One spoonful, once per week with any food or drink. Share serving size with spouse if spouse no longer meeting expectations.
The handwriting on the bronze glass bottle could have been that of an evil genius. Maybe Dr. Moodlow was an evil genius. Tom should have vetted him, searched his credentials on the internet, or at least read some reviews about him first. He did none of these things. Tom lived off the internet grid, and he liked it a lot. The only credentials and high reviews he knew of Dr. Moodlow had come from his friends. Hadn't they been wrong many times in the past?
"Happiness. He will change your life. He's amazing," the guys had said. And they looked happy, all very, very happy. But why wasn't he? Had he gotten a bad batch of Dr. Moodlow's magical formula? Of course, it was not magic, but one of the newest psych-bio drugs on the market. Several other drugs promised happiness and euphoria, but this was the only one with guaranteed results.
Tom stared at the bottle, and with a deep breath, poured two spoonfuls of the clear liquid into the spaghetti sauce, and stirred. Claire would be home any minute. Perfect Claire. She really was perfect in every sense. Beautiful, no attitude, agreeable, sensible, polite, merciful, clean, hard-working. The list was long. Perfect in every way. He should feel lucky, even blessed, that he had her in his life. He should be appreciative that he met Dr. Moodlow. But why wasn't he?
"Damned quack," he said to himself, twisting the knob to extinguish the burner's flame. "If I wanted a robot, I'd buy a damn robot."
What had the doctor said? His concoction was FDA approved to rid the psyche of all unwanted traits, leaving the person to be his or her best person possible. Claire had volunteered for this. She didn't know who would be her eventual husband, but she didn't care. She signed on the dotted line. She would trade her choice of a spouse for the guarantee of happiness at any cost. Hell, he could throw her out the window and she'd probably sing all the way down the twenty-one stories to the parking lot pavement. But what was she like before the concoction? Who was the real Claire?
The apartment door opened inward, and Claire stepped into the kitchen. She inhaled deeply and smiled, placing a bag and stack of work on the table. "You're making us dinner? What's the occasion?" The words sung out of her.
Tom didn't answer. "How was your day? Good, right?"
"How did you guess?" She giggled and stepped over to the pot of spaghetti and planted a kiss on Tom's cheek. She was so beautiful, so lovely, so perfect, and it made his stomach sour. "What's the occasion?" she asked again.
Tom shrugged. "You work hard and keep a clean house. You deserve a good meal." He dished out the noodles on two plates and took his seat at the table. She sat beside him.
"Tell me about your day," she said.
"First, eat," Tom said, making a wave at the food. There was no need to be polite. Claire never took offense.
"Okay," Claire agreed. And she ate.
Tom devoured his noodles in five large fork-filled spools. Sweat formed on his brow until a drop was created, which ran down the length of his cheek as he watched Claire eat. She tended to her noodles cleanly and gently. What will she be like once the spell is broken? Tom wondered. Will she still love him? Will she know him at all, or would she wake up as if from a nightmare? What if she divorced him? Whatever. It had to be done. No more perfect spouse. What a dumb idea. Yeah, his buddies seemed so happy, but they had always been the shallow kind. Any girl who didn't leave them was a winner as far as they were concerned.
Tom went to bed first, leaving Claire to clean up. She wouldn't mind. He was prepared to toss and turn and struggle to sleep, but he drifted off a lot quicker than usual, and didn't recall waking all night until the sun's warm hands stretched around the curtains and rested on his face the next morning. He opened his eyes. The light usually annoyed him, but today was different. It was Saturday, the start of the weekend. He turned over and saw Claire sleeping, her breathing slow. Her nose was small, her lips supple, and her hair as smooth as silk. She was perfect in every way, and he could learn to appreciate that. In fact, he'd show her how much he appreciated her. Tom rolled out of bed, started the coffee, and threw some butter on a pan for some fried eggs.
Moments later, Claire entered the living room, stretching and yawning. She entered behind Tom and snatched a mug off the counter and filled it with hot Columbian brew.
"That smells wonderful. What is all this? Dinner and now breakfast?" she asked.
"You bet," replied Tom. "And later, I'll take you to the park. We'll feed the birds. Then, maybe a movie and dinner."
"Oh, Tom," said Claire, "that's too much."
Tom paused and faced Claire. "We don't have to. We could stay in, order a movie online, maybe just chat."
"It was only an idea. We can do whatever you want." Tom tilted his head, smiled, and held Claire at her shoulders.
Claire shook her head. "What's gotten into you? I have work all weekend to catch up on. Be a darling and make my eggs to go, will you?" She turned and left him in the kitchen and dressed to leave. As she departed for work, Tom met her at the door and handed her breakfast in a glass container. He gave her a kiss on the cheek. She stared absently at him, then left the building, wondering to herself how long she could tolerate such a perfect spouse.
About Travis L. Dover
Travis L. Dover served three years as a Specialist of the U.S. Army, 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, 1/14 Cavalry. One of those years was in Iraq. “I have been married to my wonderful wife for thirteen years and share with her six children and counting: five girls and an often sticky and naked toddler boy. I am grateful to Bill Blaylock of Veteran’s Voices who invited me to participate and share some of my writing. I enjoy being in the company of the members of Veteran’s Voices as they have life experiences and wisdom that they share that can help me become a better writer.”