Mav's "write a story featuring a one-letter named character" and Stephen King's "write a story about this situation" where he went on to describe a sort of complicated thing where a woman is getting abused by her husband, leaves him, he goes to jail, and she becomes a single parent. A bit later, she drops her kid off at a birthday party, and comes home to realize that her husband has escaped from jail and is now in her house. Got it? Now reverse the genders of the husband and wife. The WOMAN has escaped and the MAN is a single dad, home alone.
If I died like that, I would have been really pissed off. Conquered by zip ties. I guess here is where I’m supposed to put in something about the irony of zip ties being my undoing, when they’re job is really to do up things, but I’ll spare you.
My crazy ex wife, Janice, after escaping from her loony bin and killing one of the nurses, came here, back to our idyllic home in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania.
“I’m not going to kill you, exactly, Big B. I still love you. I still love our life together. I’m really sorry about that whole incident with the meat cleaver. I just need to get Katiebelle and get the hell out of here before the cops catch up with me. You understand.” She gave me that soft, concerned look. The one she always gave me when she was accusing me of horrendous acts, doing sick things to Katiebelle, screwing my secretary, killing the dog.
Turns out, she killed the dog, and she screwed my secretary. Multiple Personality Disorder, ain’t it grand? I guess the animal sadist personality and the lipstick lesbian personality had given way to the super maternal personality who wanted to kidnap our daughter.
“Honey, Janice. You were getting treatment and help. What happened?” I tried for concerned, and also changing the subject from Katie. I was hopeful I could stall her long enough for the cops to get here and not give her a chance to pick Katie up from the Mooney twin’s birthday party.
“Treatment? Oh fuck you, Bob. You call divorcing me and leaving me in that nuthouse treatment? Don’t try to sidetrack me. I’m getting Katie and getting out. Now move it, Big B.” She was brandishing a cattle prod with a zest I hadn’t seen in her since our honeymoon. It crackled, leaving a metallic burnt smell in the air.
“Treatment, Janice. You were supposed to get better. We were going to help you, me and Katiebelle. You could move back in?” I said brightly, gesturing around at the wood paneling, the hand knotted rugs. All things she’d picked to outfit our perfect farmhouse. And really, it was perfect. Serene and homey, the kind of place that should smell like pumpkin pie and fresh coffee.
When Janice was doing well, it was just like that. When Janice morphed into Sally or Fred or whoever the hell she turned into, it became a pigsty. Janice didn’t smoke or drink. Sally thought our home would look better as a leather bar. Janice was tidy and loving. Fred was into weird chemistry experiments involving our pet. I never knew what I was going to come home to. Apple tarts or beer bottles makeshift ashtrays?
She smiled at me, looking pecularly normal, and guided me down to the basement. “Get in Buddy’s cage.”
“Janice, you’ve got to be kidding me. I’m not getting in the cage.” I don’t know why I didn’t get rid of the thing after Janice had poisoned Buddy the golden retriever.
“Get in the cage, Big B.” Janice was menacing now, and she swooped forward to zap me with the prod. Where she got a cattle prod, I’ll never know. It hurt like fire, like someone poured molten lead on my legs. I couldn’t move for a few seconds, and Janice used those seconds to push me into the cage and shut it, securing it with a padlock.
She had put a blanket inside for me. I guess that was thoughtful of her. She must have known that a human adult with thumbs could easily disassemble a dog cage, because she’d fortified it with more zip ties, dozens of them.
I was working as a web contractor, at the time, which meant I maintained about 8 computers. I used zip ties constantly to keep computer cables and other odds and ends neat. Now I was being imprisoned in a collapsible cage, fortified by zip ties. Jesus Christ.
Laying there in the dog cage, I realized two things. One, that Janice had put the zip ties on the cage in rainbow order. Roy. G. Biv. We didn’t really have indigo ties, but the closest she could get to rainbow order. Two, that after she left, I could probably cut the ties and get the hell out. All my dreams of a beer and an hour of the Sims video game had vanished. Our house was on 35 acres of prime northern Pennsylvania farmland, so the chances were pretty goddamned slim someone was going to come to my rescue.
I kept my smart comments to myself and moaned a little. Janice gave me another of her concerned looks and kicked the cage. “Bye Big B.” She ran up the rickety stairs. I could hear her jangling the keys to my truck, slamming the door, and starting up the Bronco.
