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Part 3 appears in this issue.
Table of Contents
I found out the worst thing about myself. It came along at the end of a string of worst things. I heard my voice crack during our nightly argument, when I was stating the most important of all my positions. I reasoned carefully with him about economics and responsibility and right on supply and demand, my voice gave up and I ended up saying, You son “of a beep of a bitch.” I inhaled and tried it again, there, and I’m pretty confident he got the hint both times.
He got quiet after a while, which gave me that much more room to be loud. There are laws of conservation for just everything. He walked into the bedroom and shut the door softly enough that I didn’t hear the click and walked right into it, thinking I could push it open. That’s not the worst thing, finding out that you’ve grown up into the teenage klutz you missed out on being the first time around, but it’s pretty close.
I went ahead and slept on the couch. It’s older, more comfortable than the bed. The television woke me up with some morning show that he had turned on before he went out to play in the barn. I don’t know what it is they do out there all day. I mean, I know what it is they do, but I don’t see how it could take so long. Like I don’t see why it takes so long to make a movie. An entire afternoon for eight seconds of data, an entire morning for a few microns; it doesn’t fit with my opinion of what a day is.
Lately, a day is not getting paid to teach Kelly the same things over and over again with different words. The kid doesn’t notice, though, so it’s okay; and I guess she’s fun to be around. I would have liked to have had the chance to meet her mother, though. But, even when he’s drunk, Bernard won’t say a thing.
I woke up after dreaming about rescuing Merry and Pippin from a squadron of B-52 bombers and thought I heard the announcer telling me to get up, my house is on fire, and someone has murdered everything dear to me. Turned out it was some family in Kentucky that had lost their house in a fire they started themselves to cover up the accidental death of their babysitter. She had fried herself in the toaster.
“Should have unplugged the thing,” I said to the television. Even after our century under buzzing wires, there are still some people that haven’t gotten it figured out. Our behavior around electronics hasn’t found its way into instinct, yet. Another story came on quickly to wash out the funny bitter taste of stupidity. Seems that the union had just officially pardoned its first ever black bear, thanks to the president’s intervention. The bear, called “Lubba” by the zoo that was holding it, back in the part the visitors don’t see, had terrorized the students at Western. First kid that saw it was working in an all night coffee shop. The bear pulled up to the drive through. They didn’t say what he ordered.
Harmless and basically good, said the president. “Yeah, just don’t open your mouth when my Lane gets back,” I told the television. And that’s when I got it. A quiet house, my husband hiding in the barn with his tools and potential energy, my only friend a six-year old who stutters over little concepts but can still get me on the big ones, and I was talking to the television.
Life wasn’t so bad — hell, it wasn’t bad at all — when he was teaching in Tacoma. We had a nice little place with a lawn that was at least green. I got all my credits paid for because he was faculty. Tuesday nights, Starbucks with the girls in my sociology program. Thursday nights, poker which only ever lasted a few hands before I was grinning my way into an argument with one of his colleagues. Saturday nights, home and the same couch, a bottle of wine and a little more. That was good for me. All of it was. There was always something to look forward to, at least. Something specific. Not these vague dreams of one day being paid. Way to set your sights on the mountains, Don Quixote.
That night, I started things off a little different, with the echoes of “Congratulations, Lubba” keeping me from going too far off course.
“I want to ride into town with you tomorrow,” I said.
“Why?” He smelled like metal, or burnt wires; I’m no good at telling between the two.
“I want to find a job.”
I knew he’d take it badly and silently. You’re a cripple, I was saying. You can’t be trusted to care for your family. “But you’re my only family.” That’s right; you can’t take care of me. You need to let me help. I need to go to bed, that’s what I need. But go back a few thoughts. I’m not your only family. You’re taking care of Bernard, and his daughter, too, indirectly. I had run myself ragged with all our conversation before he answered.
“Okay,” he said. “I don’t get off until four-thirty. You might want to bring a book.” He leaned back and chewed on the fish fillets I had microwaved for him. “Slim pickings, though. Lots of people are leaving the area, you know.”
“I know. I read the paper, too.”
“You could probably try the library. They’re usually looking for somebody part time.”
I thought we had a bottle of wine leftover from all we had gotten when we were first married. I poked around in the root cellar he had dug into the hillside, but I didn’t find anything there. A few dusty jars of home made pickle relish we were saving for the next time his mother came and visited. A few glass containers of fruit, slowly spoiling in their sweet fermenting mess.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2004 by Ian Donnell Arbuckle
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