I’d planned to do something on The Bisti Business this week, but my new computer (did I mention I got a new one last week?) occupied too much time to organize and get rid of a glitch to get any writing done. So I succumbed to a need to write something fresh, which means we’ll have a bit of flash fiction for this post. However, I want to make it absolutely clear that what follows is in no way autobiographical.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH…AND SOMETIMES TOO MUCH
“Harry, get your fanny in gear! I told you to take out the garbage five minutes ago.”
He flinched at the sound of his wife’ voice coming from the kitchen. He swiped ineffectually at the cigarette ash collected in a neat little pile on his undershirt. Sometimes Hilda couldn’t stand the idea he might actually sit still for a moment. At least, that’s the way it seemed to him.
“Are you smoking in the house again? I smell cigarette smoke.”
He took a quick drag and then pinched out one butt while he heaved the other one from his chair and lumbered into the kitchen.
His wife stood at the sink in a faded pink housecoat that looked like an out-sized Vienna sausage hugging her paunch. The tightly coiled hair curlers on her head reminded him this was Wednesday…prayer meeting night. Well, he wasn’t going. He’d put his foot down this time.
She paused in the act of washing the supper dishes to glance at him through thick spectacles that made her eyes too big for the rest of her face. “You reek of tobacco. Get your chores done and go take a bath. But don’t use all the hot water. I still have to clean up before we go to church.”
“Not going.” He hefted the sour garbage bag and started outside, imagining he could taste the liver and onion scraps through the plastic.
“What was that? You’re not going? Of course, you are. It’s Wednesday night. Wednesday nights we go to prayer meetings. Have for twenty-five years.”
“Been smoking in the house for twenty-five years, too. But can’t do that anymore.”
He skedaddled out the back door before she had a chance to react. Harry snatched a minute to enjoy the warmth of the dying sun on his face and savor a whiff of his pink-petaled roses before going back inside to march straight into the bathroom for a tepid bath. God help him of he used too much hot water.
At church later that evening, the preacher uttered the same words he had last Wednesday and the previous Wednesday and all the Wednesdays before that. Harry was in the row directly behind Hilda because there wasn’t room in the front pew where she sat with her friend, Goldina Frussman. Arthur Frussman occupied the pew beside him, but Harry didn’t much care for the man. From the other’s expression, the feeling was mutual.
Harry studied the back of his wife’s head and discovered a few things he already knew but hadn’t given much thought to recently. Her shoulders were fat. Which made her neck fat. Which made… He almost snickered as he wondered what her head looked like underneath the meticulously blued hair. The mole behind her left ear had grown. Looked like a big wrinkled bug that climbed up there to die. He resisted the urge to flick the thing.
He wanted to go straight home, but Hilda and Goldie decided to discuss Reverend Hospers’ sage comments at Burt’s Diner on the corner of Roosevelt and Third. Halfway through the second cup, Harry made as if to get up and go outside for a smoke, but Hilda firmly quashed that idea. No telling how long the coffee klatch would have gone on if Arthur hadn’t decided he’d had enough. Harry blinked when Goldie rushed to accommodate her husband.
He almost choked on his gorge as Hilda extolled the virtue of Arthur Frussman on their three-block walk home. So firm, so decisive. Prerequisites for such a successful haberdasher, she claimed. Harry halfway hoped they’d be mugged on that long, tree-shrouded block just before they turned down their own street. He’d happily give up his wallet, his watch…anything to put a scare into his wife. But, of course, they arrived home unmolested.
He was abed a good half hour before he was sleepy because she decided it was time. He tried to protest, but she insisted he simply wanted to sneak another cigarette. That was true, although he protested the idea.
She nodded off before he did, which was usual. He lay on his pillow, eyes wide open, awaiting the inevitable. Within five minutes, it began as a soft mewling sound. Then it took on a distinctive growl. Within minutes, it grew into a loud, raucous, full-throated snore that soon turned into a snorting gasp as she came awake. Hilda turned over and slapped his shoulder.
“Harry, your snoring woke me from a sound sleep.”
“But I haven’t been asl—”
“Don’t argue. Go get another pillow and elevate your head. I don’t want to be awakened again.”
Stifling a sigh, he crawled out of bed and went for the thick throw pillow on the sofa in the den. The couch looked inviting. But as he considered the idea of bedding down out here, she called out.
“Harry, come back to bed. You know I can’t sleep with you prowling the house. Get the pillow and come to bed.”
Harry hefted the pillow and pressed it to his nose. It cut off the air sufficiently, but she was bigger than he was. As he prepared to return to bed and accept one more humiliation, his eyes fell on a pair of scissors jutting out of his wife’s sewing basket. He carefully extracted the long-bladed shears and looked from the pillow to the scissors. After a moment, he straightened his spine, dropped the pillow, and marched resolutely into the bedroom with the shears grasped firmly in his right hand.
Well, what do you think? Did Harry finally get his fill and use the scissors, or did he just throw a scare into Hilda? Or maybe he returned to the bedroom only to revert to form.
Have you ever met someone like Harry? Can you identify a Hilda you’ve known? I hope not.
Thanks for reading. Please let me hear from you.
Next week: I’ll try to get to THE BISTI BUSINESS.
New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.