The Perfect Day by Debra Lobel

April 24th was a beautiful spring day in San Diego.  The sky was blue and clear.  Not a cloud in sight.  The sun was a golden yellow.  Everything was going well for Monica.    Life was wonderful.

Robert was coming home today after being away for three months.  Monica was looking forward to his return.  She planned to make his favorite dinner – Pozole.  When they first met, he told her that his favorite meal was Pozole and that nobody made it better than his mother did.  Before they were married, she got the recipe from his mom.  Every time she made Pozole for him, he said it wasn’t quite right and pushed it away. Last night she realized that she made it in a pan on the stove.  His mom used a pressure cooker.  That’s what was missing.  Tonight’s dinner was going to be perfect.

Monica was off to Target.  The top of her convertible was down as she drove along the Freeway.  Her long, dark hair was blowing in the wind.  Her deep set brown eyes were hidden by the Ray-ban sunglasses that she bought the day before.  She couldn’t really afford the Ray-bans, but she had decided to splurge to celebrate Robert’s homecoming.  Monica was looking forward to surprising him.

The parking lot was pretty empty, so parking was easy.  Monica was wearing her favorite running suit and Nike running shoes.  The jacket was zipped up half way, exposing her locket with her birthstone that stood out against her white T-shirt.  As she passed by a window, Monica glanced at her reflection.  She knew she looked good.

Monica took a shopping cart when she walked into the store.  She headed for housewares.  There was a good assortment of pressure cookers.  The 4-quart pressure cooker was too small.  The 6-quart one would probably work, but she wanted an 8-quart pressure cooker like the one Robert’s mother used.  When she saw the Presto 8-quart Polished Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker, she grabbed it and put it in her cart.  That was exactly the one her mother-in-law used.

Satisfied, Monica headed for the hardware section.  Nails.  Which ones?  She grabbed the biggest box.  Then it was on to the drug section for an instant cold pack with ammonium nitrate.  At the food department she quickly picked up a pound of pork shoulder, two cans of hominy, cilantro, onion, limes and avocados.  Everything else that Monica needed was at home.

Monica paid for her purchases and was back on the road in less than an hour.  She looked at the time on the dashboard.  It was almost 11 AM.  She was going to pick up Robert by 4 this afternoon.  There was plenty of time to get everything ready.  It really was going to be a perfect day.

There weren’t too many packages to bring in the house.  She only had to make one trip.  Monica unpacked the bags.  She took out the pressure cooker from its box and put it on the counter.  She prepared the meat and vegetables and added all the ingredients to the cooker.  It just needed to be plugged in.

Next on Monica’s list was to get herself ready.  Tonight was her native dancing group.  Her sons Jose and Memo were at their grandparent’s home in Tijuana, so they wouldn’t be joining them tonight.  She had intentionally arranged it this way so she would be alone with Robert.  She packed her costume as well as other things she was going to need and set it by the door.

Monica decided to heat up some leftovers from last night and eat them while reading the latest mystery by her favorite author.  She was so engrossed with her book, she almost forgot what time it was.  At 3 she grabbed her stuff, put it in the trunk and went to pick up Robert.  She was looking forward to seeing him.

Robert came out of the El Cajon City jail at precisely 4 PM.  He still had his long hair tied back in a ponytail.  His nose looked like it had been broken and there was a sadness in his eyes until he saw her.  She got out of the car and ran to him, putting her arms around his neck.  He picked her up and swung her around.  All the way home they couldn’t keep their hands off of each other.  They barely made it to the bedroom before they had removed all their clothes.  He moaned how much he had missed her.  She ran her nails along his back.  It was almost the end of the perfect day.

Monica looked over at the radio clock.  “I’ll be back soon,” Monica said as she got out of bed.

“Where are you going?”  Robert asked.

“Native dance,” she said.

“Do you have to go tonight?”  Robert asked as he sat up in bed to light a cigarette.

Monica leaned over to give him a kiss.  “Yes.  And guess what.  I made your favorite meal.  I think you’ll love it.”

Robert smiled.  Pozole.  He had seen the hominy cans.  He was happy to take a nap for a little while.

“I’ll be back soon.”  Monica said as she put on her shoes.   “I bought a pressure cooker.  I need you to turn it on when I call you.  Your cell phone is in the kitchen. Answer it when I call.”

“Will do.”  Robert watched her as she left.

Monica was almost to the border when she called Robert.  The pressure cooker exploded on the fourth ring.  She had used Robert’s phone to set off the detonator.  The nails, metal shards, ball bearings and the ammonium nitrate/aluminum powder mix that she had put in the Pozole were sure to kill him.  Monica smiled and thought “That bastard will never touch my baby boy again!”

The news said that the whole block felt the explosion.  They could barely find any of Robert’s body parts.  It had been a perfect day.


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