Where do you take a woman like Mona when she’s afraid you’re getting old and boring – no new friends, chicken every night and a car like a tank with weird headrests (the Volvo) – and you’re afraid she’s going to leave and take with her, in invisible blue suitcases, anything left you had resembling a purpose?

            “I want to go to that place where you eat with your hands.”

            “Dressed like that?” (She had the damn stole around her neck. It made him feel like she had a sidekick - a little smiling piece of death that always agreed with her and thought his socks were brown when, so clearly blue! “It’s like she has a devil on one shoulder, and it’s ass on the other,” he told Jill, who told him to burn it, and he said, “Ewww,” imagining the smell.)

            “I want to eat with my hands like our ancestors.”

            She’d been drinking that vodka they advertise on the back of buses and watching “The Great Muppet Caper,” and he reminded her that her nearest ancestors lived on Long Island and drove Sports Utility Vehicles to and from restaurants where they ate with knives and forks and spoons of different sizes tailored to different courses. She called him “poop dick,” and threatened to go with Ralph if he refused.

            Ralph milling about in the periphery waiting for his character to be cued in… Timothy couldn’t stand the thought. That grand old neighborly bag of shit drunk on 18-year Highland Park with Monopoly and Twister under his arms waiting for a call…

            “Let’s go then…Let’s go now.”

            A fancy place? No.

            A traditional place. No.

            The “yes” matched the question: “Was this one of those places where you eat in the dark and cheer for men on horseback who wear lots of metal and pretend to have honor?”

            “I think this is for children.”

            “Well, let’s steal one then.” (Not the first time she suggested stealing a child… The third in fact – the second time during a conversation about how she would have been a good mother, “if [Timothy] could teach his spermos how to breaststroke,” and the other while drunk in a library and looking for an excuse to join a “Giving Tree” reading group.)

            Timothy immediately spilled orange soda on his tan pants.

            The Blue knight won.

            On the news on the way home, Mona sulked because the red knight performed so poorly, and Timothy listened to reports of the great floods in West Virginia brought on by the remnants of Hurricane Juan.

            “causing a estimated $500 million in damage, and claiming at least 30 lives…”

            “Glad we’re not in West Virginia tonight.”

            “Why would we ever be in West Virginia?”

            “That’s not the point, Mona. The point is that we’re fortunate to not be in West Virginia.”

            “We’re also fortunate to not be in quicksand, or locked in a factory where they make those bear-shaped bottles for the honey. You can always be somewhere worse and somewhere better, but you only realize it when you’re not somewhere worse.”

            “Is this still about the knight?”

            “Not just this night – every night,” she wrestled the Volvo’s seatbelt crossing from against her pale neck. “When I’m in a bad mood I don’t want to hear why I should be in a better mood. How would you like it if I reminded you of everything that could be better when you were in a good mood?”

            She impersonated his cello-like tone, “’Dr. Goodnuts came onto the show today and told me that I was the smartest American since Double-Doctor-Swellass…’ and I come in with, ‘Well, that’s nice, but other people won the lotto, and cured diseases, or actually did great things, as opposed to just talking to people who did great things.’ How would you like that?”

            He didn’t have an answer, was preoccupied with a memory – a repeat – of a Ford truck plowing through the rumpus room while he was watching Howdy Doody. Gave a low D, “eh,” and wondered why that thought popped back into his post-dinner-and-tournament mind…

            The dead mink heckled him, as Mona scowled in his direction.

            “Pull over.”

            He pulled to the side of the road.

            “Not here, shithead. At the 7-11. I need tampons.”

            “Do we need to do it now?”

            “Do you want me to menstruate on the seats of your precious Volvo?”

            He didn’t respond, parked in the parking lot of the 7-11, looked up at a Spanish-language billboard for a drink he couldn’t pronounce and assumed it tasted like Sprite or 7-Up. The curiosity got the best of him and he followed into the store looking for the beverage, then found the beverage, then bought the beverage, and started drinking the beverage while Mona was still in the feminine hygiene section – which, in that particular 7-11 was too close to the Pop-Tarts and other breakfast snackcakes for his liking.

            “Just pick a damn tampon.”

The drink tasted more like maple than he expected.

            “Fuck you.” The clerk heard her and felt sadness wash over him like cold saltwater in the Pacific Ocean. “What did you buy?”

            “Some Hispanic soda, but I think it’s just anti-freeze with corn syrup in it.”

            Mona laughed, catching Timothy by surprise.

            Timothy laughed, refueling Moan’s laughs.

            And they laughed and laughed and laughed.

            The clerk was comforted some, then uncomforted again, but they didn’t care.

            They laughed and laughed and laughed.

            Some had it better. Some had it worse.

            And they laughed and laughed and laughed.

          Yes, they’d argue like mad back at the house and fall back on the old hugs of Scotch and closets eventually, but then and there, just laughs…

          And, what about peach pie for dessert?

          You betcha!

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13