Tyler Barlass

The Trophy

“We’re going out tonight.” He set his briefcase down on the cold linoleum floor. He didn’t suggest or ask my opinion; he simply stated it was what we would be doing that evening.

Dinner was already prepared and a day full of housework had given me a slight headache. I thought of telling him I’d rather stay home, but I didn’t. I silently moved to the bedroom and changed into something more presentable.

When I came back into the sitting room, he had already poured himself two fingers of whiskey from the bar-cart and was leafing through the new issue of Life Magazine I had neatly arranged on the coffee table with the other publications. Above where he sat protruded the glassy-eyed head of a deer he’d shot in his youth. He was particularly proud of this trophy and the many points that sprouted from its enormous antlers. I detested the thing and the way it always glared at me.

He rose to his feet when he noticed me standing there in one of my dinner dresses. It’s one he had berated me for in the past — I wore it too frequently — but it was comfortable, and I felt pretty in it. He swallowed what was left of his glass and I followed him out the door.

On a dark highway on the outskirts of town stood his favorite lounge. It was a modest wooden building that may have been built for another purpose, but I’d only ever known it as a roadhouse. The backlit beer signs and red marquee arrows covered in bright yellow lightbulbs were like a siren’s call to passing travelers and truckdrivers. As garish as it all looked to me, these advertisements attracted thirsty men like flies to a zapper.

We seated ourselves at an open table next to the bar. He ordered a rare steak and a glass of scotch and soda. I picked at my meatloaf but ate very little. The thick smoke that filled the mahogany-hued dining room drained my appetite. Looking down at me from its perch behind the bar was another taxidermy buck with antlers just as large as the one back home. Maybe they were cousins?

The highball glasses came and went and the man sitting across from me soon shifted from tipsy to fully inebriated. His voice grew louder, and he became raucous and disconcerting. He complained about his job, the government, my cooking. He ogled younger women dancing by the jukebox and cocktail waitresses busily delivering drinks in their plain pink dresses. At one point he tipped over his glass and the bubbly, tawny drink spilled across the table. 

I’d had enough.

“We’re leaving,” I said as I stood up. I wasn’t suggesting or asking; I simply got up and waited for him to follow me out the door. He bristled at the command at first, muttering a few obscenities in his slurred voice, but in his state of stupor he had little choice but to abide.

I drove home, walked him to the bedroom, and watched as he collapsed into the sheets. I stood over him and took in the pile of flesh that lay there. His flabby body was puddy, his chest rising and falling. The sound of the loud, wet snores spilling from his open mouth made me nauseated. Before leaving the room, I grabbed the book I’d been reading from atop my nightstand and made my way to the sitting room.

Finding a comfortable spot in a large plush chair I had upholstered myself, I cracked open the book but found it hard to concentrate. Above me leered the head of my husband’s precious deer and its ever-watchful eyes.

“What are you looking at?” I sneered, then flipped the page.            

Tyler Barlass is a writer of fictions and sometimes nonfictions. He lives with his lovely wife, a flock of young children, an adopted cat, and a rambunctious dog in a small town in Oklahoma.