Short Story: “My Home is a Prison”

After 34 years of marriage, Kevin feels like a prisoner in his own home. His religious faith means he is unable to divorce his wife. So is there another way he could bring their relationship to an end?

Dreamy middle aged senior loving retired family couple looking in distance, planning common future or recollecting memories, enjoying peaceful moment relaxing together on cozy sofa in living room. © fizkes /

March 31, 2024 01:53 EDT

Something to consider when reading/listening: Is freedom a place or a state of mind?

“You never listen,” she says. “That’s your trouble. You never listen.” Kevin has heard Barbara say these exact words a thousand times. But she’s right. Hearing isn’t the same as listening. And she’s not the only one he’s stopped listening to. 

I… am the voice in Kevin’s head, and he stopped listening to me the moment they got married, which is…more than 34 years ago now. 

All those doubts I tried to plant. All those hints. Suggestions. The idea that it’s not too late, that he can make a fresh start, that he can run away. He heard me. But he didn’t listen. There were weeks where I would say the same thing on loop, over and over again, but it still didn’t get through. He let me chatter away to myself because he’d made a promise. He had sworn before God that only death would part him from his wife. And Kevin might not be many things but he was a man who kept his promises.

Why didn’t you listen, Kev? Why didn’t you listen to me all those years ago? You hate this woman. You can’t stand her. She has ruined the best years of your life. And now you’re trapped, a prisoner in your own home. 

If you met Barbara, you wouldn’t think she was a tyrant. She’d seem like the sort of woman who wouldn’t say boo to a goose. And, well, she wouldn’t. Unless she married the goose, in which case she’d boo into his ears every day of his life for more than 34 years. 

“I’m sorry, Barbara,” he says, “I thought you said 200 pounds.”

“200 pounds?” she says. “They won’t get outta bed for 200 pounds these days, you silly sod. 200 pounds? You never listen, do you? That’s your trouble.” 

I could’ve tried to tell him, as he took his grunting Volvo over 15 miles of potholes to the nearest bank. I could’ve said, “No Kev, she wants 2,000 pounds in cash to pay the painter decorator. Not 200, mate.” But, well, he wouldn’t have listened anyway, would he? 

So Barbara storms upstairs to her room. And Kevin puts on his hunting jacket and shuffles out the backdoor to the shed. 

When they first moved in, he had an office on the first floor, the smallest of the house’s three bedrooms. But Barbara wanted to turn it into a nursery for the child Kevin would soon provide her. And even though the child failed to arrive, the time has never quite been right for Kevin to reclaim the space.  

His shed is even smaller than the box room. But at least it’s his. After a 40-year career and a 34-year marriage, this eight-by-six shed is the only place in the world that Kevin can call his own.  

He used to come out here to read, to write, to think, to pray. He used to thank god for his good fortune. And where did that get you, eh? Early 60s. Retired. Both you and Barbara in good health, likely to live for many years. Some fortune that is. 

Now when he’s in the shed he simply sits and listens to Boom Radio, something he’s never allowed to play in the house even though he’s fairly certain it’s Barbara’s station of choice when he’s not in. 

They’re playing “I Got You Babe”. He’d suggested this as the song for their first dance but she’d overruled him and gone with “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”. At the time, he thought she was being playful. 

Music. Music is the one thing Kevin does still listen to.

And while he’s listening, he allows his back to slide down the tired leather chair, and his knees to rest against the creaking wooden floorboards. Then he reaches underneath the workbench and pulls out a dusty blue shoe box. 

He removes the lid, dips his hand into the sawdust and takes out a small black revolver. He inspects it with the torch, checks the two bullets are still in place, and slides it into the inside pocket of his hunting jacket.

“Then put your little hand in mind… there ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb…” 

Kevin, I say, are you quite sure about this?

He closes the backdoor behind him and takes one step at a time. He grips the banister, forgetting that it’s wet. And maneuvers himself slowly up the stairs before wiping the wet paint on the back of his jacket. 

The door to Barbara’s bedroom is ajar. He prods it with his index finger. She’s lying on the bed, reading something on her phone. 

“Bloody hell Kevin, what are you creeping about for?” she says. 

He puts his paint-covered hand into his pocket and runs a finger along the outer casing of the gun. “Sorry,” he says, “I thought you might be asleep.” 

“It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon. What is it? What are you looking at me like that for?” 

“I’m going out,” he says. 


“To the bank.”

“Good,” she says, “That’s all I wanted you to do. That’s all I was asking.” 

“I’m gonna rob it,” he says. 

“Alright, just make sure you fill up the tank afterwards.” 

As the Volvo bumps along through 15 miles of country lanes, I do try and make him see sense. But he stares straight ahead, eyes fixed on the road, a smile I’ve not seen for years across his face. 

“Sorry,” says the cashier, a young woman with an oppressive fringe. “I didn’t quite catch that.”

“I said I’ve got a gun,” says Kevin. 

“No, sorry, you’re going to have to speak up. Would you like to make a withdrawal?”

“Yes,” says Kevin and he fishes the revolver out of his jacket and drops it into the metal tray. If she’d thought quickly enough, the cashier would have been able to reach her hand under the plastic window and spirit the weapon away but of course, she’s too surprised to do anything. She can’t quite believe that this kind-looking old man is really…

“Give me all the money,” he says, placing his hand over the revolver, “all of it. Quick as you can.” 

The cashier tries to explain that they don’t have much physical cash on site. “I don’t care,” he says, “just give me whatever you’ve got.” And in a softer tone, he adds, “Thanks. Thank you. I really appreciate this.”

