Pink Dogwoods

Well, she liked the pink Dogwoods, no matter what her husband said about them.  When he used the word ‘gaudy’ she sort of snorted because it was too fancy coming out of his fat face.  There he was, sitting all crooked in his recliner with the broken spring, wearing that damned Duck Dynasty shirt that already had food stains on it, and he was gonna talk about something being gaudy? She wanted to tell him people who didn’t know jack about taste, good or bad, didn’t get to talk about things being gaudy.  You had to earn that right by wearing your jeans the right size and throwing out something if your Sheetz chili cheese dog pooped all over it.  He glanced over at her when she snorted and his eyes went all kind of hard and narrow like bricks, so she didn’t say any of the things she was thinking.  Instead, she glanced away, flipping her hair off her shoulder.

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“Well, I like it and it was nice of Del to offer it to us.  Better than a bald spot in the yard.”

Then she remembered the thing that made him wear that stupid hat all the time and she glanced over to see if he took the comment the wrong way.  The beer can that whizzed by her face, inches from her nose, told her he had.  Oh hell, she thought.

“I didn’t mean that, dumb ass,” she said.

“You’re an asshole.”

“I’m an asshole? I didn’t mean your stupid little bald spot, Timmy.  Jesus effing Christ.”

He almost looked like he wanted to cry.  What a baby he could be sometimes.

“Well, get me another beer then,” he said, his eyes trained back on the set.

She closed the front door, where she’d been standing and looking at the tree in bloom, and she went into the kitchen to open the fridge.  When she couldn’t find any cold beers, she had to work real hard to hide a little smile.

“Looks like that was the last one, hon.”

“For fucks sake.”

She pulled an ice pop out of the freezer and tore the end off with her teeth.  “Want me to run up to Kern’s and get you some more?”

“I’ll do it,” he said.  He struggled to find the lever on the chair.

“I’ll do it,” she said. “You’ve already had a few and you’re almost ready to get your real license back.  No use blowing it now.”

He sank back into the chair.

A couple of minutes later, she came back from the bedroom, changed for the trip up the road.  He was making himself a cheese sandwich and his eyes went to bricks again when he saw her coming up the hall.

“You going on a date?”

She laughed, “You know I don’t go out in my pajamas.  I’m not like your sister.”

She didn’t have to worry about that setting him off.  He and Wendy were on each others shit lists right now, so all bets were off.  He grunted, scraping the side of the Miracle Whip jar with the knife.  “Well, get some of this, too.  We’re running low.”

“Okay,” she said, scrounging in her purse for some chap stick.

“Makeup, too?”

“It’s chap stick, Timmy.”

“Well, looks pink from here.”

“Too gaudy, you think?” she asked, snapping her purse closed.

“Oh, fuck off,” he answered.  He put the top on his sandwich and ground it flat with the palm of his hand.  He always liked his sandwiches like that. She watched him take it to his chair, but with his big bites, it was almost finished before he’d gotten himself horizontal again.

Her keys jangled brightly as she walked through the living room.  Now he noticed her hair.

“You curled your damned hair? You think you’re gonna run into somebody or something?”

“Look, Timmy. I don’t show up anywhere looking like trash.”

She saw a loose thread on the sparkly embroidery in her jean pocket and gave it a tug.

“Cheap Walmart shit,” she said.

He shook his head at her, hateful-like, everything about them in the sunless laughter and the anger in his eyes.  Swallowing his last bite, he said real slow and deliberate, “You ain’t gonna run into anyone cool enough up there for curling your damned hair.”

But she was already turning and the whine of the screen door hinge almost drowned out his words.  On the way up the road, she glanced back in the rear view mirror, watching the dust clouds rolling up in her wake.  It was too big for her, she reckoned, but she loved driving Timmy’s truck.  It was almost a shame he’d get his real license back soon.

There was only a couple cars outside of Kern’s when she got there.  One belonged to the old hag behind the counter who always asked her when she and Timmy were gonna have a baby.  The other was the white Cavalier that belonged to the store owner.  When she took her sunglasses off at the door, she could see him sitting back in his office, playing some game on his computer.  He didn’t glance up.  She turned her lip at the sight of him.

Maybe some people would turn up, she thought.  Maybe this was just a little lull.  She lingered in the chip aisle for what seemed an age, but no one drove up, not even to the gas pumps outside.  Finally, crestfallen, she took her things to the counter to pay up.  The hag was a little nicer today, though she glanced more than once at the tattoos that showed under her crop top.

“How’s Timmy?”

“He’s good.”

“How’s your mother?”

She pretended to be looking for her debit card, not wanting to talk about that with this old thing.  But in the way of old people, the other woman wasn’t giving up that easily.  “I said, how’s your Ma? Jimmy said he ran into her over in Delray and she looked like she’d put back on some weight.  Said she looked better.”

“Jimmy knows more than I do then,” she said.  She wanted to ask who the hell was Jimmy.

The drive back to the house was depressing, but when she pulled up in the yard and jumped out of the truck, her frown faded.  Coming through the front door, she walked bold and springy, the hair bouncing along her back like a porn star riding a pony.  It caught his eyes right away.

“That took a long time.”

She dropped the bag on the kitchen table and got him a beer right away.

“Sorry about that,” she said, popping the top.  “There was a line.”

“At Kern’s?”

“Yep.  I guess there was something going on down in Perch Creek.  Some retreat or something.  There was like twenty bikers there, stocking up on stuff.”

“At Kern’s?”

“Why do you keep asking that? Yes, at Kern’s.  I guess ole fat Jimmy Kern’s happy.  I’ve never seen it so packed.”

He shook his head. “Bull shit.”

She laughed, “Well, it’s true.  And some of the nicest guys you’d ever meet.  They were all from DC, I guess, or someplace like that.  These were like rich bikers.  Everybody had a Harley, but nice with speakers.”

She got herself a beer and stretched out on the couch.  Her voice was kind of dreamy as she went on weaving her tale.

“There was this one guy.  I thought he might be gay at first, because he was so good-looking.  But then he asked if I was doing anything tonight and I was like maybe he’s not.  Real tall.  You know that cousin of yours, the one at Sebrina’s wedding who was a teacher or something from Charleston? What was his name?”

“Kyle.”

She could see him behind her, sitting in his chair, through the glass on a picture that hung over the TV.  His jaw had got real square and set while she talked.

“Kyle? That’s right.  He was handsome like your cousin Kyle.  Thick blond hair and tall like that.  Anyway, he said they were gonna be in town until Sunday.”

He caught her studying him in the glass and she dropped her gaze.

“This guys name was Mark. I always liked that name.”

She paused, waiting for him to ask how she knew, but he said nothing.

“He tried to give me his number, too, but I was like, hold up, I’m a married woman.”

When she lifted her eyes to look into the glass, she saw that he’d closed his eyes and let his mouth go slack.  She rose up on one elbow and turned to glance at him over her shoulder.  Her engagement ring caught a strand of hair and pulled it a little.  She winced.

“You’re not asleep,” she said. “I know you’re not, Timmy.”

He let out a snoring kind of breath.

“Fucker,” she mumbled.

Faintly, just faintly, the corners of his mouth twitched, like a smile that wanted to happen.

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