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Archive for January, 2011

The Storm


Six inches or more says the bouncing blonde on Channel 8. Her expression is serious but Arthur detects shadenfreude. Or maybe it’s just the thrill of the performance. If you’re a comely weather girl with the ink barely dry on your weather degree what you want most are thousands tuning in to hear about the approach of the biggest snowstorm of the season with you on stage as the prima ballerina. Her knit wool skirt clings to the cleft of her ripe plum and the hem falls at the knee-cap to accent delicate calves and ankles.

We can expect 6 to 8 inches beginning at 5 p.m. and continuing overnight

before tapering off before daybreak. Stay in, stay off the roads, make

cocoa and get into your jammies. If you must go out, take it slow and easy.

Slow and easy.

Jeannie is going to stop by the store on the way home from the mall. Arthur isn’t going near the place. Desperate housewives, terrified of being snowbound. Driven to clear the shelves of milk and bread and other perishables. To hoard and hunker before the hearth. To huddle and cower before the coming onslaught. How thrilling! Jeannie will pick up the fixin’s for a big pot of chili. Arthur had stocked the refrigerator with beer yesterday and an unopened bottle of Bushmills watches him like an alert and smiling doorman. Welcome, good sir.

###

Jeannie honks the horn for help. They carry in the paper bags. She asks the clerk for paper instead of plastic because the stiff, brown paper bags stand upright on their own so they can be filled with cans and glass and plastic water bottles for recycling. Jeannie is practical and organized and wishes Arthur was practical and organized too. But he isn’t and she knows it and no longer expects it. Arthur wants to burn the house down and run away to Ireland.

Or fuck the weather girl.

Ground beef, a yellow onion, cans of kidney beans and tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes and smoked chipotle and a bright green jalapeno pepper with perfect, smooth skin. Arthur picks up the jalapeno. He likes its firm shininess and the crown with a stem like a handle.

Arthur wants to insert the jalapeno in the weather girl’s anus.

Jeannie wordlessly sheds her coat, takes a knife from the drawer and a cutting board from the shelf and sets to work. Arthur assumes the task of browning the ground round in a skillet. Arthur hates the idea that the red mound of flesh was once part of a living creature. If he could start life over again he’d be a vegetarian. But they are already poisoned.

Arthur wonders what the weather girl eats.

“I ran into Molly at the store,” Jeannie says. “She and Frank have finally called it quits. He moved out this morning.”

Arthur grunts an acknowledgement as he moves the chunks of sizzling meat around in the skillet.

“She says she’s lonely and it hurts but it’s for the best. She said she’s glad the kids were grown and gone before it happened. I was afraid she was going to cry right there at the meat counter.”

“Frank’s an asshole,” is all Arthur says.

Jeannie pours oil into a pot, dumps in the chopped onion and the once perfect jalapeno and turns on the burner. They stand side by side at the stove. She works the chopped onion and pepper. He works the meat. In a minute he turns off the flame from under the skillet and bumping Jeannie at the hip, puts meat into her pot.

“I wasn’t ready for that yet,” Jeannie says. “Mine wasn’t soft yet.”

“Sorry.”

###

“The T.V. says we might not get the full brunt of it,” Arthur says. The station is interrupting regularly scheduled programming to give storm tracker updates. Arthur senses the weather girl’s deflation. Maybe this stage isn’t big enough. Maybe this is the pinnacle of a very short meteorologist career before some old guy convinces her that the fastest route to fame and fortune is to take off her clothes.

With the chili on to simmer, they have moved to the living room and the larger flat screen television. Arthur is happy because he can smell the chili, has a beer in his hand and the high definition Toshiba renders the weather girl larger, more life like and more accessible.

“Doesn’t look like we’re going to get the six inches. I knew we wouldn’t,” Jeannie says as she stands having heard the muffled ring of her cell phone from inside her coat pocket draped over the back of a dining room chair.

