American dream

galv11a.jpg picture by pemerytx

I realize one of my feet is sticking out of the sheets, too warm.  The sun is coming in, heating it through the dirty window at the end of the bed, making all of me uncomfortable.  Still, I keep my eyes closed, lie motionless, waiting for my head to clear.  I become aware of the smell of dried sweat on the skin of a working man, armpit smell, sex from the middle of the night.  I remember Wade’s back, fresh off the oil rig, assuming that I’ll drop everything and be all about him for the next twenty-one days until he has to leave again.  But I suppose I’m no better than him, just letting him expect it and not taking a stand if I don’t like it.  I do have my volunteer work at Children’s, after all. 

I look over at him lying on his side, his tanned chest, shoulder and left arm uncovered, his breathing heavy and even.  All but a corner of his pillow got stuffed between the wall and the bed during the night and his head ended up tilted at an odd angle.  His sandy blonde and grey hair is matted in places, sticking up funny in others.  I study his middle-aged face.  He’s losing his good looks.  They’re drying up in the sun.  He’s becoming someone else, someone leathery, brown except for white in the relaxed creases of his face.  Of course I’m no spring chicken, either, getting all soft and out of shape. 

I breathe out with a snuffing sound and sit up, disgusted.  Wade stirs, and I don’t care, don’t care if I disturb him or not.  He disturbs me plenty in all ways.  He’s like a wet dog that bounds into a room, his muddy feet tracking everywhere, smiling at everyone, tongue lolling, just happy to be a part of what’s going on.  I sit there for awhile thinking about how my life is working out, whether I like it or not, and I don’t think I do.  I feel dry, like my mouth is dry now, dry and bitter tasting, like unsweetened chocolate, like my regard for Wade.  I think about telling his messy self to get out and stay out, but there’s something that I like about him, something he gives me, only I can’t tell exactly what it is, and that is the most annoying thing of all. 

I scramble to get untangled from the sheets and throw them back on Wade, irritated.  I crawl down to the bottom of the bed to the window and beat on the sash to unstick it.  Wade could fix that but he never does, always puts it off until it’s too late and he has to go back to the rig.  He’ll get it next time, he always says.  I push and bang up on the sash just to get the window to budge open a couple of inches, then I flop back onto the bed, on my back.  The morning air is cold for summer, rushes in like a front changing out the air from stuffy to pleasant, pleasant with the smell of cool nothingness.  It feels good, makes me smile.  Then Wade opens his eyes.  He squints at me. 

“C’mere, Baby,” he says, all sleepy. 

I stay lying on my back looking at the ceiling.  “No,” I say. 

He reaches over and pulls me tight toward him anyway like he always does, and it makes me mad like it always does that he thinks he can just do that whenever he wants.  Of course I’m partly to blame, since I don’t stand up for myself.  I wiggle to make more space between us.  He lets me out a little and holds me there.  I frown at him. 

“Oh, here now!” he says.  “Cut that out.  You know you love me!” 

“No, I don’t,” I say, and turn my face away from him. 

“You do,” he says.  He pulls my face back toward him and he kisses me.  “And I been thinkin’  ’bout makin’ a plan for us, a plan for gettin’ out of this shack and buildin’ a big ol’ house together somewhere,” he says. 

I pull my face away.  “Plans,” I scoff. 

“Yeah, plans,” he says, looking hurt. 

We’ve been down this plans-for-a-house road before, and down the side streets of plans-for-a-business, plans-for-traveling, plans-for-plans.  I’ve been with Wade for what seems like forever and nothing has ever happened like he said it would.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve been happy and not happy with him, both at the same time, and he’s been happy with me, with anything, so long as he’s living.  But all that joie de vivre has just meant broken promises, dashed expectations, offenses and disappointments and grudges piling up on one another until we’re living at half mast.  And we go on half dead until what? 

Wade shakes me.  “Kimmy?” 

I turn toward him, focus my eyes on his.  I see concern, hope, and fun in them.  He really is a good guy.  I laugh. 

“That’s better,” he says, relieved. 

