boss Jessica Klapper. Jessica is a pretty cool lady, except sometimes she can be really annoying. She spends a lot of time pushing her feminist agenda, but it doesn’t seem to me as “feminist” as she claims. Jessica is all about female superiority, to the point where she thinks men must suffer for women to be equal. I’m not saying she’s wrong, and I haven’t really thought about it much, but Heather has always hated her. Heather thinks Jessica gives all feminists a bad name. Heather thinks the best way for women to be equal is to not make a big fuss about being equal and focus instead on maintaining a proper household and marriage. Heather always tells me that women who want men to suffer just don’t have much success in attracting a man, so try to demean them. I still don’t know how I feel about it all, but I do know that I can never bring Heather to my office parties anymore. During the first holiday party when I brought Heather, she and Jessica got in a big fight. Jessica accused Heather of hurting women’s chances at equality, to which Heather responded that Jessica was demeaning what it meant to be a woman. They continued to hurl accusations at one another … it was a long night that seemed to never end. Afterwards, the only thing I knew was to keep them apart.
Once I’d entered the Stewart house, I made my move toward the roach nests with the fumigator. We use the Fumeral™, which is the most effective type of fumigator, able to spew 5,000 ppm of pyrethrin per minute. The first nest was under the sink in the master bath. I went into the bathroom and started spraying the pesticides into the air. Call me crazy, but I thought I could hear the squeals of the cockroaches as they suffocated. I continued to move around the house spraying the chemicals when I suddenly heard a “meow.” I turned around in search of the noise and found the source. The Stewart’s cat had not made it out and was being exposed to pesticides. I panicked. I couldn’t kill an innocent animal. All creatures deserve to be treated with care—and I was not a cat-killer! I dropped the Fumeral™ and ran to the cat. He got scared and darted away from my grasp, but I kept following him. After two minutes, the cat started to slow down as the chemicals were getting to him. I cursed the creature because the inside of my suit had gotten all foggy from chasing him. I could barely see the bloody cat until I finally had him in my arms. I quickly carried him outside, where Jessica and the rest of my office were waiting. I must have looked like a hero walking out of the house with that cat. Jessica seemed mildly impressed. I handed her the cat and walked back in to finish the job. About a week later, Jessica started acting oddly toward me. Usually, she was normal, but she started paying more attention to what I was doing. She asked me once what I’d made myself for lunch, and I said that Heather had made for me a peanut butter and fluff sandwich. Jessica then asked why I didn’t make my own lunch, and I said I didn’t know. It didn’t seem like much, but it wasn’t like Jessica to ask about such details of other people’s lives. Something was weird, but I wasn’t sure what.
I learned what Jessica was up to a few weeks later. One night, she let everyone else go home on time but made me stay late to reorganize the file cabinets that held all of our account information. I was pretty annoyed, but I didn’t say anything. Jessica doesn’t like when people under her speak up to her. She could tell I was annoyed, though, so she offered to stay and keep me company. I said she didn’t need to, but she insisted, so I went along. After a couple of hours of work, things started to get really weird. Jessica dimmed the lights in the room and lit a few candles. She justified the candles by saying the room smelled funky. Then she opened her desk and took out a bottle of wine and two glasses. I was confused, but she said it would help us both to deal with all the pain of organizing. I took a break from my work to have a glass with her. We started talking, and the conversation became pretty interesting. Jessica told me about how she got into the extermination business and about Ramiro, her boyfriend from college. I felt like we were getting really well acquainted when the office phone rang. I figured it might be Heather, wondering where I was, but before I could say anything, Jessica went over to it and sent the call to voicemail. It was then I realized what Jessica really wanted. She gave me a carnal look that I had never seen before and seemed to glide over to me. I backed up toward the wall, but there was nothing I could do. She ripped off my shirt and then my pants, and pretty soon things got all sweaty and passionate. It all happened so fast, I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t want to be unfaithful to Heather, but I had no power. After all, Jessica was my boss. If I said anything, she could have fired me.
When I finally got home that night I couldn’t stop quivering. Heather and the kids were already in bed, and the place was dark. I grabbed a bottle of scotch from the living room mantle and poured myself a glass. My hand shook as I brought it up to my mouth. I drank the first glass and quickly poured another. By the fourth glass, my vision was blurred. The shaking had stopped, and I felt very warm. I managed to get to the bedroom, but then I tripped on my feet and crashed to the floor. Heather woke at the noise and was alarmed. She peered at me over the edge of the bed and asked me if I’d been drinking. I was really drunk, so from my position on the floor I slurred what I hope sounded like, “Yup.” Heather shook her head and told me to go sleep on the couch.
The next morning, I had a terrible headache. I turned over to Heather but then remembered I was on the couch. I fell off and thumped onto the floor. I groaned as I looked at the clock on the wall and saw that it was well past eleven. I swore and then got up. The rush of blood to my head made me feel nauseous, but I fought through it and went to the kitchen. Heather was there, reading a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. I went straight for the glasses to get some water. Heather didn’t look up from her book. A silence fell over the kitchen, interrupted only by turning pages and gulps of water moving down my throat. “Should we talk about last night,” asked Heather, to which I did not reply immediately. My hand began shaking again, and beads of sweat dribbled down my back.
