Thursday, July 19, 2012

Short-Story Feature: The Moments Between...

The Moments Between
It can't be five o'clock already!  "Move, Scrappy!"  I scoot the pesky dog out of the way, open the microwave and bend down to stick the broccoli casserole in, almost pinching kitty's tail in the door.  He’s so busy cleaning every inch of himself that he doesn't notice.  "Get down, Marshall Dillon."  
     The fat cat slinks out of arms reach, licks his paw and flattens out on the cutting board like a placemat. Seconds later, he is airborne out the front door. I stick my foot down, blocking the wily critter's attempt to get by me and slam the door before he sneaks back in. His paw prints, clearly visible on my beautiful counter, erase any niggling guilt. I yank out a handful of antiseptic wipes and clean the counter, finishing up just as the phone rings.
     "Hi Honey, what's going on?"  I half-listen to John’s reply, rifling through the mish-mash of odds-and-ends in my utensil drawer. Where's that frigging paring knife?  Onions, tomatoes, lettuce...I need the cheese.  "Good,” I mumble, “It's almost ready." I give up my hunt for the knife and fish in the refrigerator drawer for fixens.  Slim pickens. Mold makes the Cheddar look like Monterey Jack. Gross!  Fortunately, the slime ball that used to be lettuce still has one light green leaf.  I salvage it and pitch the rest. Maybe I should ask John to pick some up? Forget it.  He'd never remember.  Poor guy has to have a shopping list for two items.  Speaking of memory. "Don't forget to get the mail," I remind him, before hanging up.
     A wad of cat fur clings to the receiver. That is disgusting.  I should have bought stock in Clorox.   I push the stack of bills and odds-and-ends back to clear a spot for the plates. I'd just finished setting the table when the unmistakable vroom of our old VW's muffler announces John’s arrival.
     "Don't let the cat in," I yell, as he opens the door.
     "What?" he hesitates, one foot in.            
    "Put him out." I point at the grey ball of fur trying to make him-self invisible on the barstool. "I just cleaned the counter." 
     “In a minute.”  He slips off his shoes. “I’ve been dying to take these off. It’s hot as Hell. “
     “Here, Honey.” I hand him a tall glass of iced tea.  He looks like he needs it.
     "Thanks." He took a long drink.  "What a crappy day."  He tossed his tie on the chair and unbuttoned his collar. His permanent press shirt stuck to his chest.  Sweat rings peak out from under his arms as he reaches for Marshall Dillon.
     Well, Marshall Dillon had never walked away from a showdown, and he isn't about to coward-out now.  He spits, hisses and takes a swipe at John then hooks his paws around the slats of the bar stool and holds on for dear life. 
     John wins their tug-of-war.  He pitches the mewling cat out and slams the door, narrowly missing Marshall's paw.
     "You shouldn't be so rough with him!" I’m the only one qualified to give Marshall flying lessons. He’s my cat. I know his limits and he knows mine. I shake the mustard bottle, turn it upside down and pound it hard against the counter trying to free the last glob, sticking like yellow glue, at the bottom.    
     "He's fine." He empties his pockets on the counter, not troubling to put a single coin, key, or piece of pocket lint in the proper receptacle. “He’s got at least 8 lives left.”
     I gather up the pile he made and toss it in the bin which, in a perfect world, was intended for such odds- and-ends. "Where's the mail?"  I watch for tell-tale signs, sensing the answer. The look on his face says it all.  "You're kidding me, John.  I just reminded you fifteen minutes ago."  Whack, whack, whack!  Squirt! The last bit of mustard sprayed on the bun.  "I think you have Old-timer's disease.  I swear I do," I said, picturing him as a demented old fart with spittle running down his chin. 
     "I had things on my mind." He leans against the counter, watching me. "It's probably just bills anyway."
     "Well ignoring them won't help matters, will it?"  I rummage in the cutlery drawer. "Where's the stupid paring knife?"
     "Here," he pulls it out of the rack and hands it to me. "Lighten up, all right?  I'll get the mail after dinner."
     "You should have gotten it on your way home."  Slice and count...slice and count.  "You put everything I ask you to do last on your list." Ten perfectly even slices of onion, and teary eyes, speak of my frustration.
     "You're making a big deal out of nothing."  He opens the fridge, gathering condiments. "Where's the ketchup?"
    Heaven help me. I study the crack in the ceiling tile over the corner cabinet.  How does he make it through a day?  I look down. Crap! The spoon I thought I stuck back in the mayo jar is lying on the electric bill, leaving its outline on the envelope like a CSI prop.  I blot the oily blob off and quickly hide the bill in my purse. I needn't have worried.  He didn’t notice.  He’s still on his ketchup quest. Amusing as it is to watch his head turn left and right in the fridge, I detest cold dinner.  
     "Top shelf, back left," I say, slapping a patty on another bun and slathering mayo on it. I pitch the spoon in the sink.
