By Lance Moody
As usual, she had me at a disadvantage. I was cold and had never done well in the cold, not exactly a position of strength from which to bargain. But it occurred to me that there’d never been even a single instance in which I’d actually prevailed in a quarrel with her. I looked her straight in the eye, probed the depths of her stubborn soul for some sign of weakness, some avenue to win the day. But she was a rock.
Her right eyebrow arched upward in a particularly annoying fashion as she looked down her nose at me.
“Am I permitted to ask a question?” I said.
“Of course,” she replied. “I’m not some tyrant, after all.”
“Okay… what if I were to admit my mistake? What if I were to say I’m sorry and that I’d never make such an egregious error again?”
“Seriously?” she said, her brow furrowing in clear disdain. “Given the circumstances, I’d say we’re way past the point of apologies. Some things you just can’t walk back.”
“Okay… I get that. Really, I do. It’s just that sometimes a man—”
“Oh, come on, Robert. Is that the best you can do? Fall back on some cliché? Disappointing—one might even say a new low for you.”
Hope was slipping away, so I quickly changed tack. “You’re right… I have to admit it. You’re absolutely right. But I know you’re the bigger person, one who can, if not forgive, at least show compassion. Right? Ultimately, we’re talking about you here, not me.”
She looked at me with the sort of stare an eagle fixes on a rat before it sweeps down on the scurrying little vermin. But she said nothing.
I tried to play it cool. “Is there any room at all for… negotiation?”
“Wiggle room, you mean?”
“That’s one way of putting it,” I said.
She smiled her predator’s smile, and the remaining blood drained from my face. “Of course,” she said, “just there.” Her bony finger—still smudged with damp earth—indicated a tiny space at the foot of the grave she’d dug in our basement. The grave in which I’d regained consciousness. She tossed another spade full of dirt onto my bound feet. She even had the temerity to laugh. “There’s all the room you’ll ever need.”