Janet came back from the dead and at first Miles couldn’t believe it. He’d been wishing for something like this with all his heart ever since the car wreck. Even though he knew it was impossible.
“If only she could come back, just for five minutes,” he’d say to anyone who’d listen and to himself when no one was around to listen, “Just for five minutes. I’d give twenty years of my life to say how much I loved her and how sorry I am for what happened.”
At first it was touching, but after a while it just got on people’s nerves. Everyone got tired of hearing the same sad old song.
“Time to move on,” is what they all thought and sometimes even said out loud.
Then Janet showed up on his doorstep one evening with a small valise of her things. Miles was overjoyed; his prayers had been heard! The problem was that Janet had no intention of staying for only five minutes. And hearing about how sorry Miles was and how much he loved her wasn’t going to cut it as far as she was concerned.
Somehow Miles thought an apology would wipe away her anger over the car accident that sent her flying through the windshield and into the trunk of a hundred-year-old oak tree at one-hundred-thirteen miles per hour. That was the speed recorded on the frozen speedometer in Miles’s crushed Vette. As you might expect, Janet was killed quicker than instantly.
Janet had told him that he was going too fast and that he’d had too much to drink at the Superbowl party but that hadn’t carried any weight with Miles at the time. Now it was too late to change anything, no matter how sorry Miles might be.
“Sorry doesn’t feed the bulldog, buster,” she said.
It was a saying she often said to ominous effect in life and it never presaged anything good.
Miles never expected Janet to be so unforgiving. He somehow always pictured the dead being mellower.
Instead from the moment he woke up in the morning to the minute he finally managed to drop off to sleep with her nagging voice ringing in his ear, it was a constant stream of recriminations and bitter “I told you sos.” It was about a thousand times worse than when she was alive.
Even worse, Janet was nothing much to look at anymore. She didn’t come back as an angelic pre-accident version of herself, as Miles always pictured her coming back for those five minutes he once naively dreamed about. Rather, her face looked like a lump of gray ectoplasmic clay on which someone who was naturally right-handed tried—and failed—repeatedly to scrawl a legible version of their signature using their left hand.
It made Miles cringe every time he had to look at her. Which was often enough, as Janet never seemed to get out of his face.
“Please, for the love of Mike,” Miles pleaded, “give it a fucking rest.”
But nothing would stop the onslaught. Eventually they settled into a pattern of bickering that turned Miles’s life into a living hell. Miles grew so disgusted and tired of it all that he gave Janet a new nickname. He started referring to her as old Jigsaw Face.
That’s when the self-cutting started.
First it seemed merely an accident, a slip of the knife while cutting an apple. A shaving nick. But soon it was clear nothing accidental was involved. Somehow Janet was steering his hand, causing Miles to cut himself.
People at work began to notice. His new girlfriend, who Janet never took to, became alternately concerned, repulsed, and angry. She broke up with him shortly after Miles lost his job at the shoelace factory.
His friends drifted away, one by one.
At home, Janet and the now unemployed Miles did nothing but scream insults at each other. The neighbors complained. The police were often called. Eviction was threatened.
Meanwhile, the cutting continued.
Eventually the story ends in the kind of foul stench and surplus of flies that generally characterizes the end of all such stories.
The downstairs neighbors call to report the aforementioned flies and stench and the weird greenish black stain spreading on their ceiling. The cops come with the landlord and Miles is found spread-eagle on the floor in the living room, his arms and legs slashed to ribbons. His throat is cut from ear to ear. His face looks like a jigsaw puzzle made of rotting meat. The razor is still pinched between his bloodied fingers.
“Survivor’s guilt,” his closest friends concluded.
Yep. You could see it coming a mile away.