The Day I Shot My Wife
By Richard Bartel
I had been married just a year and getting more than a little tired of my first wife. We were very young and not exactly penniless. But as close as you could be to it. Savings Bank Life Insurance was heavily advertised at the time and so we each had a small policy on the other. $75,000.00 each, ( paid for by her parents). Not a lot by today’s standards but way more than enough for me to start over. So we went over to the beach and I accidently shot her in the head with my father’s shotgun.
Well, that’s not exactly the way it happened.
We were newly married and we were dirt poor. That’s for sure. And we both worked long hours to pay the new mortgage and the payments on the used cars and insurance and whatever else it takes to live, like spaghetti most nights.
On most Sunday afternoons during the late fall and winter we would go to my parents’ house on the bay to visit. Good visits and we could get free dinner. My brother and I would always drag out the skeet machine. We would take turns loading the throwing arm and pulling the cord to send the birds out over the bay. The other brother would stand on the dock and shoot the bird out of the sky. Or at least try. Five shots each and then we would switch off. Shotgun shells and clay birds were cheap back then. This was thirty five years ago and there was no one who cared if you shot skeet out over the bay from your front lawn.
For those who don’t hunt or shoot, shotgun shells are just extra big bullets that are filled with lots of little pellets called shot. They look like BBs. Serious hunters and skeet shooters spend thousands of dollars on their shotguns and shells to get just the right combination of barrel size, choke, (the pattern that the pellets spread out), and shot size. When you pull the trigger, the shell fires and the shot flies out the barrel at900 mph. The further away the shot travels, the wider it spreads out until it falls to the ground. Real flesh and blood birds and fake clay birds fly fast so in order to make the shot you have to lead them, shooting just a bit in front so the shot and the bird intersect.
Of course we couldn’t get together every Sunday so one particular afternoon my wife and I decided to go over to the beach. Most of the world gets toDune Roadby car or truck, but if you really want to be alone, you go to the Moriches Inlet by boat. I still had my little boat from when I was a clam digging teen so we loaded the shotgun and shells and set out for the fifteen minute trip across the bay. The day was crystal clear, blowing hard out of the southwest and cold as a witch’s you know what. It was mid December and to be expected.
We set the bow and stern anchors and hiked up the bay dune to cross over the end ofDune Roadand down the ocean dune to the other side.
As ususal, we walked the beach with eyes peering down along the shore as the waves crashed and receded. The one who found the most beach glass was always the winner, the prize being a penny. I’ve yet to get a single cent.
I rarely find any pieces of beach glass so I set up those big skimmer clam shells that litter the beach on driftwood logs and began shooting them with the Browning Auto 12 gauge. The Auto isn’t really automatic like a machine gun but it will shoot as fast as you can pull the trigger and that’s fast enough.
My fingers ached from the cold and were becoming almost useless but I still had a box of shells and wanted to use them up before we left. Shooting at skimmer shells sitting on logs was boring so I asked my wife to throw them in the air one at a time so I could hit them on the fly.