“Nothing. A script for that play.”
“The one. You know. I told you. The one next month at that theater.”
“Sorry Babe. If you told me, I don’t remember.”
“Do you even listen to me when I tell you things?”
“I always listen. I might not always remember.”
“Part of listening is remembering.”
“I’m sorry, Char. I have a lot going on at work right now.”
“But I’m your girlfriend! I’m ‘going on’ too and this is your LIFE not just your job.”
“Sweetie, come here.”
“I have to learn these lines.”
“OK. You want me to help?”
“No. You have ‘important’ stuff to think about.”
Jack shrugged. Char could be moody. He’d always known that. And self-centered. He’d always known that, too. In fact, he’d always known Char. She had been the literal “girl next door,” and he’d decided, way back when they were six that he was going to marry Char. Twenty years later, it still had not happened, but they were, at least living together.
“Why can’t we get married and live together?” he’d asked her.
“What if we can’t get along? We need to know each other before we get married,” she’d answered. He’d brought up the point that they’d known each other since they were two. She’d just said, “It’s not the same. What if the way you brush your teeth drives me insane? I need to know that before I make a life-long commitment.”
Jack had thought, “But we’ve been on camping trips together, our families, just us, you KNOW how I brush my teeth.”
In some of Jack’s wiser brain cells he knew Char wasn’t all that into him, but he had managed to convince those cells to shut up most of the time. ALL of his brain knew she was hard to please.
He put down his book and went to the basement where he was slowly regaining space from the bizarre 1960s interior design the homeowners had done back in the day. It was a big job, involving the up-rooting of asbestos/asphalt tiles placed in arcane triangles exactly 8 feet apart. And why in hell would anyone put numbers on their floor?
“It has to mean something,” the realtor had said, “but godnose what.”
“Mom would know,” said Jack.
“Your mother’s dead, babe,” said Char.
It was Jack’s inheritance that had bought their house. Jack was a little nervous about buying a house with a woman who didn’t want to marry him, but whatEV.
He hadn’t done much with the floor lately, but tonight he felt a real need to do something that would lead somewhere.
He went at the tiles with a heat torch, a knife and a flat shovel. One at a time they came up. He stacked them in a pile to the side. They had called in an expert who said that since the tiles were in pretty good shape, they weren’t dangerous and they could cover the whole mess with a carpet or even pour a new concrete floor over them, but Char was freaked out by the asbestos. Jack shook his head.
When Jack came to, he was outside in the cold air, wrapped in blankets, strapped to a gurney, an oxygen mask over his face.
“You’re lucky your wife smelled fumes,” said the EMT.
“She’s not my wife,” Jack mumbled.
“WhatEV’. you’re lucky. The fire department was able to put out the fire before it could do much damage and we were able to get you out of the basement. What were you doing down there? You don’t look like a guy who snorts glue or some shit.”
“What?” Jack’s head hurt. He realized his hands were burning, but he couldn’t lift them to see why. “My hands?”
“Third degree burns. Probably be OK.”
“She went to her mother’s. She said she’d call. Lie back now. You’re hurt, you’ve had a close call. We’re taking you to the hospital.”
A cell phone rang, Jack’s. “Can you get that? It’s in my right front pocket. It could be Char.”
The EMT found Jack’s phone, “Just a moment, Ma’am,” he said, and put the phone to Jack’s ear.
“You wretch,” she said, and hung up.