Role playing games

He hunched over his plate the way his father would and drizzled olive oil over his beans like the Italians. But it was unlikely his dad ever did that, he wasn’t the adventurous kind. He loved his dad for the distance between them because love works best that way, from a distance. It had taken him a long time to reconcile it but now he felt like he was on the brink of something. A real change. He noted the olive oil flavor and swirled it into his beans without looking. No matter how many beans he ate the plate was still full. His mind flittered like a sand crab clambering over rocks fast but aimless. He held one of his hands up and regarded it, veins just like the old man.

This light fixture over the kitchen nook was way past the time it needed cleaned. They called it a cloche, a French word, shaped like a bell and hung from chains. But it rarely got cleaned because taking it down was complicated, a two-man job. He went on chewing and scraping the dish with his tines, cheese adhered to the plate. A change had come and it would start with him cleaning the cloche. Then she’d see he was serious, he gave a damn.

He threw the fork in the sink and noted the number of times it ricocheted off the aluminum before resting on its side. Then the plate. Both sat looking back at him as he looked out the back window. They say women marry their dads. What about men? What was she worth? He shook his head and grabbed the hose, aimed it at the plate, sniffed the sponge, got to work scrubbing. A change had come and it would start with him cleaning the cloche once he made space here to rinse and dry it.

He pulled the chair out and kneeled on it, wiping the cobwebs off the chains. His knees creaked. You had to lower the chains off their hooks while holding the cloche but you couldn’t release the cloche without first removing the chains, a kind of chicken-egg scenario. He never got the sequence right and it often ended in an argument, her telling him next time she’d just do it herself.

He had two of the three chains dangling off the side of the glass with one hand cupping the bottom of the cloche and the other fumbling with the chain when he heard the door open and the dog skittering to greet her. She acknowledged the dog and then him at the table. And set the grocery bags on the island then came to his side.

“What are you doing?” She said it more accusingly. He pretended not to hear, let it go an extra beat. “Hold this, here.” He put her hand where his was to cup the bottom, which was like a large nipple, where the dead bugs collected.

“You’re not doing it right. You have to lift it here.” She was right, that was the crux move, the one he always forgot. He let go of both the cloche and the chains so it just hung there and she had to drop her car keys to support it. “I guess you’ve got it then.” And then he crossed back to the sink while she barked at him and swore but he was in another zone now, the sink area, sealed off in a familiar skit they replayed over the pettiest of matters, the constant friction that was the closest they got now to real passion.

He clapped his hands once, a kind of punctuation like they do on film sets when they’re done shooting. And then he moved quickly to the dining room and then the den, not sure why, her voice a pitch bordering on violence, shouting his name, her voice trembling.

“I guess since you know how to do it you should just fucking do it,” he stammered, hearing his own voice, the inanity of it, seeing his dad’s face indistinguishable from his own. And in that moment he hated his dad and himself and her all at once but couldn’t mouth the words to go with it so he just stormed off.

Up the stairs, hitting each one harder and harder until reaching the top, gasping, slamming the door, going to the sink for his toothbrush, the razor, not sure where he was or what he was doing, her shouting, him pausing to hear if she was coming after him, then the stillness before the whimpering started, that little girl sound she made, him hating himself, his dad, her. Brushing his beard with the brush she’d given him for Father’s Day, thinking it’s the same kind of brush he’d seen people use on horses, laughing, thinking something’s got to change here. Something’s got to change real soon.



Categories: flash fiction, writing

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22 replies

  1. Yikes – hope this is mostly fiction (“playing”) … but yikes you nailed something very real that happens between people trapped in one another’s lives. Triggers that make no sense nevertheless trigger. Your description of going up stairs, hitting each one a little harder is spot-on.
    (Left me kinda hoping that cloche would crash and break …)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah reading too much of these Carver short stories that always end poorly, rubs off! That and the pandemic vibe we can mostly relate to. Either feeling isolated or friction from our concubines right?!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A powerful vignette here Bill.
    Perhaps I could playfully call it a vinegaretta?

    Wishing you well.

    Thanks
    DD

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Just pouring oil on a troubled hill of beans.

    Like

  4. An effective scene you’ve drawn, tense and intense.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The frequency of the stair beats getting louder. A drop of the bass at the top. I think my blood pressure was in synch.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think you’ve captured marriage really well here. Stupid cloche.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This story is so compelling, drawing the reader onwards, and I like the fact that the ending is ambiguous. In great fiction, as in life, there are no real resolutions, merely a desire for cloche-ure.

    Liked by 1 person

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