by Raj Davis
The clanging of bottles and glasses sound like the perfect symphony. Is there any better way to spend the evening than sipping on a Budweiser, crunching on cashews, while hearing the collective chatter of dozens of cops on a night after a long shift? Bill doubts there is. In here it is silent even though it’s noisy. It’s like relaxing to Kenny G’s mournful notes. Here he can think without distraction. Margaret, his wife, is probably nursing a watermelon sized lump of anger in her throat, right now, because he needs to unwind where his “real” wife is.
He takes her “real” wife comment like she thinks he’s an alcoholic, but he doesn’t come here for the beer, which is a dollar a bottle. He can drink it at home if he chose to and it would be cheaper. It’s the yacking he can’t take, “I wish you did this.” “I asked you to fix the toilet several weeks ago.” “When are you going to get to the leak in the roof?” She stares at him in these moments with wild fire in her eyes. If they were lasers she would have split him in half by now. “Go ahead and marry that bar if you don’t like me so much. One day you’ll come home and I won’t be here!”
He laughs to himself as he throws a handful of the salty chunky nuts into his mouth. I pay the bills. She’ll never leave me. Who else would have her?
Jack, a fellow officer in the same precinct, sits next to him at the bar with a seat between them.
“Look at what the cat dragged in,” says Bill.
“Look at what the monkey left on that bar stool,” Jack laughs. Bill smiles. “Anything go down on your shift today?” he continues.
“Nada…didn’t work today. My old lady had me running all around the house—had to come down here to relax. I have the night shift tomorrow, so I’ll sleep all day if she lets me.”
“I don’t let my wife boss me like that. I set the rules.”
“That won’t last forever. But, I wish I was you for a day or two. Hey, don’t you hate the nagging?”
“I know. It’s like a mosquito at your neck that you can’t kill. That constant buzzing in your ear, and the bumps the next day.”
“Once last fall it was a Saturday—I haven’t had a Saturday off in years—I’m on the couch with a beer cracked open and Pitt playing Notre Dame. How often does that happen? She flicks off the T.V. and says the faucet is leaking again. Man, I could have killed her. But, had to do it, you know—I would’ve never heard the end of it. Geez, I don’t get women.”
“Hey,” says Bill with a fatherly tone. “Next remind her that you pay the lights, so you’ll watch the game.”
“I ain’t like you, Bill. My old lady does shifts at the hospital. It’s fifty-fifty at my place.”
“Tell her to quit. You want to give her a break. Let her tend to your home. Decorate and all that other frilly stuff. She’ll go for it. Every man should be the king of his own house.”
Bill’s phone goes off. Taking a look at it he mouths to Jack, “It’s the ball and chain.”
“Bill it’s going on ten o’clock…are you coming home? Your dinner’s getting cold. I made my meatball hoagies that you love.”
“Give me a little more time. Why do you always have to spoil my ‘me’ time?” he asks then smiles at Jack and holds up his pointer finger, saying wait for this; “If you want the bills paid you gotta leave me alone sometimes!”
“That’s what I thought.”
There’s a click. Bill turns toward Jack, “That’s the way you do it. And I got a meatball hoagie waiting for me. She is the best cook I’ve ever met. Man, and she keeps her body tight. Just man-up, Jack, that’s all.”
“I’m sick of her talk. I need to lay down the law!”
Max walks in. Bill and Jack turn to face him. There are bags under his eyes like a train runs through his bedroom He sits in the seat between them.
“Hey guys, whatcha talking about?” he slumps over onto his elbows. “One shot of that lemon vodka,” he says to the bartender.
“Just teaching Jack how to handle things at home,” Bill says.
“Oh my god, women are a trip,” says Max, “What is it with them? They’re never happy,” he continues, “You guys remember when I caught her smoking pot. I almost lost my shield. Then she graduated to heroin and crack. Don’t tell anyone. She’s draining my energy. But I try to help her out anyway. You know, for better and for worse. I love her. I truly do.”
Bill’s jaw is hanging toward the floor, and Jack looks stiff. “How do you guys handle all that drama they bring?” Bill looks to Jack. Jack nods. “I’m going home,” he says.
“I don’t have that problem, Max. Sorry just being honest.”
“That makes me feel better. Ha! The only one. Why’d I get involved with her? You know one time she got so mad I flushed her heroin—she pulled a knife on me. She was in the grip of addiction that night and the cravings were strong. She scratched my side with that dull blade. I have it right here.” Max pulls up his shirt. Bill eyes the six-inch red line on Max’s rib cage.”
“God!” says Bill, “I would have killed her.”
“The thought to choking the life out of her was real, but in the end I just can’t. I wouldn’t…not kill—not even rough her up. It ain’t right to hit a woman. I love her still I guess.”
Bill examines Max’s face. What kind of man can deal with that?
“Bill, doesn’t your wife yell at all the wrong times? Like when you’re trying to watch a game?”
“She pleads more than yells.”
“What? Doesn’t she slap you, or kick the TV, or something? Give me something?”
“She goes into her bedroom and cries.”
“Bill, you got heaven, buddy.”
Bill doesn’t know what he is feeling right now. One part is awe, the next shame, the next stupidity. “I do have a slice of heaven. I love my wife. I got to go, Max.” He slaps a few bills on the bar. “Here is some money for a couple of beers.”
Bill pats him on the back and races to the grocery store. He opens the door to his house with a dozen roses and assorted chocolates. It’s dark. Knowing the truth, he looks into every room with his heart racing. He can hear the pounding in his ears. There is nothing on the kitchen table but a meatball hoagie with a note.
Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student