Conquered people, p.1
Conquered People, p.1DL Stone
Copyright© 2010 by DL Stone
Visit the Author at https://historyofashes.blogspot.com/
Droplets of blood bloomed on my thumb. A small spot of flesh had ripped off and the fresh white meat stung whenever I quit sucking on it. I scooted myself out from under the lawn mower and cursed the Yard Machine company.
Teresa must have heard me on her way inside the house. Her clean running shoes stopped at the edge of an oil spot and the water bottle she pulled away from her lips crinkled and popped as it tried to reform itself. A bead of sweat ran down the soft flesh of her neck, and it forced me to recognize how exotic and morbid her breasts looked pressed tight and contorted against her chest from the gym shirt.
I wrapped my wounded thumb in a shop towel and fished a cigarette out of a pack on my work bench. A box fan blew hot air into a hot space, and I waited to hear what her problem was today.
“Did you sleep okay?” I asked.
“So-so. It feels like I instantly wake up when the drugs wear off. Ambien gives me a deep sleep, but when I wake up I feel groggy and discombobulated.”
“I know you beat the shit out of me and yelled like the house was on fire.”
Teresa’s eyes got wide and a look of horror passed over her face.
“I did not.” She said.
“Look at my back.” Deep red marks and scratches from her engagement ring punctured the skin. I woke up feeling like my appendix had burst after her tiny fists pummeled me and separated my vertebrae.
“I’m sorry. I don’t remember a bit of it.”
“It’s okay.” I said as I pulled down my shirt.
“Look, I know you don’t want to hear this but we have to do something about the car. I’ve been patient about the air conditioning problem, but enough is enough. I dealt with it two years ago when I was pregnant and miserable. I dealt with it last year when we couldn’t roll the windows down because the baby complained. But this year you’re going to get the compressor or I’m getting a new car.”
I sparked a fire to the cigarette and thought about our plummeting savings account. The end of the week marked three months I had been laid off. The unemployment checks were running out and the unemployment office stayed full.
“You know that’s not feasible right now.” I said.
“I know how you feel about it but I don’t see any other choice.” Teresa said.
“You could take my car, like I’ve offered a hundred times.”
I could feel the significance of my input sliding out from under me the way I felt my heart race. Every day I was unemployed weakened my paternal hold on this family. Teresa was getting more leering looks since she dropped fifteen pounds and the marriage bed had become filled with indifference since I lost my status as the breadwinner. The equal front we tried to establish with the kids had become lop-sided.
I stared at her. My cigarette dangled from my mouth. There was so much more I wanted to say about buying a new car but the first one to speak loses.
“I’m not going to drive your car. I always sink down in your butt print, and then I can’t see over the steering wheel. Plus it’s old and clunky, which makes me feel like a grandma.
“Look, I’m not trying to start an argument. I need to go change clothes and pick up the kids from your mom. Just see if you can do something to fix it.” Teresa said.
The stub of my cigarette sank down into the sand of a flowerpot with a little push. When I threw it ceramic shards ricocheted back at me from the door frame. I couldn’t even win an argument with an inanimate object.
I couldn’t fix the compressor because there wasn’t one. We bought Teresa’s car with a salvaged title and the body shop we bought it from didn’t care about adding something expensive to an almost worthless car. Teresa wouldn’t listen when I tried to explain how installing an air conditioner could cost us thousands of dollars. She flipped through the classifieds comparing the features of one model to another.
“What do you think of this one, Duncan?” She asked.
A brand new SUV waited to be driven off the lot, and it had extra room to hold the quick depreciation. I knew she was riling me up on purpose. Her suggestions about cars were becoming more and more frequent as we eased into summer. I could predict when more comments were coming by the weather forecast on the nightly news.
“It looks pricey.” I said swirling cereal around in thin milk. “Maybe you should look and see if they have any leftover Yugos.”
“Here’s one. A 2006 Toyota Camry. Power locks. Power windows. Six cylinder. Air Conditioning. Twelve thousand eight hundred dollars.”
I got up from the table to place my bowl in the sink. The whole conversation irked me. When I was working I would have said no and that would have been the end. My voice diminished every month I didn’t work. My whole career in manufacturing made me hate myself. Now that my job was gone to Mexico I found myself hating Mexicans.
I wasn’t cut out for housework. As I opened the dishwasher pieces of broken glass fell into a pot on the bottom shelf. Trying to be efficient, I placed the glasses too close together and three had broken in the process. With a sigh I dragged the garbage can over to clean up what shards of reflected light I could find.
“Don’t forget to stop by the craft store today and pick up some pipe cleaners for Margie’s project.” Teresa added, “You might want to see about getting some plastic cups as well.”
She snickered and brought her coffee cup up in front of her mouth to cover it. My domestic incompetence amused her. Last week I shrank a load of clothes, and then the other day I cooked a pizza with the cardboard still on the bottom. My life as a house husband wasn’t transitioning well.
Margie sat on her knees breaking end pieces off of her pop tarts. The gooey white filling expanded out of the sides as she pressed on her faux breakfast. Kindy, our youngest, slapped her spoon at the oatmeal in her bowl as she hummed some song.
I finally had dinner on the table at six-thirty. The mashed potatoes had lumps and the meatloaf was a little overcooked, but the girls didn’t seem to mind much as they gulped it down.
When I got up to refill our tea glasses Teresa said “I found a new car. A guy at work said he has a 2006 Nissan Altima he wants to sell. It’s a good deal. He said it only has forty-one thousand miles on it.”
I eyed her suspicion and asked, “If it’s a good deal why does he want to get rid of it?”
“He said he can’t afford the payments so he just wants to get the loan amount on it.”
“Don’t you think that’s a warning sign for us seeing as how we can’t make the payments either?”
