Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • As part of a never-ending quest to polish my literary chops, I offer you a short story featuring dueling spousal points of view. Some of it derives from my experience, but really, the characters represent no actual persons, living or dead. On the overleaf please find questions for readers, one of which I hope you’ll bother to address as a story comment. I appreciate your patience and ongoing forbearance for my literary experiments on live human subjects. ~Geoff

    “Have you seen my keys? I thought I tossed them on the bed when I came back from the dentist.” She had been pacing about, disturbing his peace for the past five minutes.

    “Hell if I know where they went,” Jack told her. “Look under pillows?” He splayed his book on the carpet and lifted off his reading chair with a sigh that could have been his or the cushion’s. Mister Find-it to the rescue.

    He checked the bathroom for keys and peered into the bowls and vases lined up on the sideboard. Melissa swiped her phone. “I really must go or I’ll be late for Pilates. Give me your keys. I’m sure mine will turn up.”

    He dug into his pocket with a grimace that became a half-smile as he handed them over. “Take the sports car. After you’re done, drop it off at Harry’s for an oil change. If his boy can’t drive you home give a shout and I’ll come get you.”

    She was already the bedroom hurriedly changing clothes, bleating out “Sorry, no time, Jack Dear. Barbara wants to take me to lunch after. I’ll take my car so you can take care of it.” It’s his bloody toy. He can take it in and read his damn book while he waits. Exiting in sapphire yoga tights that bulged a bit, but not too much, she stopped by the bath to admire her not-yet-matronly figure and clip her long sepia tresses into a bun.

    Sweeping up her handbag and dropping in his key ring, she prompted him “Be a dear and vacuum the downstairs, will you? You know, Bill and Sylvia will be here at seven and I don’t have time to make the place presentable.” He’d just laze around reading if I didn’t say something.

    It would have to be Dolores’ day off. He wanted to say “So why are you lunching with Barbara if there’s so much to do?” but replied instead “All right.”

    “And if you don’t mind,” she tossed back, heading out the door, “set the table for five. You know the menu. It will save me time. TIA.” Let’s see if he remembers how the forks go.

    He shouted back “I guess that means that Steven will grace us with his presence?” Hardly leaves his room anymore. Probably something to do with the dirty magazines he hides in his pigsty of a closet.

    “Of course. That is, he’d better, so see to it. Oh, wake him up. Doesn’t he have soccer scrimmage today?”

    “I don’t know. When?” There goes the morning.

    “Me neither. Please look it up and get him over there. Gotta go.”

    The front door clicked. He stood at the front window looking past the azaleas, watching the minivan back out and head down the street as the clock on the mantel chattered and bonged nine. Oh yeah. Saturday, time to wind her clock.

    But first, the young man. Why is it left to me to police all these things? He traipsed up the stairs, stopped at the door with the Katy Perry poster plastered with a sticker that said Dead Zone and put his ear to the panel. Detecting a slight rhythmic creaking sound, he rapped sharply and advised past Katy “Stop abusing yourself. You want it to fall off? Put on your uniform and come down to breakfast. Train leaves in forty minutes.” Waffles or pop tarts, no way. I’ll set out cereal, section a grapefruit and boil an egg.

    A muffled “Okay, okay. Go away” was the cheery response.

    I suppose I should be thankful he’s still too young to chauffeur himself. Oh shit. Melissa’s got my keys. Where the hell did she put hers?

    After briefly stroking his chin in the living room, he tossed throw pillows from the sectional onto the floor. Something glinted from between two cushions. Her badge. Mister Find-it scores again. He extracted it and its dangling keys and pocketed the ensemble. Not the bed, you ninny. You threw them on the couch.
  • In the kitchen he sliced multigrain bread and fired up the toaster, and from the fridge pulled out a carton of cage-free eggs and a tub of Smart Balance. He plopped two of the ovoids into a small saucepan, drew water into it, set it on high, and halved a grapefruit. Thinking The rest of Steven better be vertical by now, he returned to the stairway but held off ascending after hearing the clump of footsteps through the ceiling. Back in the kitchen after retrieving his book, he set it on the table, losing his place. The eggs were starting to bubble. He set the timer for two minutes and reviewed the sports schedule pinioned to the fridge door with a racing car magnet. Yep, ten o’clock, as always. How come none of us can remember it?

