I was looking for a story with a particular theme and found this. It’s another husband-wife tale similar to the first story I posted, but with a different approach to discipline. I wrote it many years ago and, as such, it needed a rewrite to align it better with my older self today. It is written first-person, present tense, but is not autobiographical.
Usually when people are sad, they don't do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about change. -- Malcolm X
Turning Her Over
The expletive startles me out of my reverie. The word hangs in the air, a flash of lightning holding the promise of its attendant thunder.
I wait without breathing… thoughts coalesce, time dilates; seconds drip slow as a leaky faucet. Is it better to be completely surprised or startled by something half-expected? Storm clouds have been gathering over this house for weeks.
The word has come from the direction of the kitchen, a juggernaut of invective that walls and distance can only muffle. It startles because Carrie never curses in public. She saves the words frugally and then spends her cache here at home. In many homes swearing is probably a common form of expression, words powerless and insignificant but, within these walls, in a quiet neighborhood near the technology mecca of the Silicon Valley, it is a sign — a forecast for severe weather conditions. Stay tuned to this channel for further updates.
Thunder… My mind recoils as a machine gun fire of profanity follows the silence, each choice word punctuated with a sharp banging. Over a decade together and I’ve become remarkably adept at reading her moods; my charming wife is not a happy camper.
I hope I’m not being too melodramatic, but her anger has momentarily taken me hostage. She has the expected monthly mood swings, but they are mostly depression and withdrawal. I suspect the real source here, but anger has a way of seeking any and all available targets. Maybe it’s just a normal reaction for me to personalize it? I take quick inventory of all possible culpabilities …what I may have done that I shouldn’t have, not done that I should.
I think I’m good.
The trash is out…yeah, hallelujah.
I picked up a nice big bag of dog food this afternoon. Precious little Mimi will continue to reign as America’s plumpest poodle.
I did not eat any of her fudge cookies …Carrie’s, not Mimi’s.
The Readi-Whip incident… nope, all traces of that non-dairy disaster have been removed and the area sterilized with disinfectant.
I hear something slam with a bang as if shut with all the force she can muster. I can tell you it’s either the dishwasher, oven or trash compactor. I have a talent for recognizing sounds. As I humbly thank nature for this gift, a shriek, a sentiment of frustration and uncontrolled rage cuts through me as if it were my own pain. There’s a crash. The sound of glass breaking.
Yes, definitely glass. I hope it’s not my Gary Larson coffee mug, the one depicting the entrance to “Midvale School for the Gifted”. Now, that would be a shame. When it comes to kitchen crockery, I have formed few attachments, but I do like that cup. Each morning greets me with the sight of the hapless student, arm outstretched, his full weight leaning into the door clearly marked, “PULL”. It always seems a good thought to start my day facing a world that has never made much sense to me.
I think what I heard breaking may have been a dinner plate. There was a certain ring to it, if I imagine the sound as it shatters against a wall, counter top, or kitchen cabinet. I debate whether I want to venture out of this safer haven of my office. Sustaining verbal assault is one thing; dodging glassware is another. I already tried to lighten the mood earlier this evening and found my lovely wife less than receptive. What chance do I have now? It would be easier to just lay low. On the other hand, if I ignore this, I might appear uncaring and too wrapped up in my own more important problems. Such is man’s dilemma. I decide to attempt a supportive appearance.
I barely have time to get out the door before my wife storms by. At the first sign of trouble, Mimi would have made a mad dive under the chair in the living room. If there was room I might be under there with her.
“Fucking dishwasher!” The way she looks at me suggests I wash dishes. She is referring to the beloved appliance that we just paid two-hundred bucks to have fixed. I open my mouth as if to say something useful, but I’m already looking at her back, her shoulder-length dark hair a pendulum of disdain. I watch as she stomps angrily up the stairs leaving me standing, mouth still open. In a belated gesture, hand humbly offered to the now empty staircase, I silently inform my sweetheart that I was glad to be there for her.
If I sound amused, I assure you I am not. Anger is a tough emotion to be around. I hate to see her upset, but there is another side to it. Regardless of any rational determination I can make as to the target of her wrath, I still feel as if that anger is aimed at me. Why are my feelings not being taken into consideration here? Am I less important to her? Okay, how insecure of me. Resigned, I turn back toward the kitchen to check the damages.
The kitchen has that eerily quiet air of an empty room still holding on to emotions left behind. All the lights are on imbuing everything with a conspicuous look. The fridge lends a vague detached hum to the electric mood. The sink is empty, stove and counters barren, all vestiges of dinner cleared away to leave but a shiny starkness. Partially obscured behind the center island, the dishwasher cowers, ashamed of itself for the trouble it has caused. After checking the miserable thing to confirm it’s not working, I turn to peruse the area. I spot what I’m looking for in the corner across the room, on the floor by the dinette, the shards of a former piece of dishware that will never see another meal. I congratulate myself on impressive powers of sonic detection. The small part of me that can still find humor in this gives a high-five to the part that never liked that plate anyway. The short-handled broom and dustpan are in the pantry. I begin to sweep up what no amount of glue or patience can repair while thinking that, tonight, something is going to get fixed.