Teresa flung her napkin to her plate. As I sat back down she lifted her elbows to rest on the table and folded her hands in front of her. The kids had eaten as much as they were going to at this point. Kindy drove her fork through the potatoes like a plow. Bits of crumbs surrounded the sides of her chair. Margie had stopped eating and strained to catch phrases from the television.
“I’m going to buy that car Duncan. I have a pre-approved loan with the bank. Tomorrow morning I’m taking it for a test drive and if I like it I am going to buy it with my own money.”
Teresa propped her elbows on the table and intertwined her fingers in front of her. She didn’t sneer at me, but her bright eyes and pursed lips gave an air of finality. When it was our money, at the beginning of a happy marriage, we never bought anything over twenty dollars without discussing the item. Now Teresa, the main earner, had renounced my share of our hard-earned savings after a few months of unemployment. The kids, unaware of the wickednes
“Do you think you can go out and spend our money without my consent?” I asked after the kids were out of earshot. “Do you think you can make decisions for this family and disregard me?”
“I’ve asked you and pleaded with you for years to fix my car. You have promised to look into it, you have promised to buy me a new one, but you haven’t done either one.” Teresa was out of her chair now. Her arms were crossed and her hands tucked into the crook of her elbows. “I am tired of waiting Duncan. I have the opportunity to get a car I like and now you don’t want to stand behind me!”
“That’s because I don’t want to make a choice between the mortgage or a stupid fucking car payment. We can’t live in a new car Teresa.”
“Don’t you dare curse at me!” she said with a pointed finger.
“Fine. You explain to the kids why their new bedroom is a cramped back seat. It’s not that I object to you having a new car, but right now’s not the time. You know that.”
I walked toward her. When I placed my hands on her arms she turned from me. Her shoulders rose to deflect my hands then she walked down the hall.
“Teresa please. We need to talk through this.”
The door to our bedroom shut with a soft click from the lock. A laugh track from the television reverberated down the hall.
By the time I put the kids to bed I could hear the dramatic notes of Law and Order when I stuck my ear to the bedroom door. I knocked softly and pleaded with Teresa but received no response. Defeated, I gathered the clothes from the dryer and folded the laundry in front of the living room TV. When the news came on I had accumulated a big pile of towels. Unfoldable bras framed the corner of the couch like huts on a mountain.
I reloaded the basket with the folded laundry and sat them on top of the dryer. In a few hours Teresa would awaken to her plot of buying a new car as my warning went ignored. My rage built up in my stomach like a burp after a big meal. Teresa’s comment about being preapproved for a loan looped in my head. I grabbed a screwdriver out of the junk drawer in the kitchen. Holding it in my hand down the hallway felt wrong, the sharp filed end led the way in front of me.
I placed my ear to the door one more time. The news played in stereo from the television in the living room behind me, and it was the only sound I could hear by the door. The screwdriver tip slid into the little hole of the doorknob. With the sparse light creeping down the hall I searched for the right spot to turn by feel. After a few attempts of the flat end sweeping around the hollowed knob, I found it.
Teresa’s face was half submerged in a pillow. Her chestnut hair spread out above her. The duvet shuddered up and down her shoulder with every deep breath of sleep. I was defused by the calm, and felt a little guilt at feeling so mad. Then under the protective shadow of the lamp I saw the pill bottle. The light orange color of the bottle resounded my alarm. She left me no options to explain our situation with her drug addled sleep.
I tugged on Teresa’s ear. “Wake up. We need to talk.” Her body remained rigid like all sleep near death. The Ambien induced coma had settled over her, and she thrash out sometime near morning. My prodding moved to her ribs without any success. I tried pushing harder to induce more pain, but she wouldn’t budge.
I didn’t close the door when I walked out. My feet pushed harder on the matted carpet as I rushed to the living room. I stood there for a minute, seething, and switched my weight from foot to foot. The room didn’t really spin, but my rage pushed it around. I couldn’t sit still.
A small box of outside toys sat by the front door, and when I saw the padded bat I instinctively picked it up. The soft spongy surface conformed to my hard grip. The total length of the thing wasn’t over three feet. I held it up head level like Captain Caveman holding a club.
I didn’t really have any intentions for it, at first. Back in the hallway I softly popped it against the walls. The dining room table made a nice thud when the foam hit it with some force. Once I got inside the kitchen my swings gathered more momentum. The sugar container slid across the counter. Its yellow top bounced on the floor after it was freed from the base. A knob on the stove dropped right off like I hacked it with an ax.
I knew I was making a lot of noise but I didn’t really care. It took two hits to knock a door off of the cabinets. I jabbed the wide end at all the canned goods and watched as a bag of grits bled onto the floor. The light bulb over the sink popped after I hit it, and glass rained down on the stove top.
At some point I ran out of energy. Tupperware containers piled up on the floor ankle deep. I looked at the mess and thought about what lead me to this point. I thought about Teresa laying in bed oblivious, in a dream. I rubbed the back of my neck and thought for a moment. The kitchen wasn’t damaged as much as it was messy. A few cracks in the counter top were hidden by the piles of bludgeoned food.
I picked up the pepper shaker from the mess on the floor. The glass and metal top survived the impact. I stepped high over the cluttered floor and felt the air fill my lungs as I walked back to the bedroom. The bat dropped by the bedside. Teresa was still semi-balled up and turned towards the TV. In her half-closed hand I placed the pepper shaker.
I curled up on the couch, sedated like after sex. I turned off the living room TV and listened for sounds of movement. In the morning we would have our talk once the Ambien wore off. I gritted my teeth until I fell asleep, anticipating the morning when she would see her destructive ways.
Conquered People by DL Stone / History & Fiction have rating 4.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes