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Keeping House

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Patrice wouldn’t exactly call herself the domestic type, but James recognized that when he married her. Practically everyone who knew her realized the woman didn’t care to be the perfect housekeeper and cook.

That just wasn’t her thing, and she couldn’t understand how anyone could possibly be content to just care for her husband and kids. So many other activities tugged at her mind and begged, “Come this way. Do this instead.” Having a restless soul meant she agonized at staying still, and household duties dulled the senses, as far as Patrice was concerned.

On one occasion a man asked her, “Do you work outside the home?” She had to stifle a laugh before answering him. “Shit, as if working inside that place isn’t enough? And taking care of everything at the hardware store is just a trip to the carnival,” she mused. “Isn’t that a humdinger? I’ve got two full-time gigs going.”

True, their home had the trappings of a lower-middle class lifestyle – a front screen door with holes, manual garage door that didn’t open if it rained, and a taped-up window pane here and there —  but the man’s expression turned so sour when Patrice answered in such a surly manner. To her, having a job meant a steady check to manage the co-pays and balance left of what insurance didn’t cover from the doctors.

“Humpf, maybe he thinks you married the Queen of England, James. She just wanted to live in the country ghetto,” she muttered. Her husband shook his head but said nothing in return. He knew better with that mood showing. “It’s not like standing behind that counter listening to those good ol’ boys grouse about nonsensical shit for eight hours straight isn’t bad enough.” Three extra-strength pain relievers didn’t even touch the headache she’d nursed all day.

Regardless of its center sinkhole, the mattress felt pretty soft when her head hit the pillow around 6 o’clock. Other nights it was as early as 5:30. Finding her with a washcloth drying across her forehead, a book splayed on the bed beside her, and eyes closed, James might leave a warm cup of broth on the night table. Many times, he just sat and rubbed her back before he left a glass of water there in case she woke up thirsty in the night.

Patrice contended somebody didn’t have to keep a meticulous house to be a whole woman. Theirs wasn’t actually a sty, maybe just more “lived-in” than others who hired a weekly cleaner. Having her in-laws look down their noses at her about it didn’t set well either. So what if dust crusted a few ceiling fan blades and little cat-hair tumbleweeds wound in behind the t.v. cabinet?

Priorities changed, and the couple no longer joined everyone for holiday dinners and birthdays. “I don’t appreciate their condescension, James. They think you’re Ethan Frome or something, I swear!” He felt for her and did as much as he could to ease any worry or suffering. Daily life became a shared effort in their home, as it should be anywhere, at least in Patrice’s opinion. Why shouldn’t everyone play a part?

Family members weren’t as vocal about Patrice’s taciturn inclination once she went into hospice care.

“She woulda liked to see you and the kids a little more when she was living. ‘Specially since she thought so much of little Annie.” James rubbed the brown curls on his niece’s head.

“At least the day turned out nice for her service,” he said leaving the graveside. Gravel crunched under their dress shoes and covered the siblings’ awkward silence going to their separate cars. His sister’s furrowed brow hinted at a bit of remorse. He thought to himself, “Wouldn’t Patrice have snickered at that?”

James drove home in dread of a floor that needed swept and dirty dishes awaiting him there. Those things and a pile of unpaid bills on the table in an otherwise empty kitchen.

Our Write Side – Two Word Tuesday

(photo courtesy Old White Truck)

 

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Indie Chick Lit – #GetYourWriteOn prompt

By the time I get home after a particularly exasperating day at work, I am ready to take out my contacts immediately. Rubbing my eyes, I thought the wooden front door of my apartment looked strange, but figured it must be my tired eyes playing tricks on me. Usually blinking several times will center my Toric lenses and help me focus better, but my sight was still fuzzy when I began to cross the threshold to enter my home.

Everything looked different inside, and I stepped back out the door to check the number. Perhaps my key worked on the wrong door knob. But there was no number. The brass-plated “3B” was missing from the spot where it was usually nailed. Maybe I was in the wrong place. The layout was entirely the same, though. Dust particles hung in the air and swirled at the rush of breeze I’d created by entering and just as quickly checking back outside for the number. Fine molecules shown in front of me as the early evening sunlight cascaded through a now shadeless window on the opposite wall.

Where were my cloth blinds I had so carefully chosen at Pottery Barn to match my couch’s throw pillows?

The fragments of dust slowly lilted to a barren wood floor — dirty and scuffed — sans the coordinating throw rugs there when I’d left this morning. I’d paid several hundred dollars to have these floors refinished just a few months ago upon signing the purchase agreement for this co-op apartment, so my automatic reaction was anger at the damage done to my newly-polished hardwood.

But where was my furniture? A deeper sense of panicked confusion and fear began to overwhelm me as I glanced around the empty living room and down the blank hallway.

All my wall hangings were gone and stereo and television missing, along with the entertainment center where they were previously perched at my departure for the office earlier today. The building’s old charm was what first allured me, but now the plastered walls were shabby and marred. Holes glared at me here and there, and off-white plaster chunks were scattered around the baseboards, as if the structure was shedding its inner shell.

Was I losing my mind? This had to be my apartment, the one I had stressed so long over buying. Such a huge commitment for someone who’d never owned a home before. I stood in a frozen state of overpowered disbelief repeatedly scanning the scene before me despite obvious clues that still offered me no rational explanation of what was happening.

A yellowed leaf of paper the size of an unfolded newspaper front page was tacked on the arched entryway to the hall. In what should have otherwise been involuntary, my brain sent a direct command for my feet and legs to move toward the document. It read:

All residents herein are to be resettled in the East, and ownership of these premises are hereby relinquished this date, 22 July,

by order of Highest Commandant Hoefle.

calendar

The message only compounded the mystery of this empty space and its ratty condition, and my hands began to shake. Glancing at the adjacent kitchen area, past the piles of dirt and old, crumbled food bits on the floor, I saw a tattered calendar with ancient images hanging on a grease-marked wall atop where a stove once stood. Taking a few tentative steps toward it, I noted the date marked in the crease of the paper was 1942.

It was the last thing I saw before passing out onto the filthy floor.

*This post is my contribution to a new prompt at Indie Chick Lit.

You arrive home after a long day of work to an entirely empty home. There are no indents on the carpet, no wine stains–no sign that you or anyone lives there. Write this scene.

(image: http://www.citrussilver.com/)

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