    He put dishes away while waiting and brought down eggcups from the same cupboard. When the toaster jerked, he yanked out the slices and swabbed them with the yellow substance posing as whipped butter. Then the timer beeped and he scooped out the eggs with a soupspoon, cursing when a splash of hot water scalded his wrist. After cooling it and the eggs under the faucet, he set places and sat at his to read while awaiting the prince’s entrance. He’d just found his place and was about to crack into his egg when His Highness shuffled in and peered at the coffeemaker. “What, no coffee?”

    “We finished it. Sit down and eat. Either fix some instant or I’ll stop by Starbucks on our way to the pitch.” Your wish is my command. Everyone’s is, it seems.

    “Starbucks. Instant sucks.” He was wearing his iridescent black shorts and except for the white stripes on his knee socks, maroon everything else, the team’s Harvard-wannabe colors. “Got a twenty for me?”

    “How come? Coffee’s four bucks. Seeing your dealer after?” Almost wouldn’t surprise me.

    “That’s so lame. Teddy and Rick and me might go for pizza after practice. Please?”

    “Teddy, Rick and I. All right, since you said please. At Luigi’s?”

    “Probably. I’ll let you know where to pick me up.”

    Jack passed two sawbucks over the table as Steven pushed himself back from the crumbs and egg yolk stains on his placemat. “Thanks Dad. I’ll grab my phone and we can go.”

    In the garage six minutes hence, Steven tossed his gym bag into the back seat and Jack fired up the Audi. They rode in silence to the Village Marketplace, and while Steve was in Starbucks getting served, Jack put on a CD of Bill Evans Live in Monteux and let the lilt of Waltz for Debby fill the cabin, wishing for some reason he had a cigarette.

    At the athletic field he told his son “Just remembered, I’ve got to visit a client this after. Call your mom when you’re ready to go home.” Steven nodded blankly and clumped off. Jack brought the top down, cranked up the stereo, and roared off, the crisp autumn air tousling his thinning hair. At the 7-11 at Four Corners he bought a bottle of mango nectar and a pack of American Spirits, surprised at having to pay ten dollars for cigs. How long has it been, twelve years? No, longer. I gave them up when Steven came.

    He piloted the red S5 along County Road, smoke filling his lungs and jazz his ears, beating the wheel in time to the rhythm. Damn. Love what’s-his-name, that Swedish bass player. Too nice a day. Fuck vacuuming. Time to wind my clock. He dialed Julie, his partner’s legal assistant whom he found excuses to work late with every now and then. She answered, said she was doing housework and told him to please pop over, as he’d ardently hoped. At a traffic light, he texted Melissa, whom he assumed would still be grunting about the gym: Client on fire. Making house call. Might be as late as 5. Will help u then.

    Covering herself with her hands for no good reason, Melissa crossed the hotel room to read Jack’s message. She skipped back to the bed and fell into Bill’s arms. Stroking her nipples, he murmured “What was that?”

    “Just Jack,” she told him, snuggling in. “Says a client needs him all afternoon. Good for us.”

    “Did he say who? I didn’t think anyone on his list needed that level of care.”

    “Nope. You can ask him when you see him in the office Monday. Or tonight at dinner.”

    Answer one question only or don't bother and go on to your next story. Everyone will get an A.

    1. Is following two interior monologs at once confusing or distracting?
    2. For that matter, should young Steve be having one too?
    3. Is it too sexy? Not sexy enough?
    4. Any bits you had to read more than once to make sense of things?
    5. Anything else—good, bad or meh?

    @image: By John Delano of Hammond, Indiana, Attribution,
    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.