Monday, February 6, 2012

Flash Fiction #3 : Dues

Photo by Drew Hoffman
After the last time, he promised her he wouldn't come home with another new car. With the mortagage, the kids in school, and the recurring unforeseen expenses of said kids, they were struggling.

It was time to think about braces, about gymnastics, about art classes. No time for new cars.

And the money fights were always the worst ones.

He didn't understand himself how they could collapse into such savagery. Why they couldn't talk things out without shouting. Or crying. Or leaving.

Why they couldn't be like that family from that famous sitcom. Or even the neighbors who lived in the slate blue four-square around the corner. They'd walk hand in hand around the subdivision before dusk and the swarm of mosquitos. He envied the easy silence between them.

It was all What the fuck were you thinking, and What the hell is wrong with you? He'd call her a leech, she'd tell him he was an idiot, he'd say she was sucking the life out of him and she'd scream he stole the best years of her youth.

It had become embarrassingly predictable, and yet neither one of them could write themselves out of the role they played. After the fights, the routines were what saved them. Wake the kids at 6:45. Take Lily and the neighbor's daughter to Girl Scouts every other Tuesday. Grocery shopping on Sundays. Catechism on Wednesdays from six to eight. Weekly parent teacher conferences for Hannah. Make sure Chloe gets enough sleep or she'll be a terror by 5 o clock. Feed the dog. Take out the trash.

These were the things that bound them together.

He couldn't explain why he'd driven into the Dickinson Chevrolet car lot. Why he'd price haggled with the smug salesman in his early twenties, an acne plagued Italian sporting the latest orchestrated bedhead look. The bastard didn't know a thing about engine performance or the beauty of low profile tires. He probably drove a Malibu.

He didn't know why he'd gone as far as to leave the keys to his Saab sedan with the management team, who'd encouraged him to take the car for the night and test it out for himself.

And now, one month to the day he'd brought home the sleek black Saleen Mustang, he was driving home with an orange Camaro Z28 with black hockey sticks. And he knew the script they'd follow. The shaking in her voice as she asked him if he'd gone fucking nuts. Her face a map of rage. The throwing of anything she could get her hands on. The repeated lines. The draining of the fury and the residual disappointment and despair.

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After the last projectile-- a can of Wild Cherry Pepsi-- had been hurled with stunning precision, they sat in the living room, their breathing synchronized. She softly brushed the hair off his forehead and sighed. They'd looked at their bank account, their savings, the 401K.

It just couldn't be done. He'd return the car tomorrow morning.

The TV screen cast a soft green glow in the living room, and the newscaster reported the latest injuries at the demonstration downtown. Four in ICU, 19 incarcerated. Possible police brutality. Footage circulating on YouTube and other social channels. Lawyers said victims would make a killing in civil court.

Hey, she said in a low voice.

Hmm, he whispered, his eyes still closed.

It's over.

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This was written for the Lit Stack Flash Fiction prompt.