“Heather, I can expl—”
“Devon, why were you so late last night?” I felt an impending sense of doom. She already sensed what had happened. I had no choice. I had to tell her.
“Jessica was there, and she made me organize these files, and then she took out a bottle of wine, and then, I don’t know what happened, things just got… out of control.” I knew my story sounded pathetic. I told Heather that I cheated on her because my boss made me. It was weak. I could tell Heather thought so too, but she didn’t say so. In fact, she didn’t say anything at all. She gently closed her book and looked off into space. I didn’t know what to say. After what seemed like an eternity, I sputtered, “It only happened once, I swear, and it won’t happen again.” Heather slowly turned to me. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. More than anything, she looked sad. She didn’t seem particularly angry, just sad.
“I need some time to think,” she said finally, and then she walked out of the kitchen. I heard the front door open and slam shut. I sighed, and then remembered that I still had to go to work. I quickly got ready and left the house.
Jessica was waiting by my desk when I got there. “Devon,” she said, “please come see me in my office.” I put my bag on the chair and followed her into her office. I closed the door behind me as I entered, and was instantly pushed up against the door. She started kissing me, and while at first, I resisted, the closeness felt good. She kissed me all over, in a way I knew Heather would not be kissing me for a long time, if ever again. Pretty soon, the passion from the night before returned, and once again I was powerless—but unlike last night, I was not as scared by my powerlessness.
When I got home that night, Heather was waiting for me in the kitchen. The kids were in their room, so we had time to talk. “Heather, I need to tell you something else. When I got to work, Jessica called me to her office, and…”
“Please stop,” said Heather. I could see a tear forming in her eye. It rolled down her cheek, and more began to form. Before long, she was sobbing. “You have no idea what you’re doing to me! What am I supposed to do?!” I was about to apologize again, but Isabelle came running out from her room.
“Mama, can you help me with this problem? Mrs. Jones was teaching subtracting today but I don’t get it!”
“Sure sweetie, come sit here.” Heather then looked at me and said, “We’ll talk later.” I was a bit stunned that Heather had pushed off our talk to help Isabelle with some math, but thinking back on it now, I’m not altogether surprised. Heather always had her priorities straight: kids first. I left them in the kitchen and went to the bedroom to collect my thoughts.
The next day was Saturday, so I didn’t have to go into work. Heather and I never had the conversation we said we would continue, but I knew something was going on. When I woke up Saturday morning, she wasn’t in the bed next to me, nor was she sleeping on the couch. The car was missing, however. She returned a couple hours later, and when I asked where she had been she said nowhere. I shrugged it off and continued with my day. The rest of the weekend, we didn’t really talk. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t think anything I could say would help, so I decided to let Heather make the first move.
That Monday, I walked into my office prepared to tell off Jessica, but when I got there she was nowhere in sight. Her office was empty. I asked a coworker where she was, and he told me she went to talk to Mr. Bourgearx. I wondered why. About an hour later, however, I got my answer. I received an email summoning me to Mr. Bourgearx’s office, so I hurried over. When I entered his office, he was sitting behind his desk while Jessica and a guy I had never seen before sat in front of the desk. Motioning to an open chair in front of the desk, Mr. Bourgearx said, “Have a seat, Devon.” I sat down slowly, trying to discern the situation. “Ms. Klapper has been telling me about your recent behavior.” I looked at Jessica, flabbergasted. What could she possibly have told him? She was the one that had made the moves on me! Jessica did not make eye contact with me, and her face was stern. “This type of harassment is not tolerated at Pests Be Gone! We pride ourselves on our excellent customer service, but we can’t do that when our employees attack their coworkers! And you even went so far as to have your wife threaten Jessica. Absolutely unacceptable behavior, Devon.”
I then realized the reason for Heather’s disappearance. I didn’t know what to say. What could I say? Jessica had me trapped. She and her lawyer—the other guy in the room with us—had convinced Mr. Bourgearx that I had assaulted her. Twice! I could imagine the threats Heather had thrown at Jessica and the way Jessica could use those to bolster her case. I listened as Mr. Bourgearx decimated my character and banished me from the establishment. I sat in silence, dumbfounded, as he told me to pack up my things and never return. I drove home with a box of my belongings, still in disbelief that the only job I had ever had, the job that gifted me the best day of my life, was now gone. Never again would I have another April 17. My life was falling to pieces before my eyes.
I reentered reality as soon as I entered the garage. This was all Heather’s fault. She caused me to get fired. She threatened Jessica. She gave Jessica all the means necessary to end my career. I was so angry I was shaking. Heather ruined my life. I entered the house and slammed the door behind me. “Heather!” I bellowed. I flew into the kitchen, prepared to give her what she deserved.
“What is it, Devon?” Heather sat at the kitchen table with Isabelle and Dahlia, coloring pictures with them.
“I need to talk to you about what happened this weekend.” Heather paused for a second, smiling oddly.
“You left me no choice, Devon. What else could I have done?” She paused, picked up a scarlet pencil, and continued coloring.