by Than Pence
Cramp Winner: Aaron and Tree are roommates, and a fridge full of batteries sets Aaron off.
|He grunted, trying to position himself in front of the toilet in a way that wasn’t awkward. Why’s it so difficult to piss? His morning erection refused to cooperate and Aaron finally found a stance where he could let his liquid fly. Some landed on the edge of the seat and slipped over the outer edge of the bowl and slid toward the tile. He didn’t care. He didn’t have the toilet on his chore list this month.
Without flushing or washing his hands, he left the bathroom and immediately went to the kitchen, adjusting himself along the way. He didn’t like his roommate seeing his morning arousal. A bowl of cereal was on his mind when he opened the refrigerator, but he scrunched his face up when he saw the batteries.
On each shelf and lining the door were more batteries than he’d ever seen at once. A 24-pack of triple AAA batteries slipped under the rail on the door shelf, falling and landing with a plastic clatter. Tree’s bedroom door was already opening, the squeaky hinge giving away the action, when Aaron started to groan loudly. The familiar clattering sound must’ve drawn him out.
“Oh,” he stated with his hollow, nasal voice. “Oh, oh, no, Aaron. That must stay in—”
“Where’s the food?” asked Aaron. He wasn’t in the mood to listen to Tree’s obnoxious exposition.
Tree bent over to retrieve the pack of batteries on the kitchen floor as Aaron backed away. He wasn’t completely flaccid yet and didn’t want to chance the weirdo accidently brushing his head against something unexpectedly. “It’s, uh,” he started while gently opening the refrigerator door to replace the batteries. “It’s n-n-next door. Aaron.”
Rolling his eyes, Aaron went to his bedroom to get his shoes. He slipped them on quickly and opened the apartment door, but closed it just as quickly. He realized he was going to see Jessica and he didn’t want her smelling his disgusting morning breath. Even if it was nearly noon.
While brushing his teeth, Aaron looked at the toilet behind him in the mirror. His morning water was still in the bowl. Above the toilet was Tree’s hippie sign about being “Mellow if it’s Yellow”. He looked back at himself, the toothpaste foaming around his mouth, making him look rabid, and Aaron wondering momentarily how he’d ended up with such a roommate as Tree Wonders.
A knock at the bathroom door rang clearly. It made Aaron jump enough to jostle his black curls and blink his dark eyes at himself. “Uh, uh, Aaron. T-the water.”
“Ah widn’t fwush!”
“T-the sink. Water.”
He looked down at the water rushing out of the sink and blushed. He hadn’t realized he’d left it running, an old habit from childhood back on the east coast. Water in the west is so contested!
Minutes later, Aaron was knocking on Jessica’s apartment door. He looked up and down the hall, wondering gently if someone else wanted to switch leases with him. When Jessica opened the door, she smiled. A box of Raisin Bran Crunch was under her arm. He smiled his best smile. “You read my mind.”
“It wasn’t hard. He knocked gingerly at 7:15, wondering if he could use our fridge.” As she explained, Aaron focused on her light blue eyes, her long dirty blonde hair, her freckled shoulders and that knock-out smile that even rivaled his own. He only nodded and she said, “So what’s he doing?”
That snapped him out of it. “Uh, I don’t know. What?”
She smiled again, and he knew that she had caught him not paying attention, but she didn’t bust his balls about it. Jessica was kind like that. “What’d he put in the fridge this time.”
“Bunch of batteries. Like, a ton.”
“He give a reason?”
Aaron shrugged. “I guess I could ask? But he’s always doing weird stuff.”
“Not like he used to.” She waved Aaron in finally and pulled milk and a bowl out for him to eat his cereal. “He used to not even look at me or talk to me or anything. I lived next to him for a whole year before he even acknowledged me.”
“Oh,” was all Aaron could think to say before he crunched his Crunch.
“Yeah, it wasn’t until you brought him down the hall and introduced yourself that I finally learned Tree’s name. That name is so… interesting.”
“Tell me about it.”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Before you, I just don’t think he’d even have knocked on my door to ask such a bizarre favor. Like he did today.” Jessica smiled and looked into Aaron’s eyes. “I guess being with you has brought out a better side of him.”
Nodding, Aaron chewed more slowly and thought about what it had been like when he first moved in to Tree’s apartment. And how he had slowly made ground and now even looked forward to sometimes hanging out with the scrawny little water conservationist.
Back in his apartment, Aaron knocked on Tree’s bedroom door. It was quiet on the other side – it usually was – and suddenly he was opening the door. It always felt unexpected for someone reason. “Look, man, I’m sorry if I… snapped.”
Tree, looking down at the ground, adjusted his glasses and began wringing his hands around the doorknob in his hand. Even after all this time together, Aaron realized he still made Tree a little nervous.
“So,” he started, and paused. The moment drew Tree’s eyes to Aaron’s. “What’re the batteries about? Why so many? We’re not starting a new California-inspired diet, are we? Because I hear those batteries taste awful.”
Tree, smiling, started explaining his latest idea regarding energy storage. It flew past Aaron’s head easily, but the enthusiasm in his friend’s voice was enough to make it feel like time and energy well spent.
Word Count: 975