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Monday, July 17, 2006

The Storm Door Bounced

closed behind me and I swiped the front door closed with my foot. I stood there in the entryway, hands on hips, surveying the living room’s cluttered terrain. A squashed, half roll of toilet paper peeked from under the loveseat only inches from where Stimey’s behind rested. Wads of the paper smeared with Byron’s dried, allergy snot littered the floor near his usual living room parking spot. The potted plant within arm’s reach now sported two popsicle sticks, one toilet paper wad, an unidentified cellophane wrapper, a fork—tines in the dirt, and a scattering of rejected popcorn seeds. I had now surpassed the two week mark. Two weeks I waited to see how long it would take before I started up with my broken record rant about using the potted plant as a convenient trash can segueing into ‘the floor is not for your snot rags’ tirade, and finally, grasping and stammering for an ‘or else’ to tag on the end. Two weeks was more than I could stomach. Before I knew it, I was in an angry cleaning fit. The back of my neck began to perspire more from elevated blood pressure than exertion. I flew around the room collecting two empty glasses, the fork, the popsicle sticks, the handful of popcorn seeds and five dirty socks, delivering them to their respective homes. I ran this relay with every stomping combination of profanity bursting through the membrane of my brain-to-mouth filter. It was like finally farting, loud and long after holding a belly full of gas through a wedding.

When I was satisfied that I’d rid the common areas of everything distastefully Byron, I plunged butt-first onto the loveseat and remoted the TV. I gathered up my sweaty hair and twisted it up into a wrap-around bun and held it there against the back of the sofa. Stimey eased into the living room from where she’d apparently been keeping a low-profile in the kitchen. The coast was clear. Mom was on the couch, the television was on, and the obscenities had subsided.

“Stimey, Girl, who can live in that kind of filth?” I asked her. Stimey trotted the rest of the way to the loveseat taking my tone as a signal that it must have been someone else who had been in trouble earlier. Stimey had good instincts that way.

I flipped through all five channels and on the second round, I fell prey. Pizza Hut had no consideration or mercy for me, the animal-hungry but flat-broke TV viewer. It had been nine hours since my last pancake and black coffee which made the hot pizza cheese I was watching stretch nine times further than it normally does before it snaps into greasy goodness. It made the pepperoni glisten to the ninth power. It made the thought of writing a bad check sound as good as cashing in prize-tickets at the toy counter of a carnival arcade.

“Stimey, we’re having pizza. Medium, deep-dish, pepperoni, extra-cheese.” I told the pug after I hung up with the delivery hotline. “Take it to the grave, Girl. We’ll pay the bank tomorrow and destroy the evidence later.” I said sealing the deal. Stimey rotated her wrinkly, velvet head inquisitively.

“You just eat the pizza, I’ll worry about the rest.” I told Stimey. She seemed satisfied that I had it all figured out, rolled her rump over to the side, and sat down. The man of the hour, the pizza guy, would be here in thirty minutes or less—or my next one would be free. I’d waited nine hours, I could wait thirty-one minutes.

Exactly twenty-eight minutes later, the pizza guy’s steed could be heard half-way down the block begging for a muffler. It was an AMC Gremlin the color of grape soda-pop cut with traditional white racing stripes. I was waiting at the door, hot-check already written and in hand when the Gremlin’s driver’s side door lamented with a squall of dry metal on metal. The pizza guy could have been Freddie Krueger and I would have paid the man as gladly. Once my eyes connected with the vinyl pizza carrier I knew nothing else until I landed on the couch and opened the promising box of on my lap. I tore the crust off my first piece and tossed it Stimey’s direction. Never before had Stimey snatched anything out of mid-air. She chewed it down like a buzz saw and her buggy eyes stared me down while I sunk my teeth into the first sloppy slice.

In fifteen minutes, I was slouched in bloated bliss. I looked down at the pizza box still flapped open on my lap. I’d eaten exactly half of the pizza.

“Stimey, Girl, I was sure I could’ve eaten five of these things.” I said. Stimey looked desperate and began squeaking a gravelly whine. I’d given her the pizza crust from each piece I’d eaten and she now sat at my feet accusing me of holding out on her. I knew better than to feed that dog anything with cheese on it. She was lactose intolerant, as most dogs are, and it generally came out the other end in the form of a clinging, green fog.

The phone rang and I picked up. It was Mr. Sunshine.

