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I met Henry when I clerked in a sleeper shop. I made sure I was always the one to serve him. One thing led to another, and we married. Now I know he married me because I knew a lot about the programs. I wish the fool things had never been invented.
I never bought a sleeper program before Henry, and I'm never buying one after he's dead. Henry says they're the wonder of the western world--learn anything while you sleep. Put on a Swahili language tape at night and in the morning speak Swahili.
Except people, especially people like Henry, can't accept there's no real shortcuts in life. I told Henry that the subconscious level where sleep learning works is not long term memory retentive. Planned obsolescence. The programs fade away over two weeks. And they only work with a one-time application.
I told Henry that sleeper programs never create ability where there's none. Warnings printed on every package of s.p. tell a customer about potential problems. Henry never has read one of those.
There was the warning printed on the Olympic skier program Henry purchased for our winter vacation: "This program requires certain physical aptitude and agility to be effective."
I told Henry. But he ignored me, took the program and hit the "White Death" expert slope his first time on skis. Fine, if he'd had the body and co-ordination of an Olympic skier. Henry is fifty pounds overweight and falls over while putting his pants on in the morning. He broke a leg on his first, never finished, ski run, and we spent our vacation money on hospital bills.
So what if the warnings are printed in a teensy font on the back of sleeper cassettes—you'd think he'd learn. Most people buy lots of programs at first, like any fad. Then they realize the programs don't change them into different people and then only buy a program for a real need. "Income Tax Preparation" is a steady seller before the April deadline.
This never happened to Henry. He never learns the limitations, never tires of the sleeper programs. He buys every new cassette. The cost doesn't deter my husband.
"Think of the money we'll save when I fix it myself," he always says to me. As if he knew one end of a screwdriver from the other.
Like when he "renovated" our kitchen. He "renovated" it back into the 19th Century, and now I wash the dishes by hand and candlelight. Where was the money to pay a repairman? Spent on more sleeper programs. Instead of a dishwashing machine, I get Henry speaking Swahili for two weeks.
I suspect he spoke it badly.
Then he insisted on taking an electrician's program to fix the lights. I found that he had fixed them by pulling them out of the walls and leaving live wires behind. I discovered that by grabbing one.
That's when I decided to kill him.
With no money left and our only assets a lot of used and useless sleeper programs, all that remains is the life insurance I took out on Henry. It's not as if I haven't given the marriage a chance, it's been six months. Six long months.
Also, it took me a couple of months to figure out how to kill Henry.
After all, I'm the first person the police will suspect. I had to discover a way that was foolproof and beyond question. And oddly enough, it was a sleeper program.
Working in the biz, I know some of its odd cracks and crannies, its shady side. I know who to ask for some of the more—um—unusual programs. Programs such as "How To Build An S/M Playground In Your Basement In Your Spare Time" and "Fifty Ways To Be A Drug Pusher" and other even stranger cassettes are available.
I've never told Henry about these programs, for fear he'll race out and buy and try them, until, while chatting with a co-worker, I found one I wanted him to try.
"Say," my fellow clerk said, with a giggle (she's 16), "have you heard about the latest nightmare?"
Nightmare is slang for the illegal cassettes.
"It's called ‘How To Commit Suicide In Two Weeks Or Less Or Your Money Back.' What next?"
What indeed, I wondered as I purchased the program from someone who knew someone who was a sorta friend of somebody I kinda knew. Granted a suicide s.p. is not for your regular customer, but where there's a market...and I'm not your regular customer.
When I got it home I steamed off the label from the outside of the package and glued on another label from a legitimate program I had also purchased, "How To Paper Train Your Puppy."
Henry's severely allergic to dogs, so I knew he couldn't resist such a program.
"Henry," I said to him over our candlelit dinner that night (with Henry's homemade-by-sleeper-program candles dripping dyed wax onto my grandmother's antique lace tablecloth, destroying it), "my old alumni are having a class reunion next week. I know it's a bit of a drive and I'll have to stay with friends..." I'd stay in a motel and I'd get no pleasure seeing the old losers from high school, but nobody knew that, including Henry.
Henry looked up from his beets. We had home grown and canned, by Henry, until I almost died from a combination of food poisoning and the noxious weed he'd canned along with the beets. Henry shrugged.
"Sounds okay by me, hon. I'll be busy the next couple of weeks building the garage."
Another program—hang yourself from one of the ceiling girders, please, Henry.
"It doesn't matter if I take the car and drive? I'd like to see the countryside—sort of a vacation?"
Thank God Henry had not yet tried the car repair program so the car still ran.
"No problem. I know how you missed not having a winter vacation. Sorry about that."
Sorrier than you know, I almost said, but stopped myself in time. I said instead, "Oh great, I'll take a couple of weeks then, dear husband," and kissed him on his balding head. The "Grow Your Hair Back" program only worked on Henry's back hair.
So, after informing everybody I could think of about my wonderful vacation (my alibi vacation) I drove off. But first I left the s.p., gift wrapped, next to Henry's bed, a going away (forever for him) present. I knew he wouldn't wait to try my gift.
I drove to the reunion, every moment taking care to pay by credit card and chat up waiters and maids at the hotels. Then I attended the reunion. Every moment, I was bored to tears, which was excellent practice for me to be the grieving widow. Every moment I expected the call informing me of the tragic suicide of my husband.
No call came.
I took my time heading home. After all, the program did say two weeks. Or your money back.
Anyway, knowing Henry, it'd be several botched attempts before he managed to pull off his suicide.
But still, no call. So I ended up at home three days before the two weeks were up. Even as incompetent as Henry was, I figured he surely must have killed himself by now, even if by accident. Same difference.
With a great deal of confidence I drove into our driveway, gratified to see the building materials for the garage still scattered all over the lawn. No more projects! I walked into the house, expecting it empty.
Henry sat at the kitchen table, cleaning a gun. On the kitchen table sat a new s.p.: "How To Be A Sharpshooter."
Oh my. Was Henry practicing to not miss a really big, really close target, his head? I hoped so. But as I managed to get through the evening, I realized that save for the gun that he kept cleaning, Henry seemed the same old Henry.
After welcome home sex (my private parts never were the same after Henry used "How To Satisfy Any Woman"—ouch) Henry fell fast asleep, the ear buds for "No More Snore" snug in his ears. His snores made the walls shake.
I pulled the covering label from the s.p., preparatory to replacing the original. I'd find the dealer tomorrow and get every dime of my money back. I checked the label to make certain it did say "satisfaction guaranteed" and boy, was I one dissatisfied customer. Then I saw what I'd missed. It was in tiny print, tucked away in one corner of the label.
"Warning," it said, "use of this sleeper program by persons not prepared to take final steps may result in extreme violent tendencies towards others in said persons."
That explains the gun.
In three days the programming on the suicide sleeper program runs out, so I only need to survive 72 hours. Seventy-two long hours. And with any luck, Henry will be as inept at shooting as he is at everything else. And I'm a moving target.
Just in case, I've bought a new s.p. for myself. I'm never interested in sleeper programs, but I might need this one.
It's titled "How To Survive A Bullet Wound."
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