Franklin Figgy Pudding Pierce
by Charles C. Cole
Ksenia heard Corey, her boyfriend of eight months, in the hall, home from work. She placed the steaming casserole on the kitchen table. A glass of ice water finished the setting. She grabbed salad dressing from the fridge and pretended to read the label as he entered.
“Home-cooked supper!” he gushed. He was six feet tall, six inches taller than Ksenia, and she felt safe by his side.
“Did you know your salad dressing expired last summer?” she asked, with a hint of a Russian accent, though she had been in the States since third grade.
“Honey, I’m home,” he said.
She loved the way he smelled like his car freshener, like a pine forest.
“Eat up,” she said. “I want to clean up, then I’ll join you.”
Corey, still standing, laptop in one hand, scooped out a generous helping, nibbling. His lips turned down. “I taste meat. Bit of a surprise with my being a vegetarian.”
“I forgot,” she said. “I got caught up using my grandmother’s recipe, waxing sentimental about the old days and I forgot.”
“Franklin Figgy Pudding Pierce!” snapped Corey
“Sorry,” said Ksenia with a curtsy, giggling at her own reaction. “Speaking of a mouthful, did you make that up?”
Corey spat into a napkin and crumpled it up. “Dmitri Shostakovich!”
“That one I know,” she said. “If it’s any consolation, the cow part was already dead when I bought it. I’m just recycling. You like recycling. I have leftover. I could start another one, meat-free.”
“It’s okay,” he said, sitting. “I’ll have cereal.”
“Cereal?” she asked.
“I’ll be fine,” he said.
“What should I do with dinner?” she asked. “You can take it to work and kiss up to your co-workers.”
“Franklin Pierce!” he yelped.
“If you’re going to yell at me, please use real words.”
“Franklin Pierce is real words! Fourteenth president of the United States: hello!”
“You know what I mean,” she said.
“You want me to curse,” said Corey.
“I want you to tell me how you feel.”
“It’s not like vegetarianism is new for me,” he said, trying to reason it through. “But I understand: you were lost in your carnivorous childhood.”
“Honey, you’re my first vegetarian,” she said, bending low and hugging his tensed shoulders.
“I’ll get over it,” he offered.
Ksenia turned to the busy kitchen counter. Something crashed against the fake-brick linoleum floor.
“What the French toast was that?”
Ksenia leaned heavily against the fridge, shaking her head. “I broke your favorite mug.”
“Are you kidding?”
“You left it on the counter. I thought you were going to rinse it and take it to work, so I left it. And at the same time I thought, ‘This isn’t going to end well’.”
“Jeeps, apes and kites!” he snapped.
“IKR: I know, right?”
“Are you angry about something?” he asked.
“I’m a certified klutz, that’s all, though I prefer the term ‘attractive nuisance.’ It’s okay. Let me have it. You want to explode so go ahead, explode.”
“I’m not wired that way. We’ve been over this. My father cursed with abandon, as if the Devil had burned his own fingers, so I promised myself I wouldn’t.”
“Not even if I ask nicely?” she asked.
“You want me to swear.”
“I broke your favorite mug, which was completely preventable. Now, instead, we have a perfect storm.”
“Or a perfect test!” he gasped. “You’re devious. You wanted to rile me, to stir me up.”
“I wanted a peek at your passionate side.”
“I come from the school that says what’s on the outside we share with everyone, because it’s there. But what’s on the inside, we only share with one other person because it’s the real us. And when we share that, it’s because we trust that other person more than anyone else.”
“We can put all this craziness behind us if I just have one of those traditional relationship meltdowns, is that it?”
“I understand being proper at the office — jacket and tie and manners — but at home I was hoping for a little more feelings, with a smattering of raw emotion.”
“It was a long day with too many meetings,” he said. “Is that honest enough?”
“How does it make you feel? Did you honk impatiently at the car in front of you when the light turned green? Did you snap at the lady in the drive-through when she got your coffee order wrong? Did you smack the dashboard and snarl like a lion?”
“Of course not,” he said.
“But you could. It’s okay to get frustrated, because I can take care of you. I can make it all better. You don’t know how lucky you have it, but you have to let me in first. Are you afraid if you yell, I’ll leave? Because I’m not going anywhere.”
“At work we had this meeting to help us bond, all about personalities. My psych profile said in times of conflict I’m diplomatic. That’s me. It’s official.”
“Respectfully, honey, I don’t give a figgy Franklin what happened at the office. You’re home. Love is a contact sport, and if you want to get down, then you have to get dirty. Get me?”
“Of course,” he said, smiling.
“Do you have a fire for me?” she asked.
“A burning bonfire,” he said. “A conflagration for consummation.”
“Then what would you say if I...” Ksenia leaned close, provocatively, to whisper, he thought, then deliberately poured the glass of water into his lap.
“Fort Ticonderoga!” he yelled loudly, evoking his father’s intensity. “Are you nuts? I could have had my phone in my pocket! How Iwould I explain that at the office?”
She backed away a step, observing.
“Is that what you wanted?” he asked, calming. “It’s not pretty.”
“It’s a start,” she admitted. “Let’s see if we can put that passion to good use.” She pulled him to his feet, wiped some dinner from the corner of his mouth and led him out of the room.
Copyright © 2013 by Charles C. Cole