“Hey, we just got done eating and I was—my Dad was going to let the girls go swimming here in awhile so, if it gets kinda late I thought we could just let them sleep over here so I could get some work done before I came home.”

“It’s a school night, you know. I think--” He cut me off.

“Well, Jess has some clothes over here and they said they would take her to school in the morning.” He argued. “At least they can have something besides pancakes in the morning, right?” He said laughing.

“Yeah. At least.” I said grinding my teeth.

“Okay, well I’ll be home later.” He said. I hung up the phone and threw the receiver into the couch pillows. Stimey hadn’t moved a muscle and standing at full attention.

What the hell. I sure as hell won’t have him eating it tomorrow.

I slid the entire box onto the floor. Stimey stood on all fours frozen in momentary disbelief.

“Go. Eat it. It’s okay, Stimer, get after it.” I said, egging her on. Our girl Stimey went face down into the rest of the pizza. She had devoured all but the last piece when she dragged her pooched belly from the crime scene. She sat on her behind and carefully lowered her front end to the floor before flopping over onto her side where she laid—legs outstretched, followed shortly by a slow snore.

“Girl, you shouldn’t have.” I said to Stimey. I picked up the pizza box and Stimey opened her eyes half-way.

“Forget it, Girl! It’s going in the neighbor’s trash.” I said to the glutton. I took the box into the kitchen, stripped off the delivery sticker, and slipped out the back patio door. It was dark enough to cross the street that ran along the side of the duplex without being noticed. I did a quick run to the neighbor’s mini-dumpster, hiked the lid and deposited the evidence. I slipped back across the street and through the doorway, slid the thing closed and locked it up with a swipe of my thumb. I wedged a sawed-off broomstick into the track for good measure and made for the living room where the couch and remote were calling my name.

“Jammies first.” I said out-loud to myself. Although I was reluctant to climb the stairs to the bedroom, pajamas were what my over-stuffed belly needed right then and I though I might as well do the face washing, teeth brushing, and potty routine while I was at it, then we’d call it a night.

I changed into my pajamas and shuffled from the bedroom to the bathroom. I was home alone and took pleasure shutting the bathroom door without the threat of the world coming to an end because Mommy closed the door to pee. I dropped my drawers, sat on the pot, and became incensed all over again. Staring at me from the corner of the bathroom was The Pile. His dirty underwear could pile nine-high behind the bathroom door before he’d notice. After nine, he’d either have to buy more or wash what was there. As much as I hated The Pile, I wouldn’t touch it. It was the principle of the thing.

Stimey was snoring like a lumberjack, lips flapping on the exhale by the time I made it back downstairs. I scrunched myself cozy on the loveseat, drifting off somewhere in the middle of Leno’s monologue.

I woke to the sound of a skillet meeting the stove burner in the next room. The living room was dark except for the bluish hue from early morning news yammering on the TV. I thought I smelled coffee. I was sure I was having a lucid dream. Why would anyone be in my kitchen during the 5:30 news, and who was cooking?

I rubbed into my eyelids with the pads of my fingers working out the sleepy crust while deciding to investigate the kitchen. I leaned my elbow into the arm of the loveseat and put one foot in front of the other toward the kitchen. My eyes burned when they met the light blaring from under the stove hood and I shielded with my forearm. My face melted into a cranky grimace.

“Rise and shine workin’ girl! I thought you might want to get an early start on the day of your big job interview. I brought a banana and an orange from my Dad’s and I made you some coffee. Brought a couple of eggs too.” Byron said standing at the stove glowing-white and naked by the light of the bald sixty-watt bulb. He was casually stirring and turning a pair of his underwear in the skillet.

“What--” I stammered trying to start. I could not be awake. I closed my eyes and shook my head trying to escape the scene. When I blinked them open again, he was still standing there poking at his underwear in the Teflon skillet.

“Are those your fucking underwear?” I said having not yet flipped on the profanity filter for the day.

“Yeah-p. I was out of panties so I threw a load in when I got home and just wanted a dry pair real quick. Thought I’d fry me up a pair.” He said with his hands on his inner-tube hips. The image burned. His concave chest sprouted as much hair as a fifteen year-old boy. His legs bowed backward at the knees and his butt cheeks were dimpled like golf balls. Thankfully, his unmentionables were hiding in the shadow of his fish-belly paunch.


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