Frank responded with just a tinge of steel in his voice “No honey, I’m on it… I was just thinking…”
It was at that point that he realized that the steel that was in his voice was there to protect something he wasn’t concerned with. Yes he was concerned in making sure the place got cleaned up, and that the heat was fixed so he and his wife could live in peace. What he wasn’t concerned with at this point in his life was defending his feelings from his wife, of all people.
Why the hell would he do that?
It didn’t make sense and the thoughts behind it, behind even thinking about talking about events from 20+ years ago to protect his feelings seemed a bit childish. Although childish wasn’t the word that came to Frank’s mind. The words “Stupid Bullshit” came to mind. And Frank disliked stupid bullshit. He didn’t like the fact that he was going to hurt his wife like that to defend himself, and from what? He was 55, not 25. He was thinking like a kid there, and he was angry with himself over it, angrier with himself than he was with his wife a scant 60 seconds ago.
Frank walked over to the coffee table and began to take all the papers off of it. But first he had to move the dishes off of them. And he had to move the remote controls that were on top of them to move the dishes. With a deft flick of the wrist, he backhanded three remote controls off of the coffee table, which fell with a cluttered series of thuds on the floor in front of the couch. One of the backs of one of the remotes fell off in mid air, and batteries went flying. Frank looked at this and groaned very slightly, and began the process of cleaning up the mess he had just made trying to begin cleaning up the mess that was on top of the mess that was on the mess of papers on the coffee table.
For a moment he was tempted to just get a garbage bag and toss everything in there, but only a moment. There were the remote controls, but besides that there were old bills, not so old bills, her painkillers for her back, his old painkillers for his sciatica, 7 candles (only two of which were left over from Christmas), newspapers from last week, pictures from a party they went to in 1986 in Bangor, Maine, and for some odd reason, a first edition copy of “The Stars, Like Dust” that looked, curiously, to be covered with dust.
As Frank bent over and groaned while picking up the batteries and the back of the cable remote he knew she was thinking about his drinking. So he brought it up as he picked himself up from getting those. He said “Hon, you seem tense, and I think I know why. You’re afraid I’ll go out drinking with Jim aren’t you?”
She was in the middle of moving a pile of papers, and the question so completely caught her off guard that the entire ple of papers went flying when he asked her the question. It only took her a second to compose herself. Agnes thought Frank was trying to sound calm cool and collected, and she was damned if he was going to be the only one to do that. She said “Ya, I am, but you’re an adult and you can make your own decisions. If you do, you are done here. You know that, right?”
He nodded, but behind that nod he was suddenly nervous. That was the threat she had used on him a number of times when he was still drinking. The words resonated in his mind, and he repeated “Done here.” He looked at her while trying to fix the remote control he had broken and said “I wouldn’t do that to you, or me for that matter. I’m not like that anymore. I’ve been good since I decided to stop, haven’t I?”
It was her turn to nod at him. She was of two minds about this. On the one hand she had dealt with him being a drunk for years ad was frankly sick of even the thought existing in her head. On the other hand she had in the last few months seen her husband return to being the man he was before all the drinking, and was filled with joy over that. She hoped that he would not have to go through with her threat and kick him out.
The thing was that this was the first real test since he had quit drinking. The first time he would be seeing anyone who he used to go to the bar and hang out with(as far as she knew,) and she was not sure how he would do. This was his best friend Jim. The man he called brother, and he had told her he was probably closer to him than his real brothers, so she was afraid of what would happen, afraid she might call her bluff. And she was afraid that it was just another bluff. Frank had correctly pointed that she had thrown that threat at him before. She was not sure she was strong enough to carry it out this time, any more than she was before, but she felt like she had to. He was too old. He should know better.
She hoped he did, but she could do more than hope. This time she felt she might have to.
That’s it from here, America. G’night.