“Imaginary Friends” by Matthew Dexter


Where are my imaginary friends when I need them? They're never here when you really need them. I jumped the fence leading into the neighbor's backyard, approaching the swing set with caution because I wanted to blend in like a ghost, invisible and any evidence only circumstantial. I cut the black rubber baby swing with the butcher knife.

Not all the way across but just far enough to break when the baby picked up velocity. I wanted her to go down in the dirt with a snap, but not get hurt. Revenge can be hurtful, but never physical. As a mother myself of two little darlings, with no husband anymore thanks to this swing set and the unforgivable cloudless things that happened yesterday morning about forty minutes after midnight inside the yellow jungle gym tent on top.

"They thought they were so smart and silent," I said to myself.

"With the doggies barking a few houses down and an awkward animalistic position of submission I didn't even recognize old Harry was capable of."

"She looked like a defeated wrestler about to be beaten into submission when I made the decision to run downstairs for the camera."

She thought only the full moon was watching, but I didn't even need my telescope to see the dark side of the moon that night, the binoculars were perfect, and as soon as I develop the pictures from her teenage son who works at the photo mart this afternoon she won't be singing any more scriptures in the Our Lady of Perpetual Paradise choir downtown, where her husband is the pastor, or was until I decided to meddle in my neighbor's business. (She has certainly been meddling in mine.)

Anyway, I knew how precious little ones were and safety was my second concern, right behind vengeance. Or maybe it was my third priority, humiliation being the inspiration for settling the score. I first met my late husband Harry in the hospital delivery room when he was busy pulling me into this dizzy world while I was crying and screaming my eyes out, wishing I was anywhere else.

"Well, I guess we don't have to worry about another Rainy male tearing up the neighbor's prize winning tulip garden with tennis racquets or breaking my damn apples and mailboxes into a million little pieces with wiffleball bats," he said, gently smothering me inside the complimentary blankie and placing me against my mother's chest.

Decades later he would carry me in his arms and smile that same expression of wonderment, but with a different weight in his hands when he took me to bed for the first time and made our marriage official. Twenty beautiful years together when I get an unusual message in the mail last week during a midday thunderstorm from an ex lover banker suggesting that Harry's deeply in debt from some risky investments made during the recession and now the bank is considering the situation and it's possible they might even have legal jurisdiction for seizing some of my own assets, even foreclosing on our home if Harry can't manage to pay off all of his growing expenses and past debts.

PS: (she writes) You might want to check the jungle gym on Thursday and Monday evenings a little after midnight if Harry's not sleeping in bed next to you. Don't drink that glass of wine he gives you after dinner on those nights.

I write back to her immediately and decide to deliver the letter personally into her pretentious little mailbox, grabbing the fattest plastic yellow baseball bat I can find off the porch swing, reasoning that the aluminum one might attract lightning bolts, and besides, just because we were both born on the same day in the same hospital does not mean that we're anything more than neighbors living on the same slippery street. Spring training is just around the corner and just because she's pregnant doesn't mean I have to order her expensive congratulatory flowers or offer to take her some of my homemade apple-scented aromatherapy candles to better weather out this passing storm.

I don't care who the father of her baby is because I have other babies to worry about, but she hinted it was Harry when she came over wearing her six inch stiletto heels to complain about the broken flowers. She carried no umbrella and her hair was soaked and dripping through her white blouse. Her nipples pointed at me and seemed to grow larger and harder as more rainwater collected on her chest.

"Those flowers are a reflection of the incestuous street we've all become," I said.

"To each her own..." the botox banker with the collagen lips answered happily, pulling her pregnant stomach above her waistline for some fresh air. She stretched her breasts out almost far enough to poke my eyes out, while actually splashing me with water from her hair so she could make even more of an impact with the words waiting to roll off her salty pink tongue.

"...we've all had a little piece of Harry inside of us on this side of the street."

She backed away just before I decided to slap her; my hand only catching wind and finally a piece of her expensive blonde extensions.

"Damn you, Mary Margaret," I said. "Once a whore always a whore - taking advantage of a man with Alzheimer's - real classy thing to do."

She laughed all the way to the bank of the shallow brook at the bottom of her front yard and then jumped across the flowing current like a schoolgirl, her dress in the air as she straddled the rocky waters and the rainbow trout below.

"Thanks for the moon and nice of you not to wear any panties this afternoon sweetie - did you go commando for me or the benefit of the fish?"

"Hahaha," cackled the neighborhood slut like a demented witch; and I knew from that point on that war had just been declared on Sweet Tranquility Lane and I would get my just deserts.

I jumped the fence back into my yard and waited for Harry to come home from the hospital. I had the revolver loaded in the holster attached to my pocket and the sawed off shotgun sitting on my lap as I rocked back and forth in the antique rocking chair we inherited from Harry's parents. All I had to do was cock the gun and aim it at his head.

Too simple really, and even if I didn't know how to use it the imaginary friends told me how to do it. They knew I was lonely and my children will disown me, but nobody deserves to get away with that monkey business on the jungle gym. It's for this reason that I'm signing this handwritten confession and my attorney has advised me to plead not guilty on grounds of temporary insanity, and deliver us from evil; thy will be done.