Cold, Cold Heart by Karin Slaughter is a Kindle Single and is truly a short story. The story itself is over and done by the 39% mark in the downloaded epub. It is then followed by an excerpt from The Kept Woman advertised to be on sale 20 September 2016. The prolog to that excerpt should guarantee sales. This is one of those times when it is good to take Amazon’s offer of a free sample. But back to the short story Cold, Cold Heart.
Jon (previously John, before the later than mid-life crisis) and Pam had been together and married for a long time. Both were high school teachers; they had little money and had to live on a tightly controlled budget. And Jon controlled the budget very strictly even refusing to give Pam lunch money when she had run out early in the week. He did give her advice; she was to budget more wisely.
Jon believed he had superior intellect even though Pam was the one with a doctorate in biology. Jon held no advanced degree. For any problem that popped up, Jon shrugged his shoulders and replied that they should just let things work themselves out. That did not work out so well with their son Zachary. Pam informed Jon about the drugs, the alcohol, the exuberant sex life of their teenage son but Jon just shrugged it off. But Jon could not shrug off Zachary’s death in a car accident. Jon could not get over ignoring Pam’s earlier concerns when it was found that Zachary’s blood alcohol content was six times over the legal limit. Jon blamed the failure of their sex life after the death of their son on depression.
But Pam already knew about some of Jon’s infidelities. She put up with some but could not ignore the one in which he ran away with a younger woman, went to California, and married her. Jon had spent a lot of time prior to his divorce from Pam writing a book. It was hugely successful; Jon became rich. He tried to give some money to Pam but the betrayed wife accepted none of it. And now Jon had phoned her to invite her to visit him in California and witness his death.
Jon had accepted death but wanted to be decapitated and have his head and body cryogenically preserved for a later return. He also wanted to see Pam one last time, not to apologize for anything but to confess. Jon had kept journals for all of the time he had been married to Pam. He wanted her to read them. In each journal, he named the women he had a relationship with during his marriage to Pam. There were a lot of journals. Rather than making amends to Pam, he wanted to gloat, to stick the knife in once again, with a shrug of the shoulders and a smirk.
And now it is Pam’s turn. Her reaction and behavior in response to Jon’s confession makes the story worth reading.
The characters in this short story are well developed. I felt sorry for the wasted life that was Pam’s. I loathed the superior attitude of Jon (John). Zachary was not around long enough to engender feelings but he was only important as a writing prompt. The story “action” is mostly in Pam’s mind as she looks back and reflects on her married life: what she knew, what she didn’t know, the unequal and unfair life she had with Jon. As her reflections alternate between her feelings about herself, her son Zach, and her changing feelings for Jon, the story moves quickly.
I almost never read the follow on excerpts. I did so here and now feel I have to buy The Kept Woman.