So that’s how I got to be kneeling in a zip tied dog cage, throwing my body weight around trying to get the damned thing closer to my work bench. The pain from the cattle prod hadn’t exactly faded, but I was working through it, trying to use my upper body weight to move the cage. I managed to grab a wire hanger that had fallen on the floor and tried to use that to break one of the zip ties. No dice.
Janice had done them up nice and tight, and I couldn’t get the edge of the hanger between the tie and the wire of the cage. I briefly tried just standing up and using the strength of my back to break the cage apart, like some kind of Incredible Hulk moment of super strength that you’d hear about on TV, but that didn’t work. It’s just as well, super strength used to conquer zip ties would never make it on TV.
I went back to throwing my weight around, and finally after what seemed like hours, but was probably only a few minutes, made it to my work bench.
After a few tries, I was able to prop the cage up so I had better reach. I used the coat hanger to knock stuff off the top of the work bench. A cordless drill that I’d have to replace, two screwdrivers, and a baby food jar full of washers, which surprisingly, didn’t break upon impact with the cool cement floor.
I was starting to feel panicked. If the damned baby food jar had broken, I could use the sharp edges to cut through the zip ties. If I could just knock off a razor blade or a utility knife, I’d be able to cut or wear through the stupid ties. If not, an escaped murderess nutcase was going to take off with my kid.
I couldn’t get my fingers out of the cage enough to grab at anything. I jammed the coat hanger up onto my work bench one last time, and hooked onto something. I jerked it a few times, and the workbench collapsed onto me, thunking me on the melon and knocking me unconscious.
People really should have more faith in the police. Yes, when we’re kids, the cops are bastards who are out to get us. But they’re out to get us because we’re irritating kids. Not all police officers are great cops, or even good cops, but I’m pleased that Northern Pennsylvania has a few good cops around.
I woke up a few hours later on my sofa with an ice pack on my head. “Where’s Katiebelle? Where is she? Someone has to get her, before my wife does.” I shot up and saw stars.
“Calm down there, geek.” An attractive brunette appeared in my field of vision. “We got your little girl. She’s with your parents out back, playing in the yard. When we realized it was your wife who was out, we sent someone by your place. When you didn’t answer, we called your folks, who got us sorted out and picked up Katiebelle.”
“Unh”. It was an inarticulate response, but in my relief and pain, it was all I could muster. “Janice?”
I fell back onto the sofa, worn down. The brunette grinned at me. “Got her, too. She’s in the county jail for now, in solitary. The Sweets County Home doesn’t want her back right away, after she done in Nurse Feckelberry.” She touched my arm, and then moved her hand to push the ice pack back onto my head. “I’m Detective Charlotte Brady. Everyone’s safe now, so just calm down. You need anything?”
“I need to see Katiebelle, if you don’t think I’ll scare her.” My flannel shirt was covered in blood and dust and wood shavings from the workbench, and there was a long gash up my arm. “I look like shit.”
Detective Charlotte nodded. “If you feel well, you can get cleaned up a bit, and I’ll get Katie.” Charlotte had a kind of mischievous smile that I didn’t like.
“What’s that all about?” I asked, warily.
“Nothing, nothing at all. Just wait until I get to fill out this police report. ‘tough guy found in a dog cage under his own faulty work bench’. Whoo hee.”
I’m pretty sure my mouth opened. “That’s how you found me? Knocked out in a dog cage under the workbench? Christ, I’m a jackass.”
“Maybe, but you look pretty cute for being trapped in a dog cage under a work bench. Go clean up, and I’ll fetch Katiebelle.”
I smiled at Detective Charlotte, genuinely happy that she was going to get my little girl, and not too upset about the fact that she was probably going to be hanging around for a bit. She winked back at me.
The rest, as they say, is history. Charlotte and I have been dating for a few months now that Janice is nicely locked away. She got charged with the murder of Nurse Feckelberry, and put in a facility for the criminally insane until her MPD is under control.
Katiebelle suffered no ill effects from the day. She didn’t even realize that her mom was out of the loony bin, but she was a bit concerned about the state of the basement.
As for me, well, after rebuilding the workbench and anchoring it to the wall, I got rid of Buddy’s dog cage on eBay. It mostly reminded me of my poor dead dog, anyway. Also, that same day, I went out and got a pocket knife, that I never leave home without.
You never know when you’re going to need to dismantle an army of zip ties.
Not a great story, really, but OK. I hate how it just sort of ends.