The Mess, Part IV

Frank walked from the far side of the bedroom, gait filled with purpose. As he navigated the labyrinth he smiled because things were going to get done.  He was pleased. As he took his first step out of the bedroom he nearly ran over his wife who was walking in the room as he was walking out.  Startled, she jumped back and  bumped into a table, nearly knocking over a lamp.  She put a hand to her chest and said “Jeez, hon!  Ya startled me!”   Frank was equally startled but was unwilling to show it.  With a happy tone to his voice He said “Ya.  I’m your husband.  I’m the last person you’d expect to be walking out of your bedroom, right?  After he said this he kissed her forehead and smiled and tried to get by.

She was less than happy with being scared like that, and not at all happy with freezing in her own home.  Agnes saw the way Frank walked out of the room bouncing around like a kid and knew something was up. She didn’t know what exactly but she knew something was up. She had been married to him for nearly 30 years and knew Frank better than he did himself in some ways.  Agnes looked at him and blocked his path.  He tried to go left, and she moved in his way.  Move right?  She moved with him. And she did it in a way that made it look like it was accidental.

His happy mood dissolved almost immediately and his face soured, if only for a moment.  After trying and failing to get past her twice he was ready to pick up his wife and move her aside so he could get past her.  Before he could do that though, she said “So what’s happening?  When are we going to get heat back?”

He stopped for a second to take her in with his eyes.  The face was the face of the girl he married. Wrinkled?  More aged?  Of course, but that happens. He still loved that face, and the person behind the face.  The body had taken a beating over the years.  She had put on weight.  Her breasts, once perky and as he had once jokingly put it “forward looking” now sagged and looked down at the floor, like they were disappointed with what they had seen. He didn’t mind so much. His “equipment” did much the same thing now.  The two of them joked about this, but ever too much and never too loud, for fear that it might get worse, that aging might do more to them than it had, and neither wanted to face that.

That took about one hundredth of a second to think that and then respond.  He said “I called Jim, and he just called me back.  He’s bringing the work truck down here.  He’s on the way, he’ll be here in about an hour so it shouldn’t be too long before we have heat, with any luck.  Then the two of us can warm this place up ourselves.”  He wrapped his arms around her, and went to kiss her.  She pushed him away.  Frank put on a mock hurt face, laughed and said “What?  Ya don’t love me anymore?  Do I stink?  Did I do something wrong?  Do I Offend?”  He felt like playing around a little before the serious work was going to get done, but she was very serious about it.

She said “Listen, We can do that later if you like but if someone is coming over, we should get this place cleaned up.  Might even warm me up a little bit.”  She looked at him for a second before continuing.  His face was not the boyish face that she had first fallen in love with.  It had matured, hardened, grown stronger.  As it had changed, her love for him had grown, because as he had grown into his face he had begun to emerge as a successful man in the construction business.  He was never the type of guy to buy expensive things for her, or himself, but he tried to make sure that they had everything that they needed. It didn’t always work that way, though.

Then she thought about his drinking. That was the one thing he ever did that she felt would drive her crazy.  It started out slowly, years earlier.  He would come home from work after having a few beers, then having a few more before going to sleep.  He would tell jokes and generally be funny, sometimes a bit too much.  And he was loud and sometimes he would break things, but never trying to.

Not then.

But as the years went on it began to become a great deal more of a hassle.  He got loud and angry at her sometimes if he had a bad day at work, fighting with her like it was her fault.  But he aways apologized the next day.  Finances started to become a mess because he spent money like a fool, much of it on drinking, and that left little to nothing for anything that had to get done at home.   The yelling and fighting got worse and worse as he got older and started to drink more and more.  And getting calls to pick him up because he was passed out again at the bar was a hairy pain in the ass.  Or seeing him come home covered in his own barf, or someone else’s blood if there was a fight was depressing.  She hated watching the man she had married turn into, something, what it was she had no words for.  But it wasn’t the man she fell in love with all those years ago.

After getting hurt on one job he spent six months at home on comp, and he spent seemingly all of his time and most of the money that was coming in at the bar.  The fights on those nights were the worst.  She almost left him several times but he would apologize the next day and she would decide to stay.   Sometimes he would yell at her for no reason while cracking dishes in his hands, slamming things around into jagged pieces on the brown kitchen tile floor and she broke things in response, in her own frustrated rage, and none of it made any sense to her but he apologized and tried to make it up to her, and she stayed.

The whole thing was hellaciously menacing because he was so much larger than she was, but she was no shrinking violet. For better or worse after all.  The whole thing felt like hell.  After nearly a decade of it, she had finally had enough, she was done listening to “I’m sorry” when he decided to quit. It came as a complete shock.  A welcome but completely unexpected. She was ready to turn around and leave, but he had started to turn his life around.  But she had doubts.  It hadn’t been long enough for her to put it all behind her. Meeting up with Jim, one of is old drinking buddies could upset the whole damn thing and push her out the door.  She was not going to deal with him being a drunk again.

Thoughts of that past danced through her head, turning her face sour as she said ” Maybe you can give me a hand with this.  Theres a lot to do around here. We’ve both been pigs of late, and something has to be done.  Now.”   She had found that being adamant and strident with him went further than pleading and prodding, she learned that early with him, a lesson that stuck.

Frank nodded, smiled at his wife and said “Let’s get to it.  Don’t want him thinking we’re dirtbags, especially since I’m the dirtbag here. where do you want to start…” as he walked into the living room of the one floor ranch house, oblivious to the thoughts in his wifes head.  He was thinking about meeting up with Jim and getting the heat back on, and just getting back on with his life…


That’s it from here, America.  G’night.

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