Archive for the ‘Post 4.9’ Category

Tuesday, March 27, 5:17 p.m.

“Jack?” I holler into the silent house.


“Go put hydrogen peroxide on your hand, or you’ll get lockjaw or something,” I hiss at Lucy.

“Jack? Are you home?” I call again as Lucy slouches to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

I find Jack seated on his living room couch, his feet up on the coffee table. A yellow legal pad is perched on his knees. He has exchanged his office wear for an ancient University of Washington sweatshirt and a pair of loose fitting dad jeans. He’s so focused on what he’s writing that he doesn’t notice me until I slap my hand over the page.

He jumps and looks up at me.

“Oh, you’re home,” he says, as if I live here with Lucy and him, all cozy. “Did you girls have fun shopping?”

“Your daughter is seriously messed up,” I say. “You need to get her in to see a psychologist or something, like today, Jack!”

I hope Lucy isn’t standing horrified in the doorway. I glance over my shoulder, find it mercifully empty, and turn back to Jack.

“Lucy’s very religious,” he sighs. “Probably picked it up from her grandmother. I never encourage her.”

“This isn’t some Catholic thing,” I say. “She’s weird as hell!”

Again, I glance over my shoulder to make sure she isn’t eavesdropping in the doorway. I lower my voice.

“She’s the psychologically damaged kind of weird. You need to get her professional help, or something bad is going to happen,” I say.

Jack shakes his bristly head dismissively.

“She’ll outgrow it. Want some coffee?”

I’m surprised he doesn’t offer me a drink: something ruinous like vodka or Scotch.

“Sure, I never say no to coffee,” I say automatically. “But seriously…your daughter…aren’t you going to do anything?”

Jack gently pulls the legal pad from under my splayed fingers. I retract my hand before it can land on his knees. He stands and scratches his fingers over his short-stubbled scalp.

“Let’s go out on the porch. Want a smoke?”

“No, I do not want to smoke, Jack. You know I don’t smoke anymore. You shouldn’t keep trying to get me to.”

“Come on,” he says. “It’s a beautiful sunset.”

I go outside to wait for my cup of coffee, which I will eagerly drink, and my cigarette, which I will not smoke. I take a breath of salty Puget Sound air. Jack’s neighborhood is practically waterfront, but it’s rundown. Because it’s located in Seattle proper and not one of the many unstoried suburbs, its rundown state would be described as “classic” or “historic” by a real estate agent. But it’s trashy to my eyes. And believe me, I know trashy.

I sit on the moldy couch on Jack’s front porch (trashy!) and gaze at the 1960s era pickup truck on cinderblocks in his next door neighbor’s muddy front yard (trashy!) I shiver. It’s getting cold. Jack emerges from the house bearing two steaming mugs of coffee and a pack of Marlboros (trashy as hell!)

“I’m not smoking,” I reiterate, as I accept the hot cup. “You shouldn’t try to make me. Do you have any idea how hard it was to quit?”

Jack sits next to me on the couch. Not too close. But sort of close. He lights a cigarette, takes a long drag, and sighs. He stares at the reddish-gold light jewelling his across-the-street neighbor’s roof. It’s pretty. I stare at it, too. We clutch our steaming coffee mugs, not touching, not talking.

What a picturesque white trash couple we must make.

“I’m gonna get laid off soon,” Jack says.

“Probably,” I say.

“Newspapers aren’t hiring.”

“Nope,” I say.

“There’s no way I can freelance.”

“It’s a horrible lifestyle. I hated it,” I say.

“Too uncertain. Too much hustling. I’m too old.”

“Yeah,” I agree. “Me too.”

He turns his face to mine.

“You’re getting laid off?”

He appears genuinely concerned. I’ve never seen him look like this. His ice-blue eyes are clear as they search mine. His hands are steady on the coffee mug and the cigarette. His body radiates the coiled, tense patience of a snake. So this is Jack sober. He must have been an incredible reporter.

“You never know,” I shrug. “Maybe it’s time for a change. I’ve had three different careers so far. Maybe I’ll become a baker or something this time.”

“How do you do it?” he says.

“Dunno. I’ve had to reinvent myself every four years or so. You just fully commit to changing who you are, I guess. What will you do?”

He takes a sip of coffee, takes a drag off his cigarette, and shrugs.

“Die out?”

“Oh come on, Jack. Don’t be like that.”

He turns the unintoxicated version of his basilisk stare on me. It’s overwhelming. I am paralyzed by his eyes. My God, he must have been such a good reporter once.

“Don’t be like what?” he says.

“I don’t know. Self-pitying,” I fumble, taking a drink to avoid his gaze. “Just…clean house, man. Know what I mean? Your daughter’s screwed up. And you’re…look, I don’t know you people. I’m getting over-involved, overstepping boundaries and all. I should get going.”

He holds out his hand. He doesn’t put it on my forearm, or wrist, or shoulder, or any of the usual places a man puts his hand when he wants to stop a woman from standing up and walking out.

He puts it over the top of my coffee cup.

“Any progress on the book?” he asks.

I sit back down on the couch next to him. I shrug.

“Can I ask you something?” he says.

“Sure,” I say.

He hesitates.

He looks at me, looks away at the dying sunset, then looks back at me.

“Do…” he begins.

He hesitates again, and I know that he’s not going to ask me what he really wants to.

“Do I make a good character?” he inquires.