If I believed in God, I would thank him for making me lose my milk delivery job. Mom used to say that God made good things happen out of bad things. She told me that was in the Bible somewhere, or possibly Reader’s Digest. Maybe it wasn’t some man in the sky that pushed me to take the corner too fast, a move that busted three cases of product and ran a white river behind the truck. Dear Old Dad (D.O.D.), would call me a doofus for thinking it was anything but my own stupidity that tipped the truck. But he was worm food now, and he’d left me and Mom to fend off the creditors years before that. I didn’t give a fat rip what he or anyone else thought. Good things came out of that bad thing. Life took a much better turn after the truck took the bad one.
Mom was in the ground too, but thankfully in a different cemetery in a different part of the country than that asshat. Both parents gone by my thirtieth birthday—not sure if that made me an orphan or just an adult. I think Mom would have liked where I ended up. Here I was, washing a sink full of dishes, pot of chili brewing on the stove and a couple of cold ones in the Westinghouse for Debbie when she got home. Deb was the sole bread-winner, bacon-bringer-homer now. So what if what she did wasn’t legal in the strictest sense? Or really any sense. Everybody’s gotta do something.
I never figured myself a househusband. All those HH’s on the dumb afternoon shows usually had kids to take care of, and that was never in the cards for us. I fired blanks right from the get-go. Not that Debbie cared—she wasn’t the mothering type. We were making our own version of the dream.
The back door jangled, signaling that my hard working partner had returned to our suburban castle. Mom would have killed to live in the Burbs. Well, maybe not commit actual murder, though I think she often wanted to plant a shovel in the back of D.O.D.’s head. Dead husband, better lifestyle—good things out of bad.
“In the kitchen, hon. Miller in the Westinghouse fer ya.”
“Why do you always call it that? Dammit, Sean, it’s a fridge.”
She peeled off her jean jacket and undid the bandana hanging off her neck. I did my usual fast scan for anything that looked like a wound.
“I like to call things their names. Not a thing wrong with it.” I plucked the bandana from the chair back. “This thing could use a wash. Should I throw it in the Maytag?”
Debbie spun the top off her beer and took a long slug.
“Just leave it, Sean.”
She fished out her pack of Camels and tapped one into her fingers.
“Nuh-uh. Outside if you’re going to indulge in that.”
“Shits sake, Sean.”
“You said you were quitting.”
“Cut down. That was what I said.” She reached into the crotch of her jeans.
“Don’t tell me …”
“What? It’s fine.” She blinked her heavy lashed eyes, gave me a Mae West, tried to get me to not say what she knew I was going to say.
“It’s not fine. I told you seven hundred and seventy times: pick up a shoulder holster. How would it be if that went off in the middle of work? And by in the middle, I mean before you yanked it out of those god-awful pants. Be a helluva lot worse for me, still—”
“I’ll get one tomorrow. C’mon Sean, get off my case.”
I sensed the chili burning, and ran to the pot, stirred, and cranked the heat down. When I turned to apologize for snapping at my wife, she’d already left. I heard the back door close and smelled the smoke as soon as she lit it.
I hated when she came home like that. I didn’t sit around on my butt all day. I got stuff done. Bills were paid, bathroom was clean, laundry at least got started. I shouldn’t bitch. She was just tense from work.
I went to the Westinghouse and grabbed the other Miller. I put another one in for Debbie. I took a swallow, and then tasted the chili. I’d saved it from burning—always did have good kitchen senses. That was another job I could have had, not chef, but for sure doing prep, or even a line cook in a half-decent but not pricey restaurant.
At first, Deb brought home a lot of cash, each score got bigger. She told me to take a break from work for a while. She knew I had hated the milk job, and the warehouse shipping job before that. But work for Deb was iffy lately, she was bringing home less all the time. The whole country was swinging that way. Maybe I should look into the restaurant gig.
I like the language and that the ending is unclear as to if it is a happy ending or a sad ending.
Only have time to read half of it so far but love the voice and the clever writing. I'll have to check out your books.
Craig- you've done a brilliant job of striking a tone that draws the reader through the piece. And I really enjoyed the way you turned the typical setup around, turning the housewife into a house husband and the housewife into the perp. The running Westinghouse gag was fun, too.
What clever and engaging writing! I was going to only read a little, but I couldn't stop until the end. Very smooth and funny! Dang, to engage a reader as you do, is a hat's off to you, Craig!
I enjoyed how the suspense of the story built, especially using the jump cut as the MC watches a television movie while seeing another movie in his head. Very effective. The ending was excellent-clever & satisfying. It tied in nicely with the opening paragraph.
A great read from a very talented writer. Well done.
Thanks very much - I really appreciate the kind words. This is one of my favourite stories, and I was really pleased that Mystery Weekly picked it up.