Johnny is the best running back the high school has ever had, Catherine told her father. Bill Monroe agreed but told her there was something he didn't like about the boy. Catherine hugged her father and told him he would learn to love him as she did.
One year later, Bill was walking his daughter down the aisle and still hadn't found that love for him that Catherine had assured him of. She was happy was all that mattered. Catherine's mother told her, before she passed, if she made a hard bed, she would have to lay in it. He was trusting her to know what she was doing.
Catherine's marriage was uneventful in the beginning. Johnny found work at the local sawmill until his number on the draft came up. The Vietnam War was entering its fifth year, most of his classmates had already served. Two years of being apart and the threat of losing him strongly bonded the couple. Their marriage was rock solid to the outside world.
Bill Monroe decided his apprehension with the boy was unfounded. He eventually considered him a son, especially since he had none. Catherine's marriage remained stable up until her father died. That was the day she first got a glimpse of Johnny's anger. She had been staying by her father's bedside; Johnny couldn't handle the lack of attention. She was a perfect 1960's wife, always available to her husband in every way and never complaining.
Johnny accused her of staying at the hospital only to flirt with the doctors. Catherine was shocked by his accusation. She had never seen this side of Johnny and, she hoped she never would again. The days and then weeks passed after her father's death and, everything seemed to return to normal until she came home from the grocery store to be accused again. In the beginning, she tried to talk to Johnny and ask what was going on; but, she noticed he continued to withdraw from any of her questions.
She was left to deal with his outbursts and then stonewalling by herself. Catherine tried to make sense of what Johnny must be going through and couldn't understand what happened to the man she married. Had Vietnam destroyed him? Johnny's outburst and accusations increased and, Catherine began to walk on eggshells around him as too not to upset him. No matter what she did, she realized, he would continue to find fault.
Catherine's marriage was starting to feel as her mother had warned; a hard bed with an escalation of violence. The first time Johnny slapped her, she cried and, he felt horrible. He begged her not to leave. Johnny spent the entire following week trying to make up for what he had done to Catherine; it worked for a little while. She was happy again preparing her husband's favorite dishes and keeping their home clean.
Catherine did everything that Johnny wanted her to do except give him a child. Johnny continued to abuse Catherine and, she decided she wouldn't bring a child into her nightmare. She secretly went to an out of town doctor when Johnny was at work and purchased pills that she read would prevent her from getting pregnant. He controlled aspects of her life but, she was not going to have his baby.
Another year went by and, Johnny continued the abuse. He would leave marks on Catherine that were hidden by her clothing. He began to isolate her from her friends and any family that she had left after her father's passing. Catherine began to feel like a caged animal. The only outlet she could find was a journal she picked up at the drug store when she bought the birth control pills. Writing down her feelings and expressing her emotions was the only way she relieved her anxiety.
Every day, she would go to her front porch after Johnny left for work and drink a cup of coffee and write in her book. Catherine realized if Johnny found her book and read she would be punished. She devised a plan. When she was in high school, she had planned on going to college and working her way through as a secretary. She took typing classes and the secret language of stenographers, short hand. She was confident if he found he would not be able to decipher.
Catherine started her story when her and Johnny started dating and when she went back through her memory she realized that Johnny had never been the man that she had placed on the pedastool. The red flags were there before they got married. She had suppressed instances when he had embarrassed her or berated her in front of his friends. She recalled and instance when her and Johnny had went to a carhop late one evening right before closing. The waitress skated over and told them they were getting ready to close. Johnny told her that it was okay, it was worth stopping there just to see her. Catherine had suppressed it. She also remembered Johnny telling her about being in a phone booth at Stoney's and some guy hit him over the head because he was talking to his girlfriend.
Catherine continued to write in short hand with the lines and dots expressing all of the bottled up rage. She hadn't realized she had been on the porch for three hours. She had laundry to do, house cleaning, and laying out the meat for dinner. Johnny would be home at 5:15 sharp and everything had better be done. Even if the house was spotless, she knew he would find something wrong.
Johnny's outburst and violent temper continued through the years and Catherine continued to write religiously in her journal when he was at work. She looked forward daily to the time alone with her thoughts until the day he didn't go to work. Johnny wasn't feeling well and he had Catherine to call in for him. He continued to decline without Catherine ever seeking medical assistance. Johnny died in their bed. Catherine began to experience the same symptoms as her husband and laid in the bed next to him too weak to get up until she died.
Johnny's boss being unable to contact him for several days sent the foreman to his home. He made the gruesome discovery. The police were called and the lieutenant taped off the area as to determine the cause of their deaths.
The house was immaculate, nothing out of place. The lieutenant determined that Catherine was a great housekeeper. A chocolate cake was under a glass encasement in kitchen. All of the laundry was put away. He told his sergeant that is was going to be difficult to determine what the couple died from because nothing was out of order.
As the lieutenant was walking out of the room the journal, Catherine wrote caught his eye. He opened it up and quickly realized he would be unable to decode. His former secretary had retired a few years earlier and he decided to enlist her help in deciphering the journal hoping there would be some resolution to the circumstances of their deaths. He thought it was short hand and hadn’t been used in offices for years.
Mary Sue was proficient in stenography as well as short hand and, was eager to help her former boss with the case. After decoding Catherine's writings she was disturbed about the hopeless situation that the woman was in with no family to help. Johnny deserved to be poisoned by Catherine, but she couldn't understand why she would also take her own life. The love she felt for the man must extend past the abuse.
Johnny's family called the police station every day wanting answers of what had happened to their son. It didn't take Mary Sue long to realize where Catherine's husband, Johnny, learned his abusive behavior.
When she gave her final decipher of Catherine's journal to the police department, she omitted the details of Catherine poisioning herself and her husband. She told them that words read that Catherine always feared for her life and felt that her husband was poisoning the both of them. The words Mary Sue felt were true because he had poisoned them with his accusations, his flirting with other women, and his mental and physical abuse.