Carolyn R. Russell
My wife had recommended a website her friends use to find bargains. They send me an address in a neighborhood that they say is close by. I’ve never heard of it. But I’m more than game. Our microwave is shot, and I’m desperate. Turns out, we use it nonstop during the day without much noticing. Both of us are working from home now, and the full-time togetherness is beginning to really piss me off; having to warm up my coffee in a pan on our stovetop is the shitty cherry on top. And I miss my Hot Pockets. Yeah, I know. First-world issue.
“Some people have real problems,” my Gina says to me at least three times a week. And fuck yeah, it’s annoying to hear. But she’s usually right about most things, and she’s right about me. I am that guy. So what.
We decide to walk because I’ve been bad about exercise the last couple of months. Even more so than usual. Gina wants to take a wagon with us, the one we use to haul debris off our property after a Nor’easter, but I nix that. I’m still capable of walking a few blocks with a box, and I tell her so. She does this thing she does, squinting her eyes to keep them from rolling. I pretend I don’t see it and grab her by the hand. Maybe a little too roughly, but what the hell. She works out all the time; she can take it.
About fifteen minutes later, I’m sweating like a pig when this frail old woman calls to us from the front porch of a triple-decker.
“You here for the oven?” she yells.
“The microwave?” says Gina.
“Yeppers,” says the lady.
“It’s here?” I ask.
She ignores me and looks at Gina. “You sure you want it?” she says. She cocks her grizzled head to one side and stares at my wife.
Gina goes completely still then. I’ve only seen her like this once before. It was at our engagement party, five years ago.
You gotta understand, Gina is the definition of perpetual motion. She’s got more energy than you can even imagine. She says it’s the special smoothies and ointments and candles she gets from her friends. They reek, by the way. The crap she brings home from her buddies, who all smell like they just took a bath in some toxic swamp. Gina does, too, but better somehow. Maybe I’m just used to it.
So, at the party, when I saw her centered in a half-circle of girlfriends toasting our marriage, and she suddenly went all frozen, I noticed, even from across the room. One of the women said something, and they all burst into laughter, and Gina laughed with them. Her eyes found mine, and she raised her glass to me. A second later, they all did.
“Gina?” I say now. Maybe a little irritably.
She shakes herself out of whatever state she’s in and turns toward me. “You sure we need this, Honey?” she says.
“What the fuck is your problem?” I hear myself yell. I say some more stuff, too. It’s true; I have a short temper.
Gina tells the lady that yes, we want it, and when the box is loaded into my arms, it’s heavier than I thought it would be, and the cardboard is chafing against my skin after just a few minutes. I wish we’d brought the wagon, but I don’t want to give Gina the satisfaction, so I don’t say anything. Instead, I keep my eyes down and pretend I don’t need to be balls to the ground somewhere soon, or I’ll puke up breakfast.
Score another one for Gina. Right again.
It’s a lot to live with.
When we finally get back home, Gina asks me what I want to eat for lunch, a frozen chicken breast or a salmon thing. You might think Gina would be a kickass cook with all the herbal tinkering and potions she and her crew make, but you’d be wrong; we spend a small fortune on pre-made meals. I say salmon, and she hands me a package from the freezer and tells me to just press the fish button on the new/old microwave.
Turns out, I like the water. I enjoy breathing through it, swimming in it, and floating while watching Gina dance around the living room on the other side of the glass.
I’m glad I didn’t ask for chicken.
About the Author
Carolyn R. Russell is the author of In the Fullness of Time, a dystopian thriller published by Vine Leaves Press in 2020. Her humorous YA mystery, Same As It Never Was, was released in 2018 by Big Table Publishing Company. The Films of Joel and Ethan Coen, her volume of film criticism, was published by McFarland & Company in 2001. Her poetry, essays, and short stories have been featured or are forthcoming in numerous publications, including The Boston Globe, 3rd Wednesday, Litro Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Club Plum Literary Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, Orca: A Literary Journal, and Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine. Carolyn lives on and writes from Boston’s North Shore. More at WWW.CarolynRRussell.com