Contemporary Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of substance abuse.

“I can’t sleep.” Lester whispered as he rolled over in bed and touched Marge gently. Marge, his wife, was snoring loudly making it impossible for Lester to fall asleep. He had spent the last few nights sampling a variety of ear plugs and even tried wearing a noise cancelling headset to no avail. It was driving him crazy and effecting his work. Lester operated heavy machinery in a car factory and could not afford to be sleepless. He tried to be patient and understanding but his lack of sleep made him irritable. They had been married for twenty years. Marge was his high school sweetheart and was still as beautiful as the day he met her. Lester had been the star quarterback and Marge, the head cheerleader. It was a match made in heaven. He loved her red hair and fiery personality. She loved his ‘hunky’ build and gentlemanly manners. After all, his parents were from South Carolina and had instilled some of that Southern charm in him. As expected, they were elected prom queen and king their senior year. It was a fairy tale union.

When they graduated, Lester was supposed to go Old Miss on a football scholarship and Marge would follow. She hoped to attend a dental hygienist program there. However, during the final game of the season, Lester broke his throwing arm and it never healed properly. He lost his scholarship and did not have enough money or the grades to attend college. So, what is a Detroit boy left to do but work at a car factory? He married Marge after graduation and when she became pregnant almost immediately, he felt pressure to provide for his new family. Marge had horrible morning sickness the first few months of pregnancy and dropped out of classes at the local Community college. She knew Lester’s paycheck would not cover mortgage payments, food and tuition. So, she took a job as a secretary at the same car factory. Her wages were meager, and their combined income barely covered all their needs. Marge had begged Lester not to buy the house, but he insisted that the factory job was temporary. He would get his football career back on track and eventually make it to the pros. Marge was in the room when the Old Miss doctor told him he’d never be able to throw a football again. Lester would not believe him and spent a lot of money getting second and third opinions with the same results. Marge felt bad for Lester and did not want to destroy his dreams, but they had a baby coming. They needed to be realistic. They were barely squeaking by. Marge’s dream of becoming a dental hygienist seemed more attainable but they both came from blue collar families and there was not any money to borrow. Eventually, they were forced to sell their house and rent the apartment in which they have lived for the past twenty years.

Marge never snored during the first twenty years, but when she became pregnant at age 40, it was nightly. Despite the fact that Lester knew he snored and in fact needed a CPAP machine, he could not tolerate Marge’s snoring. To complicate matters, he was depressed. He felt life had dealt him a bad deck of cards. After all, he was the high school star destined for greatness. Lately, he had started drinking excessively and spending his days off at the gun range. Marge had confronted him recently about his growing gun collection and alcohol problem. It was not a good mix. Lester agreed and just prayed harder. His father was the pastor of an Evangelical church and Lester was a devout Christian. He had always been a sweet kid and despite his success on the football field humbled himself before God every Sunday. His father told him to pray to God for help after Marge confided her concerns. Lester even started going to AA meetings. It was at one of the meetings, he met Josh, an avid hunter. They started hunting together and going to the shooting range. Josh showed Lester his gun and rifle collection and introduced him to local gun shows. For a time, Lester remained sober by visiting the shooting range each time he had the urge to drink after work. Soon he satisfied his urges by purchasing more weapons. Despite the family’s money difficulties, he always could find enough cash to buy the newest gun or rifle. This trend continued for months until a robot replaced him at his job, and he was demoted. His depression and heavy drinking resumed.

Marge had always been the devoted girlfriend and wife. She was a gifted violinist and excellent student but as a good Christian girl put herself secondary to Lester. She never wanted to outshine him. She had earned an academic scholarship to many colleges but refused them all when she became pregnant, and Lester broke his arm. She learned to cook and become a good homemaker while working at the car factory. Her bosses soon recognized her talents and she transitioned from secretary to a managerial position and was soon climbing the managerial ladder. Initially, she could only work part time because they could not afford day care. However, as their daughter, Emily, grew, she took on more responsibilities. Emily had Marge’s red hair, fiery personality and intelligence. She was independent and rebellious at an early age. It irritated Lester that Emily refused to attend church by the time she reached the age of 12. Initially, he celebrated Marge’s upward mobility and ability to excel. It meant more income. However, when he lost his heavy machinery job, he began to resent her success. He felt that she had outshone and humiliated him. His heavy drinking made him paranoid and put an edge on his personality.


