Mr. Macbeth's Wives
By: Steve Carr

Yes, I'll tell you about them — about us — and then, may you rot in hell.

My name is Tiberius Macbeth Jr., but you know that already, don't you?

Where I have lived most of my adult life is hundreds of miles north from here, with only a few very small towns and hamlets in between. It is windswept and rocky, where scrub–grass covers a vast area of rolling hills. The few trees that are sturdy enough to survive the blizzards that blast the landscape with sleet, snow and hail for seven months out of the year, are twisted and gnarled, as if rendered deformed by the harsh conditions. Hares, moles and field mice are about the only creatures that exist there. They are the prey of hawks that circle the skies, their shrill cries echoing for miles. The ponds and bogs that exist in isolation from any other source of water are shallow, filled with freshwater lichens, and support little life other than tadpoles and minnows. Other than small gardens, the land isn't suitable or workable for growing any vegetation or crops, so farming is out of the question. In that part of the north, there are less than two dozen homes, each with a small barn, none within sight of one another. They all share the same look: on the verge of falling down. Only those very few who take the seldom–traveled road to the arctic circle a few hundred more miles north of my place would see my house sitting a quarter mile back from the road and the dirt driveway that leads to it. We would also see them as they drove by, the more adventurous among them on motorcycles, or the true explorers among them hiking on foot with their backs bowed by heavy backpacks.

I was born and raised in the town of Penshatch where my father, Tiberius Macbeth Sr., was the barber and minister. Penshatch is fifty miles west of here and sits on the banks of the Great Moose River. Its population never grew beyond three–hundred during the time I lived there and only had one church in it, the one my father preached in. On Sundays he held sway over the church packed with congregants, preaching in such a boisterous, thundering voice that it rattled the stain glassed windows. The rest of the week he wielded a razor and scissors like a circus performer, tossing, twirling and spinning them in the air above the heads of his customers as he clipped and cut their hair. His name was engraved on all of his hair cutting instruments. On Saturdays I would sit in his barbershop, hypnotized by the glinting of light from the blades of whatever he used.

My mother came from a very wealthy family in Montreal. My father once said that her family sent her as far away as possible because her mental state was an embarrassment to them. She never left the house except to hang laundry on the clotheslines and then take it in when everything was dry. She didn't go to church and never stepped foot inside my school. The groceries were delivered to our door. When I say she never left the house, that is exactly what I mean. She would stand at the front window for hours and stare out at the street as if lost in a dream. She did her housework almost entirely in silence, and took care of me and my father, seldom saying a word. It's not that she couldn't speak, she just chose not to.

What? This isn't what you wanted to know? Tough luck, this is my story and I'll tell it the way I want to. I'll get to my wives and what happened on my place in just a moment. Until then, keep your mouth shut and sit there and listen or I won't tell you another damn thing.

I left home when I was sixteen and went to the coast and got a job on a fishing trawler. For the next six years I operated the levers that hauled in the nets filled with fish. It fascinated me how the nets were like traps, catching very stupid sea life. There was an endless abundance of fish. As they were poured from the nets into the holds I would grab one, hold on to it until supper, and then disembowel it myself in the ship's kitchen before it was cooked by the on–board chef. I quit fishing and returned to Penshatch when I got word that my mother had shot my father and then committed suicide. The truth is that she slit his throat with one of his razors while he slept. She made a noose from his ties that he wore on Sundays and hung herself in front of the window.

I'll skip over the parts where no one attended their funerals and how I sold their house and all their belongings, except for my father's hair cutting equipment that he kept in a box covered and lined with leather.

Did you just say you don't care about those kinds of details? Screw you!

It was early spring when I drove north. The ground was still frozen and patches of snow covered the hills. The ponds were iced over and a constant chilly wind blew across the landscape. The tires of my pickup truck bounced over the potholes in the road. Other than the direction I was headed, I had no idea where I was going. I didn't think it could be done, but I imagined driving to the North Pole. During his sermons, my father always pointed north when he talked of heaven, but I don't remember ever hearing from him that he had traveled more than a few miles north of Penshatch.

It was in the small hamlet of Thornberry while I was having a beer in the pub that I met Claire, a pretty girl a bit older than me who talked non–stop.

"Where are you headed?" she asked. She was seated next to me and leaning on the bar. The aromas of the bar — beer, smoke, whiskey, sweat — wafted from her.

"I'm not sure," I answered.

"Can I come with you?" she asked, giggling.

"Only if you'll marry me," I said, sounding less serious than I intended to.

"Of course," she replied, laughing.

She rode with me a few miles out of Thornberry and after she told me she was only kidding and wanted to go back, I took the razor from the leather box, cut her throat, and threw her body in a ditch alongside the road.

I see that judgmental look in your eye. Who are you to judge me?

#

I found the house that became mine entirely by accident. My truck broke down near the entrance to the driveway so I walked to the house hoping to get some water for the radiator. At the time — this was thirty years ago, remember — the house was in fairly good condition, although it needed a coat of paint and a step leading to the porch needed repair. I knocked on the door and was surprised when an old woman who looked almost too fragile to even walk opened it.

"Who are you?" she asked me.

