FICTION: I Did Not Push My Wife Off A Cliff by Steve Gergley

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Yes, I’m—well, I’ve been trying to do just that, Jackie, if you would give me the time to actually speak and address your questions without—okay, well then if you’re going to insist on interrupting me each time I try to speak, then we’re not going to get very far unraveling anything having to do with the incident concerning Catherine’s—yes, yes I did just call my wife’s tragic death an incident, because that’s exactly what it was. It was an accident. And it’s the biggest regret in my entire life, one that I’ll carry with me to my—oh for Pete’s—incident, accident, what’s the difference? It’s the same damn—last time I checked, those two words basically mean the same thing. And furthermore, I think it’s time that we actually—really? We’re really going to play that game right now? We’re going to convict me for murder on national television based on my choice of vocabulary words? This is ridiculous. When I agreed to come on this show, I did so under the impression that we were going to have a rational conversation like two intelligent human beings, but I can see now how much of a fool I was for believing that. But that’s just me. That’s the kind of person I am. No matter what happens in the—well yes, I was just in the middle of doing that when you felt the need to interrupt once again, but yes, I was. Well, I was going to say that I’m the kind of person who always tries to see the absolute best in everyone around me, even if that’s not always the truth. Yes, I try to act that way toward everyone in my life. Well, last time I checked, the phrase, “everyone in my life” would include my late wife since she was someone who was in my life. See now, come on. That’s—no, I’m not just making a big stink out of nothing here, this is exactly why I’m in this mess in the first place. I’m sitting here trying to have a civilized conversation with you, and you’re injecting this this this false vitriol into everything by pulling my words apart until they don’t even mean the same thing as when I said them. Yes, I’m deadly serious. No, I—you know what? That was way out of line. That’s disgusting. That’s a disgusting, offensive thing to say to a person and you should be ashamed of yourself. I shouldn’t even have to justify that with a response, but since I have no other choice, I guess I—No! No I am not in this mess because I pushed my wife off a cliff on the morning of our twenty-fifth anniversary because I didn’t do that. How many times do I have to say it? Well then let me say it for a second time and maybe this time you’ll actually listen instead of interrupting again. I did not kill Catherine. I did not do that. What happened was an accident and a terrible tragedy for me and my family and I would never do anything to hurt her in any way. It just couldn’t happen. I loved her too much. Violence is not in my nature. To lay a finger on her would be tantamount to stabbing myself in the heart with a crooked dagger. And I’ll stand by my word until the day I—okay well, that was a very unfortunate situation. And let me just state for the record how much I dislike that term. Domestic abuse. Because anyone who’s been in a marriage or a relationship for as long as Catherine and I were, those people know that nothing happens in a vacuum. You know, no one wakes up in the morning and thinks to themselves, “Hey, what a pretty sunrise. I think I’ll beat my wife today.” That’s not how it happens. There are many, many other factors at play when we’re talking about the situation you referred to, and to place such a broad, inaccurate label on a few scattered incidents of conflict that cropped up over the course of a, you know, a lifetime together, is a gross and inaccurate oversimplification of a very complex situation. The point is—no I will not speak more about that now, end of story. The point—you can ask as many times as you want, Jackie, but I’ve been advised to not speak on that aspect of the case, and there’s nothing more I can say. Now if I can be allowed to speak without being interrupted, I would like to say that as wonderful as she was, Catherine was not perfect. None of us are. And despite our best efforts to help her, Catherine had a serious drug problem. And when Catherine used drugs, she was not the same person anymore. She turned into someone else. And me, coming home every day after working ten- and twelve-hour shifts to put food on the table, I didn’t know which version of my wife was going to be waiting for me. I didn’t know if it was going to be beauty or the beast. I didn’t know if I was going to be kissed, or if I was going to have to dodge a ceramic plate flying at my head. And so—no, no, that is—absolutely not, that is not what happened. I just told you, I can’t go into it without—okay fine, what about my abuse? What about the constant psychological abuse I had to endure at the hands of a junkie? Hmm? What about that? What about the screaming, and the insults, and the the the hateful comments about my job and the amount of money I make and how it was never enough to support both our family and her habit? What do you say about that? Oh yes of course that makes perfect sense. So because I’m a man, I should just suck it up and stop complaining, but since she’s a woman, it’s a hateful crime and a tragedy when it happens to her. No, I—see, there you go, you’re twisting my words again. Yes, of course, what happened was a terrible tragedy and the mistakes I’ve made will haunt me for the rest of my—no no no no absolutely not in no way am I admitting that I pushed my wife off a cliff on our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. No way. All I’m saying is that in the very complex landscape of a marriage, nothing happens in a vacuum or without previous provocation. And to believe so is foolish and a gross oversimplification of a very complicated situation. And while we’re on this subject—oh for the—yes! What did I just say? Didn’t I just say I didn’t do this? Did I not just say that? Are we just—well for starters, there’s no physical evidence to support any hypothesis that your version of the incident even happened. There were no signs of a struggle, no disturbed plant or or or geological formations, no broken rocks or anything of that nature that would suggest anything out of the ordinary happened at or before that time. And furthermore—well, as I explained to the police at the scene, the gash on my hand came from when I, very foolishly I might add, tried to climb a rock wall during the hike up to the, you know, the bluff at the top of the thing. The canyon where she fell in. Yes, I’m forty-nine-years-old. Well, I’ve been an athlete my entire life, so I tend to think of myself as a bit of an ironman. I was the starting fullback on my high school football team when we won the state championship back in—yes, fine, runners-up, same damn thing, what’s the difference? What I meant to say is that we played in the championship game, and we were this close to taking it when—yes, I’m fully aware of what the final score was, Jackie, thank you very much, I was there. And let me just say that that game was a heck of a lot closer than fifty-eight to nothing would suggest to the layman—er, excuse me—laywoman—God forbid I offend anyone by using a term that’s been universally accepted in the scientific community for the last two hundred—okay fine then, yes, let’s do that, let’s get back to the point, because I was starting to—God, I don’t know. If I had to guess, I’d say I probably just wanted to climb it because it was there. Well for starters, I didn’t even get very far up, and then on the way down, I got myself a nice little gash in the palm of my hand thanks to a sharp hold. No, I don’t believe that at all. Like I just said, the gash came from the rock wall I tried to climb like a moron. Well, that’s just silly. This is the first I’m hearing about any kind of mysterious fracture in the back of her skull, but when a person falls a hundred or however many feet, I’d say there’s a good chance there’ll be a whole bunch of fractures. Yes, I—again, I don’t know where you’re getting all this, but if some kind of bloody rock had been found at the scene with both my and Catherine’s blood on it, it must’ve been near where she landed, but I personally don’t know how it’s possible for there to be something like that when I clearly didn’t do anything wrong. Well, as I keep telling you, I already had the gash on my hand from trying to climb the wall, so it would make sense that some of my blood was found there, but I don’t know. I already told you what happened. Yes I did, I did. It was before, when we were—I’m sorry Jackie, but my lawyers are waving at me right now, so I’m going to have to cut it right here. No, I can’t say any more. They’re yelling at me to cut it, so I have to—yes, I’m very sorry. Thanks for having me on, Jackie. Bye-bye now.


Steve Gergley

Steve Gergley is a writer and runner based in Warwick, New York. His fiction has appeared in The Fiction Pool, Typishly, and the Eunoia Review, and is forthcoming in Riggwelter, Five on the Fifth, and others. In addition to writing fiction, he has composed and recorded five albums of original music.

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