“I told Jeremiah that we should take the shotgun with us. ‘If a man started Gunth’s fire on purpose, we should protect ourselves,’ I told him. Somehow Jeremiah made it his own idea to bring it along.
“‘A man who would burn down a place for no good reason is a man worthy of caution,’ he said, as if I hadn’t spoke many of those same words a full minute before. He loaded up the Mossberg and set it between us.
Wim said, “Did you ever use a shotgun before, Charlotte?” Then she laughed, because we both knew I had. A woman who can’t handle a shotgun under the tall sky has no business living under it.
“A few times. Varmints, mostly, but I have blown the hell out of a few peach cans in my time. Raccoons, and a feral dog once. It did not make me timid.”
“But against your husband? That must have been….”
“Another feral dog, Wim. He could be sweet as syrup when he wanted something, when his pecker spoke louder than his anger. Mostly, he was lazy and cruel. He could make me feel worthless with a single word, or slap me when the corn didn’t do what it was supposed to. He failed to bathe even to be polite. I did not know the man I married, even when I married him, and I made the mistake of thinking sweetness was a natural state for a husband. There are cruelties I don’t want to discuss with you, not over the phone, and maybe not even in person, because they’re shameful still, even with him in the ground. So the thought of shooting him did not make me faintish or delicate. I had it in my mind to see him planted before the day was done, and there was nothing that could have stopped me from doing it. It was time. And I had the whole winter and spring to think about it.”
Wim didn’t say anything else about it. I could hear her breath on the other end of the line, and if there were any other listeners, they didn’t speak up, either.