"My truck broke down on the road and I was hoping to get some water for my radiator," I replied.

"You'll have to wait until my granddaughter returns." She started to close the door.

I put my hand on it, keeping her from closing it. "When will that be?"

"I told you, you'll have to wait." She tried again to close the door.

I didn't want to wait. Not on getting the water. Not on the granddaughter. I shoved the door wide open, knocking the woman on the floor. As she lay there groaning in pain I pounced on her, wrapped my hands around her scrawny neck, and choked the life out of her. I dragged her body through the house, stopping to gaze at the photographs on the walls. There were numerous pictures of a girl beginning from when she was little to what looked very recent that I assumed were of the granddaughter. She was plain looking, but appeared strong and healthy. In the kitchen I lifted the old woman onto the kitchen table and took a butcher knife from a drawer. I ripped open her dress and disemboweled her, throwing her innards into a trash can. I closed her dress and then set her body in a chair as if she was just waiting on something to happen. It was almost funny, how alive she looked. I had a good laugh about it.

Three hours later the granddaughter returned. She opened the front door and called out, "Grandma, I'm home." When she took several steps into the house, I hit her on the head, knocking her unconscious. I carried her down the basement steps and locked her in the root cellar.

Okay, okay. Quit giving me that look. I'm getting to how she became my first wife right now.

She told me her name, June, through the door of the root cellar. She was twenty–one and the only surviving member of her family now that her grandmother was dead, which she wasn't that upset about. She had lived with her grandmother from the age of fourteen. She begged and pleaded with me to be let out of the cellar. I opened the door only to shove across the floor trays of food and small pitchers of water. I gave her a bucket to use as a toilet. She was always frightened that I would rape her.

"Only sick men rape women, and I'm not sick," I told her. "My father was a minister."

We talked, each seated on one side of the door. Initially she cried a lot.

Like me, she hadn't finished high school and other than her grandmother she seldom saw or talked to anyone else. She asked me about my upbringing and I told her the truth: my parents died when I was very young in a house fire and I grew up, raised in foster homes, very lonely and unloved. The only reason I was holding her captive was because I desperately needed someone who could grow to love me. Now, that was the truth.

She said she could possibly be that person.

I needed it to be a certainty.

Six months after locking her in the cellar I kept the door open while we talked. And then I let her out. She let me cut her hair and shave her head bald with my father's instruments.

Four months after that, in the living room, with our hands on her grandmother's Bible, we married.

Her grandmother's rotted, shriveled corpse setting in a chair served as our witness.

What's that about June having Stockholm syndrome? What is that?

#

Over the next few years we found it easy to attract travelers to the house by simply putting a mailbox at the end of the driveway. The nearest post office, that was also combined with the grocery store and bank was in the hamlet of Rocky Glade, to the southeast nearly forty miles away. The only thing ever delivered was the surprisingly large inheritance checks I received from what my mother had left me.

The dozens of men who knocked on the door we killed right off, usually by cutting their throats. I gutted them and added their bodies to the menagerie we kept all over the house and in the barn, the speed of their corpses decaying dependent on the season they were murdered. There were fewer women. Most of them we kept in the root cellar until it became obvious they would never fit in with us, and then their bodies were added to the men. Those men and women who escaped on foot we tracked down as they fled across the scrub–land and murdered them on the spot. We never killed anyone with children, or children.

Then along came Lucille. She was twenty–six, alone, and traveling north "just to see the scenery."

June liked her right–off. It took me a while to feel the same way mainly because of the age difference, but after nine months of having her in the cellar with the door locked, and another five months with the door open, she came out, I shaved her head, and she married June and I.

Get your mind out of the gutter. The three of us never slept together.

As a pair they became adept at torturing the men before I killed them.

Two years after Lucille joined us, Shelly became my third wife, the third wife to all of us. She was nineteen at the time. Unlike the rest of us, she had a criminal past, and was on the run after shooting her ex–boyfriend.

After nearly thirty years of the three of us living peacefully together I thought we had tired of killing. My wives weren't. Obviously. Or otherwise I wouldn't be sitting here waiting to take my turn in the electric chair, wasting my last breaths talking to the likes of you.

#

I was in the kitchen when the territorial police broke down the front door and stormed into the house. I ran into the living room and seeing rifles aimed at me, I raised my arms in the air. One of the first of them threw up when he looked around and saw the skeletal remains of our victims hanging on the walls and sitting in chairs in the corners of the room. Even after all the years since some of the dead had been killed their flesh still clung to their bones like pieces of leather and clumps of hair remained attached to their skulls.

"Are you Tiberius Macbeth," a sergeant asked me.

He knew I was. "Yes, I'm Mr. Macbeth," I answered with sarcastic formality.

"You and your female accomplices are wanted for a series of murders in the town of Penshatch," he said. He held up one of my father's razors showing me my father's name engraved in it as if I had never seen it before. "One of you dropped this right after cutting their last victim's throat. We traced your name that's on it to this location through the post office in Rocky Glade."

Lately, my wives had been leaving the house early in the morning and returning late at night, lying about where they had gone and what they had been doing.

They're still out there, somewhere, like a pack of wolves, thirsty for blood in a way that surprises even me.

The End

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