My husband is so mad at me. Again. I oughta be used to it by now, but he’s really starting to grate on my last nerve. Today it was the weatherman that got him all riled up. “Being wrong again,” is how he put it. Said it over and over too. Shouting at the TV telling him how he’s an overpaid pretty boy without a lick of anything that could be called competence, and how watching him was a big waste of time and anybody could walk outside and see he didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.
That was before he started in on me.
“What are you looking at Hilda, get me another beer!” That’s how it started. I was minding my own business, not paying any attention to his stupidity. Just sitting there. I had my tray table out with my laptop and was playing my Sudoku like I always do. By now I was in second place, and according to what I read in the rules a few months ago when I signed up and paid my fee, if I placed in the top three, us winners got an all-expense paid trip to Miami to face off in person. Miami of all places, can you stand it?
Not that I told Harold about it.
I made a move and got up off the couch to fetch Harold his beer. When I handed it to him he was still disparaging the “state of things”, now talking to me or the dog or himself, it didn’t matter, and asking why his taxpayer dollars paid for schools that closed at the slightest mention of a wind that never came.
“Hilda, I told you not to go out and tie down the patio furniture and be scared of the wind. I’m always telling you things and you never listen. Why do you always believe everything you hear? All you do is sit there.” He finished his beer and added the empty bottle to the collection on the coffee table. “Hilda, get me another beer! And clean up that kitchen! Why are you always so damn wishy-washy?”
I didn’t care anymore.
That night I got him another beer. The sound of his fat mouth like I said was grating. And I still can’t believe they called me. Those Sudoku people I mean. I would’ve thought they’d send an email. I mean that’s usually how things go nowadays. And the young man was so polite too, excited even. That’s how he sounded on the phone and I don’t think you can really fake that, can you? Well I just about spit out my coffee too when he told me. When I hung up the phone I stood myself against the wall, letting it hold me up. My bra suddenly felt too tight. The sweat broke out on my forehead.
What about Harold?
Well I had an hour till he’d be home. I quick stuck my head in the refrigerator and pulled out those chicken breasts, the ones I got from the farmer’s market downtown? And eggs and ricotta cheese and spinach. I reached into the cabinet and pulled down a box of rigatoni and some olive oil. No time for a slow-cooked sauce this time of year, not a good one. But time enough for a good replication. And there was plenty of beer. Besides, I was in the mood.
To lay it on the thick.
I threw on a pot of water to boil, mixed up the sauce extra spicy, breaded, stuffed and had the chicken in the oven baking, and was in the shower with fifteen minutes to spare.
Harold walked in the door and took a whiff.
“Hilda, what are you doing?”
I was smoking a cigarette at the dining room table. “I’m smoking a cigarette Harold, what does it look like?”
“I mean that smell, what’d you cook?”
I disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a beer, twisting off the cap. “Here you go.” I smiled but couldn’t help laugh at his confusion.
“Okay.” He joined me at the table. “So what, you made chicken rollatini?”’
“It’ll be ready in five minutes, honey. Take off your shoes, relax Harold.”
Harold noticed Hilda wore the same dress she wore when she tried to get that job a while back. And failed. That job being some downtown lawyer’s secretary. God that must be going on three or four years ago. She didn’t say she was going anywhere tonight and now she fixed up this big dinner and on a day too when that prick Johnny’d been riding his ass, plus his aching head- all he knew was he was glad to get home and have her hand him his beer. Life’s a bitch. She did look nice enough all dressed up and everything smelled so good, he really didn’t have anything to complain about, right? He noticed the suitcases by the hall closet.
“Hilda why’d you pull the suitcases out?”
Hilda pushed her chair out and went back into the kitchen, returning with another beer and the main course. She placed them down on the table and stood over Harold. Was the expression on her face one of empathy? It was hard to pinpoint exactly what she was thinking when she looked down at him, but her wheels were certainly turning. Regret? She put her hand on his cheek, then walked over by the window to turn the radio on.
“Those are my suitcases Harold.”
“No kidding they’re your suitcases Hilda. Why’re they in the hallway is what I asked. Turn that music down, what’re you deaf?” He took a long swig of his beer, eyeing her suspiciously. “Why’d you make this big dinner Hilda? Why’re you wearing those clothes?”
Thick As A Brick came from the radio. Hilda listened to this oldies station every day. Listened while playing Sudoku. That’s how it went. And Harold. She instinctively sang along, “…my words are a whisper, your deafness a shout”. How old were they that Thick As A Brick was considered an oldie?
She jumped at his voice and reached down with both palms to smooth out her dress. He was waiting for his answer. “What Harold?” she asked. “What? Don’t you have everything you need?”
“What’s the matter with you Hilda? You’re pissing me off!”
Outside a car honked and they both turned their heads.