By DW McKinney of Critically Unhinged
Abbot, TX – The air is clogged with acrid, black smoke and frenzied shouts.
Today, Roberta Williams, 37, is burning at the stake. As the crowd grows in number, bystanders eagerly weigh in on the spectacle and the life of a stay-at-home mother many thought of as an icon.
“Roberta is, excuse me, was always doing something for her kids,” says Marissa Lewis, a fellow stay-at-home mother. She pauses to finger her pearl necklace and adjust her cardigan. “She’d be at their games or helping them with their projects. Roberta was everywhere all the time. She was incredible. Sometimes I asked myself how she found the time. Now, I know the truth.”
Roberta possessed more than the usual amount of energy, but those who knew her best chalked it up to her supreme level of organization. She was the go-to volunteer, an honest woman whose purpose was giving her all for her children and the children of others.
The mother with the fantastic bob and neatly pressed clothes appeared unbothered by multiple playdates, last-minute homework assignments, and hosting neighborhood meetings.
Several members of the local PTA chime in. “We didn’t bat an eye when she told us she could make cookies in the shapes of the animals on the endangered species list. I just thought, ‘Well, hallelujah! Finally, something more exciting than dump cake and chocolate chip brownies,’” says one.
No one suspected that Roberta was a 14th level witch, having sold her soul for a permanent position on the local elementary school’s volunteer safety patrol and the first place prize at the annual bake sale. But, when Roberta rejoined the workforce after a 13-year hiatus, earning a position as a CEO in a new company, quite a few eyebrows raised.
The police immediately raided Roberta’s house and seized her possessions for investigation. They discovered a self-help book and a crate of textbooks in the basement. Their most damning evidence was an unusually clean home, three children quietly reading at the kitchen table, and a content husband sitting on the couch.
“We tried to talk to John, but he was in a daze. Spelled, if you will,” says Police Chief Dan Hackens. “We knew it then. We knew Roberta was up to no good. It’s always the ones you least expect.”
K, a close friend and confidante of Roberta’s, spoke out on the condition of anonymity. “I don’t see what the fuss is about. It seemed normal to me. You could count on Roberta to watch your kids while you ran errands. She’d never hesitate to whip up a casserole for a last minute potluck. For God’s sake! I just can’t imagine-” K’s racking sobs prevent her from speaking further.
“Did she think we wouldn’t notice? Like suddenly you’re baking pies, and attending games, and working 9-to-5? No, ma’am. We do not tolerate that type of behavior in this community,” barks Donna Harris, a working mother of two.
With the exception of a few, most of the women in the crowd – and a handful of men – sport the same chic bob as Roberta. For a moment, the crowd is silent as they watch her on the pyre. She has remained stoic and silent despite the flames engulfing her. When Roberta’s hair alights, some absentmindedly pat theirs.
As Roberta’s ashes begin to rain down around us, it seems to draw an even larger crowd.
A small boy tilts his head up and opens his mouth to catch ash on his tongue. His parents take out their phones to record video.
An elderly man next to me leans over and whispers, “The way she could take charge and know what to do all the time. Everything she did seemed effortless. She was like a goddess, an inspiration–”
“It was unnatural. And she fooled us for too long,” grumbles the woman holding his hand, presumably his wife. “No one can have it all.”
About the Author
DW McKinney is a legislation proofreader and full-time gremlin wrangler. Sarcasm is the big stick she uses unabashedly when she’s not full-blown neurotic. To peruse her ramblings, check out her blog Critically Unhinged. Follow her on Twitter @thedwmckinney.