She talks into the phone as she stares out the big kitchen window that overlooks a patch of woods. The snowstorm is already two hours late. Arthur joins Jeannie in the kitchen to stir the pot of chili and to get another beer. Jeannie looks at him without expression as she talks to her phone. He deduces that she is talking to Molly based on frequent references to Frank. Arthur lifts the wooden spoon from the chili and puts it to his lips. Takes the bottle of chili powder from the counter next to the stove. There is only an inch of powder left in the bottle. They’ll have to remember to buy some more. He dumps the chili powder into the pot and drops the empty bottle into the recycle bag. Jeannie frowns. He always makes things too hot.

###

They eat dinner in the living room while staring at the television show that neither one of them is watching. Sitting atop the unused dining room table is a stiff, waxy candle with dusty plastic holly leaves and berries twisted around the base, a pile of Arthur’s papers and Jeannie’s purse. She gives him an update on Molly and Frank as they eat but there’s not much else to talk about. She says that a month ago Frank had told Molly that he was no longer attracted to her. Molly had cried but had no defense for a charge of such finality. Molly couldn’t remember the last time she and Frank had sex let alone good sex, she had told Jeannie. Molly had put on weight and certainly wasn’t the woman Arthur remembered from the early days, the woman who was cute and flirty at parties and to whom he had made more than one pass and could have closed the deal if he had been a more persistent salesman. Still and all, Frank had little room to talk, fat and balding as he was. But it isn’t the weight gain or the lack of sex that pulls couples apart, Arthur thinks. It’s entropy.

###

He should have married Jeannie years ago. When she wanted him too. After the last ‘on again’ of their on again, off again relationship. When a more familiar and comfortable passion had been briefly re-ignited. Before the real estate business failed and money got tight and Arthur lost interest in houses and the people that live in them. Jeannie’s job at the County Assessor’s Office is what keeps them afloat though they take on a little more water everyday. They are just two clocks ticking, springs slowly unwinding, unsure why they are still marking time. Something will happen, Arthur knows. Something has to happen. Maybe Molly is the beginning of it.

Arthur exists at the very limits of Jeannie’s imagination. He is the boundary of what she knows about the world, what she cares to know. She once believed him profound and full of mystery, with great secrets. Now he is just an unruly wilderness. Dark and bestial and unknowable and of little use to her everyday world. She had bragged to her friends of his insatiable appetites, his exploration of her senses. Now, she might say, the adventurer is lost. He spends his days drinking or wandering around the neighborhood taking pictures without purpose. Driftwood looking for a beach.

Arthur remembers their lovemaking. The way her mouth would form a perfect O during the bliss of her orgasm. The tight slickness of her vagina and how she smells like no other woman he has known, not unpleasant but distinctive, oily and resinous like balsam or tree sap. But what he loved most, he must admit, was her ordinariness, her lack of ambition, her lack of need for what he didn’t provide. Now, in contrast to his degradation, she serves as a constant in an equation long since solved.

###

Jeannie carries their empty bowls into the kitchen. He hears her rinsing them in the sink and opening the dishwasher. Arthur follows to drop an empty beer bottle into the recycle bag and to get a full one.

Jeannie lifts her coat from the back of the dining room chair.

“You’re going out?” Arthur asks.

“I’m going to visit Molly. She’s a mess. She’s at Ruby’s. In Near North.”
”Aren’t you worried about the storm?”

“There is no storm,” she says and leaves.

###

Arthur stays in the kitchen with his beer and the view of the woods and the smaller television still tuned to the storm tracker channel. He opens the bottle of Bushmills and pours a shot. The weather girl comes back on with her creamy skin and her lovely, firm girl arms and gripping a baton she uses to point at the Doppler weather map.

With an overnight low in the teens and winds from the west at 10

to 15 miles per hour things are going to get slippery.

Arthur touches his erection.

It has begun to snow.

 

 

The End

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Categories: From Swerve to Bend