“I’ve got 1,800 pounds,” she says, “I can get more if you…”

“No, no,” he says, “that’s absolutely fine. You’ve been a huge help. Thanks. Thank you. Thank you so much.” He puts the gun back in his jacket and stuffs the wad of cash into his trouser pocket. Then he takes a seat, a blue hard-backed seat by the entrance, places the gun on the floor a few feet away from him. And he waits.

All around him, staff walk with their heads down, as quickly as they can, shepherding customers to the door, explaining, but not giving a reason, that the bank has had to close early. After about ten minutes, Kevin is all alone. He’s never been alone in a bank before and he takes the time to have a little stroll.

“I got flowers in the spring, I got you to wear my ring…”

It’s about half an hour before the police arrive, their terror soon giving way to bafflement as they see him standing there woolly-hatted and bespectacled, his green hunting jacket smeared with white paint, singing a solo rendition of the Sonny and Cher classic. 

“It’s on the floor by the plastic plant,” he says, with his arms up in the air and his knees coming to rest on the ground. “Terribly sorry about all this,” he adds. 

His lawyer is an idiot, which suits Kevin perfectly.

“I’m afraid we’re looking at around five years,” he says, trying to scrape some mustard from the bottom of his tie, “I can’t help feeling I’ve not been much help.”

“I did wrong,” says Kevin, “I need to face up to that.” 

Five years. Five years to read books, to make friends, to be alone. To be free from her. Incarceration won’t be easy but no prison can be worse than the one in which he already resides.

And in those five years, during such a long separation, who knows? She might find someone else. And when the time comes for him to be released, he’ll simply have to find the strength within himself to live alone. He will have kept his vows, his promises before God, and yet fate would decree that he and Barbara should spend their final years apart. 

Well, Kevin, you acted on impulse, without any advice from me, but I have to say I think you’ve got this one absolutely right. 

When he goes in for sentencing, I do have a bit of a panic. What if the lawyer was being optimistic? What if they give you ten or even 20 years? Yes, it would probably still be preferable to living with Barbara but it won’t be much fun either. Have you made a mistake Kevin? Have you got this one wrong? I say these words again and again, circling them round and round in his head, as the judge is summing up but Kevin sits still, eyes fixed on the road ahead. 

“Five years,” says the judge and Kevin does his best to hide his delight. 

He is taken aback, ever so slightly, when he turns round to see his wife leap to her feet and celebrate with both arms raised in the air. 

Well there you are, Kevin, I say. If that doesn’t make it obvious, nothing will. I hate to say I told you so but the two of you should never have got together in the first place. You might be going to prison but you are finally free. 

Kevin nods to his lawyer and is escorted out by the bailiff. 

He’s told to sit down in the red chair next to the stone pillar. When the bailiff returns, Kevin expects him to have a pair of handcuffs. But instead, he kneels down and affixes a grey, plastic tag to Kevin’s ankle. 

Hang on a minute. Why would you need one of those? 

Then the bailiff tells him to stand and he leads Kevin back along the corridor but rather than turning left towards the car park and the police van, he turns right, past the nice paintings, through the double fronted doors and out into the main lobby where his wife is waiting for him. “Good luck, sir,” says the bailiff, “you behave yourself now.” 

Kevin watches him disappear and then he sees Barbara marching up to him. “You’re a very, very lucky man,” she says. 

“Sorry?” says Kevin. “What’s going on?” 

“We’re going home,” says Barbara, smiling at him. “We’re going home.” 

“But the judge,” says Kevin, “he gave me five years.” 

She stares at him, unable to believe that he could’ve failed to understand the sentence. “House arrest, Kevin. Five years house arrest.

“They know you’re not a danger. They don’t want to waste prison space. You just can’t step more than ten feet outside our house or that tag will set off an alarm.

“I did check, and it does mean you’re not gonna be able to go to the shed no more. Or go on any of your long drives. And I’m going to have to keep a very close eye on you at all times. I’m under orders.” 

She takes his hand and walks him out into the sunshine. I try to say something to him, I do, but I’m entirely lost for words. 

“Five years in prison?” she says. “You really thought you’d been sent to prison? I can’t believe it.” She stares at him and shakes her head. “You never listen,” she says. “That’s your trouble. You never listen.”

[Doe Wilmann first released this piece on his short story podcast, Meaningless Problems.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


Only Fair Observer members can comment. Please login to comment.

Leave a comment

Support Fair Observer

We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.

For more than 10 years, Fair Observer has been free, fair and independent. No billionaire owns us, no advertisers control us. We are a reader-supported nonprofit. Unlike many other publications, we keep our content free for readers regardless of where they live or whether they can afford to pay. We have no paywalls and no ads.

In the post-truth era of fake news, echo chambers and filter bubbles, we publish a plurality of perspectives from around the world. Anyone can publish with us, but everyone goes through a rigorous editorial process. So, you get fact-checked, well-reasoned content instead of noise.

We publish 2,500+ voices from 90+ countries. We also conduct education and training programs on subjects ranging from digital media and journalism to writing and critical thinking. This doesn’t come cheap. Servers, editors, trainers and web developers cost money.
Please consider supporting us on a regular basis as a recurring donor or a sustaining member.

Will you support FO’s journalism?

We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.

Donation Cycle

Donation Amount

The IRS recognizes Fair Observer as a section 501(c)(3) registered public charity (EIN: 46-4070943), enabling you to claim a tax deduction.

Make Sense of the World

Unique Insights from 2,500+ Contributors in 90+ Countries

Support Fair Observer

Support Fair Observer by becoming a sustaining member

Become a Member