Home > The Kind Worth Killing(9)

The Kind Worth Killing(9)
Peter Swanson

The redhead from the bar had also been seated in business class, across from me, and one row behind. After boarding the plane, we’d kept talking across the aisle, even though we’d temporarily ceased our discussion of my wife’s infidelities. The old woman next to me in the window seat saw us talking and said, “Would you and your wife like to sit next to one another?”

“Thank you,” I said. “We’d love to.”

Once she was settled in, and once I had ordered a gin and tonic from the flight attendant, I asked for her name again.

“It’s Lily,” she said.

“Lily what?”

“I’ll tell you, but first let’s play a game.”


“It’s very easy. Since we’re on a plane, and it’s a long flight, and we’re not going to see each other again, let’s tell each other the absolute truth. About everything.”

“You won’t even tell me your last name,” I said.

She laughed. “True. But that’s what lets us play by these rules. If we know one another, then the game doesn’t work.”

“Give me an example.”

“Okay. I hate gin. I ordered a martini because you had one in front of you and it looked sophisticated.”

“Really?” I said.

“No judgment,” she said. “Your turn.”

“Okay.” I thought for a moment, then said, “I love gin so much I’m worried sometimes I’m an alcoholic. If I had my way I’d drink about six martinis a night.”

“It’s a start,” she said. “You might have a drinking problem. Your wife is cheating on you. How about you? Have you ever cheated on her?”

“No, I haven’t. I have . . . what was it Jimmy Carter said? . . . I’ve had lust in my heart, of course. I’ve already imagined having sex with you, for instance.”

“You have?” Her eyebrows raised, and she looked a little shocked.

“Absolute truth, remember?” I said. “Don’t be surprised. Most men you meet are probably thinking disgusting things about you within five minutes.”

“Is that really true?”


“How disgusting?”

“You really don’t want to know.”

“Maybe I do,” she said, and shifted toward me in her seat. I drank a little of my gin and tonic, the ice knocking against my teeth. “It’s interesting,” she said. “I just can’t imagine what it would be like to meet someone and know right away that I want to have sex with them.”

“It’s not that, exactly,” I said. “It’s more like an ingrained response where you just picture it. Like when we were standing in line at the boarding gate, I looked at you and pictured you naked. It just happens. That never happens to women?”

“Like suddenly imagining sex with a man? No, not really. With women it’s different. What we wonder about is if the man we just met wants to have sex with us.”

I laughed. “Well, he does. Just assume it. Trust me, though, you don’t want to know more than that.”

“See, isn’t this game fun? Now why don’t you tell me more about how you want to kill your wife?”

“Ha,” I said. “I don’t know if I was really serious about that.”

“You sure? The way you told that story I couldn’t tell.”

“I’ll admit that after seeing them together in our house, I think if I had a gun on me that I could easily have shot them both through the window.”

“So you are thinking of killing her,” she said, the plane starting its pre-takeoff hum. We each buckled in, and I took a longish sip of my gin. I had always been a nervous flyer. “Look,” she continued. “I’m not trying to trap you into saying something you don’t want to say. I’m interested is all. This is just part of the game. Absolute truth.”

“Then you go first. All you’ve told me is that you don’t like gin.”

“Okay,” she said, and thought a moment. “Truthfully, I don’t think murder is necessarily as bad as people make it out to be. Everyone dies. What difference does it make if a few bad apples get pushed along a little sooner than God intended? And your wife, for example, seems like the kind worth killing.”

The plane’s hum turned into a whine, and the captain told the flight attendants to take their seats. I was grateful for a moment when I didn’t need to immediately respond to the woman next to me. Her words had echoed the persistent thoughts I had been plagued with for a week as I entertained fantasies of killing my wife. I’d been telling myself that killing Miranda would do the world a favor, and along came this passenger who was suddenly giving me the moral authority to act on my desires. And while I was shocked by what she had said, I was also in that state of drunkenness—gin buzzing through my body—that makes one wonder why anyone wants to ever be sober. I felt both clearheaded and uninhibited at the same time, and if we’d been anywhere semiprivate I think I would have taken Lily in my arms right then and tried to kiss her. Instead, after the plane took off, I kept talking.

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