     "We're out." He closed the fridge, looking at me with his brows raised in that annoying fashion. "We're not that broke. Why didn't you get some?"  He sighs heavily, eyeing the turkey burgers as if he'd sell his soul for a big slab of artery-clogging beef ...slathered in ketchup.
     In through the nose and out through the mouth...that's it...count to ten.  This man is the love of your life. I put down the paring knife, open the fridge, grab the ketchup bottle, and put it in his hand.
     He narrows his eyes, looking at me as if he thinks I slipped it from beneath my skirt or from some top-secret- hidden- fridge compartment that Frigidaire sales-folk only reveal to women.  
     Dinner is an exercise in monosyllabic responses. The click of his jaw as he chews echoes annoyingly in the silence. He seems to realize it.  He finishes quickly, flashes me a tight smile and starts clean up. The droop of his shoulders as he works begins to make me feel guilty.  Watching him scrub the same bowl about fifty times, it dawns on me that his mind is on something else. Then it hits me! Crap! Today was his review.
     "I'm sorry I was so bitchy." I wrap my arms around him, pressing my head against his back. "How did your review go?"
     "I'm not getting that raise." He tossed the rag in the sink.
     My gut clenched. The bills were stacking up. No point dwelling on it, he felt bad enough already. "Those bastards don't deserve you." I squeeze him tighter. "Don't worry about it, Honey, we'll manage." The dryer buzzed.  I give him a quick kiss. "Will you put Scrappy out?  He looks like he's ready to squirt...or something."   
     As if on cue, Scrappy licks his gonads like they are shellacked in gravy.
     "Yeah," he nods, turning as his cell phone rings.
     "Who calls at dinnertime?” I ask. “That's so rude." 
     He shrugs, checking caller ID. "It's, Mom," he sighs.
    I point at my watch, reminding him to watch his minutes. 
    He waves me away, turns his back and settles in for another long, one-sided, conversation we can't afford.
     I busy myself folding laundry, trying not to find the long lulls in conversation, which are costing us money, too annoying. His Mom, though sweet in her peculiar sacchariny way, does not appreciate the finer points of silence...unless it is someone else's.   Poor guy can't get a word in edgewise. After twenty minutes of listening to ‘uh-huh's’: fired-up by the image of dollars disappearing down the drain, I march into the kitchen... stopping suddenly when moisture seeps through my cotton sock, wicking up between my toes. I lift my foot, looking to see what I've stepped in.  A yellow puddle pools on the white ceramic tile, filling the grout line ...pointing right at John!
     "You are cleaning that up!"  I yank the disgusting sock off, wave it at him and stalk away. When I return, he is sprawled in his favorite chair: beer and remote at the ready.
     I plop down on the couch and snatch a magazine off the table.  "I swear I think you do this crap on purpose, just to piss me off!"
     "The phone rang and I forgot, all right?"  He changes the channel and props his leg up. "At least it wasn't poop. Chill out!" He twists the cap off an icy cold Bud, downs about half of it and reclines his chair...wiggles around, and settles in his football-watching pose.
     Chill out?  My eyebrows make a run for my hairline! If he thinks he's going to tune me out and watch the game he, and the NFL, are S.O.L!  I snatch the remote from the table and switch the channel to Masterpiece Theater.
     "Cut it out!" He is, mid-snatch, reaching for the remote ...when the power goes out.
     Oh no!  I bite my lip and put the remote down.
     "Didn't you pay the bill?"  He asks, staring at me.
     Well, I'm no Saint. It crossed my mind to blame it on him...tell him it was one of those bills in the mailbox that he forgot to bring home.  But, I just couldn't do it.  Sometimes you have to woman-up and take your medicine.  "I'm sorry." Tears welled up.  I sat silently in the dark, trying not to sniffle, waiting for the lecture I deserved.
    "It's not the end of the world."  He pats my hand.  "C'mon.  Let's go to bed. We can watch the game on my phone."
     I wipe my runny nose. "You want another beer?"
    We drink our Buds snuggled together, watching a team I knew nothing about maul another bunch of crazies…all for control of a goofy pigskin. I didn't see the point of the game at all, but I enjoyed every minute of it...hooting and hollering right along with the love of my life.  It's all about these moments. I hand him a tissue when beer trickles down his chin.  The rest is just filler

© Scarlett Rains

Message:  Be tolerant, keep a sense of humor your bills on time.  :0)

Thank you so much for your comment at Scarlett Rains Sisters of the Hearts Blog. Every comment is read and appreciated.
Don't forget to subscribe either by RSS feed 
or by email . Hope to see you again soon!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Folks who are kind enough to nominate me for blog awards and such, thank you so much, but...please, don't. I barely have time to comb my hair. :)