An Episode — Fiction by Dan Nielsen

“Cal, I can’t go on like this.” Suzy Nicholson stared out at the dark. It was winter. It was 4:30 in the afternoon.

“Why is that, Hon?” Cal Nicholson was still looking at the TV. He needed to look at his wife now. He didn’t want to, but he did anyway. He knew what was happening. “Suzy, baby, is there anything I can do?”

“No, there’s nothing you can do, Cal,” Suzy was sobbing now. “I hate you. I want a divorce. I want you out of this house and I never want to see you again for as long as I live.”

Cal leaned forward and pushed down with his heels. The recliner moved smoothly into an upright position. The remote control was holstered to the armrest. Without looking, Cal touched a button. The set made a clicking sound and the screen went black. Cal took a deep breath. He stood up.

“Suzy, you know I love you.”

“You don’t know the meaning of love!”

Cal tried to think. The doctor referred to these as ‘episodes.’ They happened six times a year. Suzy’s ovaries were dissimilar. One was kind and gentle, while the other sent Suzy, and all those around her, directly to hell. But not forever. An ‘episode’ lasted anywhere from forty-eight to seventy-two hours. There was nothing to do but ride it out. Cal would ride it out. Suzy was a wonderful wife, except for two or three days every second month.

“Honey, try to relax.” Cal said. “Lie down. I’ll fix dinner. Whatever you like. Grilled cheese with tomato?” Cal took a step toward his wife. Suzy flinched, took a step away, and raised an arm protectively in front of her. “Or we could order out,” Cal said. “Have something delivered. Chinese? Pizza? Anything you want. Or I could pick up Mexican from that place you like. Shrimp enchiladas?”

“Why aren’t you dead, Cal? Do you know how boring you are?” Suzy was full out crying now. “How can you be alive and be so boring at the same time? Why did I marry you? What was I thinking? I must have been insane. You’re not even a man. I don’t know what you are.”

At this, the expression on Cal’s face twisted into something that might have been a smile. It wasn’t on purpose. He didn’t even notice it happening.

At that, Suzy began to scream. It was loud and continuous and didn’t stop until she ran out of breath. The dog across the street barked. Then other dogs were barking, all up and down the block. Suzy screamed again. Louder this time. Neighbors would call the police.

Cal took another step and covered his wife’s open mouth with his hand. Suzy tried to push it away with her tongue while simultaneously biting down as hard as she could. Her scream this time had nowhere to go. Her ears popped. It felt like her eyes would fly out of her head.

Cal pulled his hand away. There was blood dripping from Suzy’s lips and down her chin. She tried to speak, but the sounds weren’t words.

Together, they looked down. Suzy’s tongue was on the floor.

Cal picked it up. He carried it to the kitchen. He put it in a plastic bag with ice cubes. His hands were shaking, but he managed to get the blue and yellow ridges lined up, and, when he pressed them together, it turned green.

Back in the living room, Suzy, calm now, was curled up in the recliner watching Golden Girls.

“Honey,” Cal said, “I think we should go to the hospital now.”

Suzy nodded. Cal helped her with her coat.

Dan Nielsen lives alone in a three-bedroom house a short walk from Lake Michigan. He’s been writing, making music, and doing art for half a century. Old credits include Random House and University of Iowa Press anthologies. Most recently his work has appeared in The Bicycle Review, New Pop Lit, Smashed Cake Review, Bird’s Thumb, Lockjaw Magazine and The Fem.  Dan is amazing at ping-pong. He has a website called


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