Marge rolled over on her side and her snoring became a soft whimper. Lester grumbled and tried to go back to sleep but to no avail. It was Saturday and he had a date with Josh to go to the gun range. He rose, quietly dressed, opened the door to the restroom, brushed his teeth and tiptoed to the kitchen. He opened the fridge, grabbed three cans of beer, quickly drank two and put the third in his duffel bag. After washing down a power bar with a glass of milk, he left the house and went into the garage. He took an AR-15 out of his gun cabinet, jumped into his truck and drove to the gun range. All the usual boys were there. After two hours of shooting at various targets, Josh, Lester and several of the boys drove to the local bar, the Lions Head, and shared lunch, drinks and stories. Initially, Lester had been offended by the way some of the boys referred to their spouses and girlfriends. It was unchristian. However, as he consumed more alcohol, he found the stories funnier and funnier. He even added some of his own.

“Get this boys, Marge is so high in management, she’s liable to be my boss soon.”

“That would be hard for a man to swallow. It’s one thing to think the little woman is the boss of the house but work? Whew!” Joe, a balding construction worker, always had an opinion.

“Yeah, and since she became pregnant, she snores like a freight train. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks.”

“I’d kick her out of the bedroom. My wife has slept in the guest bedroom many nights.” Joe added but neglected to say it was because his wife could not stand his body odor.

“Hey, maybe the snoring will disappear after the pregnancy. Besides, don’t you have a CPAP machine? Those things are really noisy.” Josh was always the voice of reason.

“She has six more months of pregnancy. I’m not sure I’ll survive without sleep. It’s already driving me crazy.” Lester shook his head as he took another shot of whiskey.

The boys all nodded and made some lewd comments on how they would rectify the situation. Lester blushed, took another shot of whisky and got up to leave. Josh followed him to the parking lot.

“Buddy, I think you need to go to another AA meeting. You fell off the wagon months ago and you’re not thinking straight. You can’t drive in this condition. Let me drive you home.” Josh put his hand on Lester’s shoulder.

Lester shrugged off Josh’s hand and said: “I’ll be just fine.”

Josh grabbed Lester’s shoulder firmly again and said: “I’m afraid I must insist.”

Lester turned and took a swing at Josh but fell to the ground and began to whimper. Josh helped him up, sat him on a nearby curb and put his arm around his shoulders.

Lester hung his head and whispered: “I’m such a loser!”

Josh shook his head and said: “You’ve just lost your way. We’ll get you back on the right path soon. There’s an AA meeting this afternoon. Let’s go. I’ll drive.”

The AA meeting lasted well into the evening. Lester said all the right things. After the meeting, Josh drove Lester back to his car and Lester drove home. He was extra affectionate to Marge that night and prayed extra hard the next day at church.


Several weeks passed and Lester remained sober. Marge’s snoring seemed less, and she responded by rolling onto her side with some gentle prodding. Then it happened! Lester was dismissed from his job, and he spiraled downward. After a day at the gun range and a night of heavy drinking, he returned home to find Marge asleep and snoring. He got into bed beside her without undressing and tried to snuggle but with no response. The snoring continued. Lester rolled over, pulled a Smith and Wesson from out of his bedside table and put the barrel to his mouth. He was soon unconscious. When he awoke there were flashing lights outside his window. He nudged Marge but she did not move. Her pillow was stained a bright red and there was a hole just above her ear.

November 12, 2023 21:49

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Chris Pye
10:57 Nov 24, 2023

Hi Rudy - A riveting tale with good back story, with a fatalism that pretty much spirals down to the very sad end. My question for you is, did it have to? You went for a twist in the end, fair enough, but I wonder if there could have been some twisty way of leaving me, the reader, less ... bereft. Perhaps not. Just a thought. Also the formatting made it difficult to read; it needs more paragraphs breaks, but no doubt you are aware of that. I suggest you check how your next story looks when you paste it into the box, have a look, then 'ed...


Rudy Greene
20:41 Nov 24, 2023

Thanks for the constructive criticism. It's helpful and appreciated.


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Mary Bendickson
14:30 Nov 14, 2023

Sad, ending.


Rudy Greene
22:11 Nov 14, 2023

Your support and comments are always appreciated


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