“You’re lucky I didn’t break a nail,” I said to the guy who lay on the floor at my feet. He was dead, and if he could have said anything back, he would have had to gargle it through a puddle of blood deep enough to float a folded paper boat. Unless, of course, he could have lifted his head up out of the puddle to speak, and in that case, the depth of the puddle wouldn’t have really mattered, except that no one can have that much blood come out of them and still be alive. This is something I know from the books I’ve read about killing, and I have read a lot. There is only so much blood in the human body, and it looked as though more blood might be outside the man’s body than inside it at this point.
I didn’t really care about my fingernails, either, except that I hadn’t had expected the guy to put up any sort of fight. I had actually painted my fingernails and put on some lipstick before coming over to kill him, because I had put so much time into planning this day that it felt like a special occasion, something worth putting makeup and high heels on for. “You know what?” I said to whoever I killed next, some phantom prey that hadn’t even been thought of yet until this very moment. Honestly, right up until now, I figured this would be a one-time thing for me. “Fuck you. When I come over to your house to kill you, I won’t paint my nails and I won’t put on lipstick. It won’t be special at all. I won’t even change into nice clothes to do it. The last thing you’ll see are the dirty knees of my jeans and a pair of old tennis shoes.”
I remember, when I was a kid, reading very complicated-looking adverts in my mother’s fashion magazines about how you could fix a broken nail through a series of steps involving shaped stickers, a nail-file, and polish—the new nail would be shorter than the rest, but perfectly-shaped, as if you’d just stepped out of a beauty parlor. Or, “…like you’ve just stepped out of a beauty parlor.” The quotes mean it was some sort of insinuated product guarantee. I had never had the opportunity to panic over a broken nail before, and considering how much planning had gone into killing the man at my feet, not having to fix my nail via half-remembered complicated steps seemed like a minor blessing, a real “whew!” sort of moment.
The blood pooled slowly across the floor towards me and my very nice high heels. There must have been some slight, imperceptible slant to the floor, so slight that one would have had to set a marble on it, or pour out a glass of water, to see it at all. I took a step back. A broken nail—which I did not have—would be easy to explain to a casual observer, but blood on my nice high heels would not be. I still had to get out of the house and back home in time and in the necessary condition to make dinner. Blood on my heels, even in the safety of my home, might arouse questions. I could say it was nail polish. I held my hand out over the dark pool of blood and no, my nails and the blood weren’t even close to being the same shade of red. It wouldn’t work as an excuse at all.
There would be relatively little or no cleanup necessary at the crime scene, as I had simply knocked on what'shisface’s door, stepped inside, and hit him on the head with a hammer until he fell. It only took a couple of whacks, too, because I had read many books about killing both livestock and people in preparation for this day, and knew exactly where to hit. Smack! Bam! Down he went. I had brought some basic cleaning supplies and an extra set of clothes along with me, in my “big” purse—which had served me well as a diaper bag many years before—expecting to get blood splatter on my skin or dress, or even my hair, but it was surprisingly clean. Maybe there’s only blood splatter when people aren’t as careful as I am. The only place I really had to clean was the side of his neck, where I’d carefully felt for his pulse—which went from really strong and fast to faint and uneven to absolutely nothing in a matter of exhilarating seconds. I wiped the area down with a damp makeup wipe from my purse very carefully to make sure all of my fingerprints were gone—and yes, I put the wipe back in my bag instead of just throwing it away, because I’m not a fucking idiot, and I know what I’m doing.
Once I’d finished cleaning up any potential sign that I’d been there—even though there wasn’t any, because I was very careful to begin with—I simply stepped back out the front door of what'shisface's house and walked to my car. I’d parked about a block away, because I know they can trace tire tracks to the make of a car and then to an owner. As a last precaution, I even picked up a business card and flyer from a salon down the street a few weeks before to slip into the door handle—wiped down for fingerprints, of course—so that if anyone said they saw a well-dressed woman stop by around the time of the murder, the police would automatically just assume it was someone from the boutique dropping off flyers. I had originally thought about bringing a stack of flyers from the boutique to drop off so that the neighbors had them as well, but I figured the more people who saw me, the more easily they’d be able to describe me to the unsuspecting salon, who would then be able to deny ever hiring me to deliver flyers for them.
I got home just in time for the kids to come back from school and to start dinner for my husband. I calmly helped my daughter with her homework—surprisingly calmly, because I’m terrible at math, and my daughter seems to be just as bad—and sat through a lecture from my son about this TV show he was binge-watching with his friends from school. To be honest, I really wasn’t able to pay much attention to anything either kid was saying, I was so full of butterflies and tingles. I had actually killed someone. I had walked right into a stranger’s house and just killed them, just like someone from one of those crime TV shows, or a movie. I had a secret identity as a murderer. I caught my reflection in the mirror several times walking through the house, and if I looked really hard, I could see there was a new person there behind my eyes.
The whole time at dinner, I kept waiting for someone to ask me about my day. Of course, I wouldn’t tell them what I’d actually done with my day, but I wanted so much to be asked about it so I could tell them a lie about driving down to the park to see the new public art installation that had just gone up. I was even putting on a show about not being very hungry for dinner because I was going to pretend that I had had a nice lunch down at the park that I had spent all afternoon looking at the art installation and walking along the lake, and how I’d stopped in at a local coffee shop—Café Royale—and bought a sandwich to eat in the park. But nobody asked what I’d done with my day, and no one asked why I wasn’t eating. I spent the whole dinner, full of pins and needles and alibi, nodding as every other person in my family rattled on about work and school and an outside world they seemed to think I had no insight into. No one seemed to notice how much I had changed from the day before. No one seemed to notice the new me at all.
Afterward, in bed, I attacked my husband, determined to show him how I’d changed. I was a new woman, I was a tigress, I was a sexy beast and a killer. He acquiesced halfheartedly, apologized afterward for having a hard day, he was just so tired. I mumbled and cooed and nodded supportively, listened as he drifted off to sleep. A couple of times, I thought about putting one of the overstuffed reading pillows over his face, wondered how that would feel, wondered if I could get away with that, too.
Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Tampa Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, and Ugly Girl.