Chores can be such a pain. (A Holiday Short Story Contest Entry)
|They had been cooped up together for almost three weeks now, and it was starting to get old for both of them. Ann and Clyde had been married for over three decades. They were very happy for one, content during the second, and mostly miserable for the third. The virus running around was nasty with older people dropping like flies, and the news offered little hope that the current quarantine would be lifted. Clyde used to come home from work dirty and tired before the quarantine, and always wearing a scowl. The unemployment checks covered the bills, yet he groused about missing work anyway. The chickens still laid eggs, the hothouse was already producing fresh vegetables, and the pantry and cupboards were full. The meat freezer was full, too, even though the hunting rifles hadn’t been fired in years. Ann didn’t hoard, exactly, but she did trade with friends and always found good sales. The local beer distributor would even leave cases of Yeungling on the porch, yet Clyde still groused as if they were lacking something. It was a state of mind, and anyone who knew him realized it.
It happened in the middle of the fourth week. Clyde woke at his usual time, still used to his schedule, and clomped down the stairs of the two-story home. The stairs creaked and the banister was loose from the years of neglect since it had passed to Ann from her parents. Even though the air was filled with the aroma of frying bacon, a personal favorite, Clyde wore the face of his usual mood. The chair groaned when he sat, not because Clyde was a big man, but he made a point of landing heavily.
“Call Otto’s this morning. I better get a couple of cases of beer before they run out.”
A scowl of her own appeared. “I will not! Clyde Mulkins, I’m tired of your lazy ass!”
“What did you say to me?”
"You heard me!” Her face had gone red and she stomped her foot hard enough to shake the floor.
“Wha…” Something about her demeanor kept him from speaking.
“This house was beautiful when we got it, and now it’s falling apart! You never lift a finger around here!”
“I’m busy working to pay the bills!” He protested in vain.
“Baloney! This place came to us free and clear. You spend more on beer and darts than bills!”
“I couldn’t work on it right now if I wanted!” Clyde protested, “The hardware stores are closed!”
“Isn’t that just the way. Beer stores are essential, but hardware isn’t…” Ann sighed angrily.
“Well, I didn’t make the rules.”
“Fine, but you will not sit around all day again. I want that upstairs closet cleaned out.”
“What the heck for?!”
“To see what’s in it and sort out the junk we can throw away, that’s what for!”
“What the hell could be in there you want, anyway? You expect me to find you some kind of treasure?”
“You just get to it or you can cook your own dinner tonight,” Ann said with finality.
What Clyde found, unfortunately, was his old bowling ball. A resounding snort came from Ann as she crested the last step with a cold longneck for her husband. He stood for a moment, long enough to bump the shelf with a set of golf clubs, and the bag tipped over. Gravity took it from there, and the balled rolled off the shelf above the man. It landed with a thud on his noggin, then hit the floor and rolled away.
The freshly opened beer hit the floor with a thud and some spray, then concern nearly gave way to laughter. But before Ann could register the second emotion, the first came back with a rush. Clyde had simply looked a bit confused at first, but then his eyes went blank, rolled back in his head, and he fell over into the pile of junk he had cleared.
Clyde wasn’t a big man, and Ann was strong enough to wrestle his unconscious body into the guest room bed. The phone had been in her hand long enough that it was warm and sweaty, but the news had said the emergency responders were overworked, so the call was never completed. His pulse was strong and his breathing normal, there was just a knot on his head. The room was as dark as it could be made, and there was a wet cloth on his forehead. Ann fidgeted with nerves, would frequently wet the cooling cloth, and pace about the room. She didn’t dare try and wake him. An hour passed, and it seemed like a week, but about ninety minutes later he stirred.
He mumbled a bit as Ann rushed to sit next to him. “Sweetie? Where am I?”
“In the guest bedroom,” she croaked. Her voice cracked as bad as Clyde’s.
He tried to get up, but she gently held him back. “But I have to go! What if your parents come home?!”
“What? They won’t come home.” Ann was puzzled. Her parents had passed years ago.
“I hope not…” Clyde said quietly, “Until we’re married proper, your dad would kill me!”
“Don’t worry about a thing. Just rest. You took a nasty bump to the head.”
“It really is sore, but as long as my angel is beside me, I’ll be just fine.” Clyde smiled.
The more Clyde talked, the more Ann realized he thought they were teenagers again. She knew that it probably wouldn’t last very long, and if it did, he would need to see a doctor. But as long as they were trapped together in the house for a while, this could be a lovely time. There was a treasure in that closet. It just came in a very unique way.