“Hey, let’s go down to Marple’s for coffee!” I say. 




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Missalister’s “American dream,” copyright © 2009, was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#172 – The Plan”  Click here for more on prompt #172 from other Sunday Scribblings participants.


11 responses to “American dream

  1. This is the stuff right here. You have this uncanny ability to illuminate the salt of the earth. See it, feel it, taste it, smell it. “It” is everywhere in this piece! I love the hollow morning after realism. The Labrador appeal and disgust of Wade. The cotton mouth desperation and insecurity of Kimmy. The dirty windows and the stuck sashes. It’s all so real!

  2. Your story is a picture of duality – spun from Kimmy’s ambivalence. The fact that annoyance and irritation can exisit in the same time and space as a confused sense of appreciation and final willingness, is real and true. That experience is not easy to put into words yet you’ve done it so well here.

  3. That is it in a slice. I don’t know where this comes from but you should keep visiting there, vacation and have little drinks with umbrellas and striped lounge chairs and maybe even some cutie to rub lotion on your back. Return with more of this!!

  4. Looks like the sun come up, Ms Flan. Hope you’re feeling – basking in – the warmth.

    This one’s all dark wildflower honey, ain’t it? Maybe not the relationship (maybe), but certainly all the true goo of the language. Looks to me like you hit some of those lovely currents that just took off, you slipsliding all sloppyhappy in the wake, thanking all your kitchen gods for lighting up your fires.

    Michael’s take got it just right. I, too, love how your prose inhabits these folk and you burnish up all their beautiful inner languages: it’s a luxurious soak for us all.

    Me gusta the green wash on two of the last three images you’ve used.

  5. Gotta love these characters. Seems to me I might have been one and known the other – the dichotomous love/hate that flies in the face of reason/plan lends a surreal tint to this piece of reality. A fine, fine read – as always.

  6. The dark truth of this one just knocked the breath right out of me, like a novel by Richard Yates, left me feeling unsettled and a little desperate, to tell the truth. Strong voices, amazing writing. Any thoughts about that Esquire contest?

  7. I have to blink a few times to come out of that tale. The pulse and flavor of your words fill me to the point feeling I am there. Unmet plans have a way of inspiring choppy waters.

    As the first commenter, you win the legendary door prize, which is my undying appreciation. I always give these out, but haven’t mentioned them in awhile. But this is an auspicious occasion. This is the second good review from you in a row and I’m thrilled. Means just maybe I’m finding my groove. Or at least that I’m making good progress toward that groove. Again, your run-down was full of the descriptions that I love—hollow morning after realism, Labrador appeal and disgust, cotton mouth desperation… Made me smile as always : )

    Two weeks in a row for you! Must be summer! “No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.” Enough of Mr. Cooper. I love the pickup on duality. Maddening duality, polarity. The world as we know it. And if we are so lucky as to become enlightened before we die, we can smile at it all ; )

    I think this comes from my roaring twenties, when I left my small dot of a New England town for Florida, all open and trusting and knowing ain’t no one better’n anyone else, and mingling with humanity. And boy did I mingle. I’ve seen some shit. But I don’t recall doing striped lounge chairs and drinks with umbrellas. Tell you what, Dee, I’ll work on that ‘cause you’ve planted the seed : )

    I hope so, Brother. I’m doing no basking, but I’m smiling at the gaping place from whence warmth comes, maybe Ian Frazier’s hell that I read about, I don’t know. Not one of his best shouts and murmurs, but kitchen heat nevertheless, and I can take it. Speaking of kitchens, you may have noticed that I haven’t yet shown up for that beer I mentioned, or for coffee, even, not because I don’t need the warmth there. You know it’s crazy and I’ll tell you of my adventures in a roundabout, stopgap way after a season of green wash. Es bueno que usted goza : )

    Yes, “the dichotomous love/hate that flies in the face of reason…” Such a crazy, miserable, stuck, driving, fateful, enlightening place to be, depending on who we are and how we take it. Astute readback as always, T. I love your takes. I know days have gone by from Sunday as days do go, but I’m still working on your Tanka of mice or… I read “sinister” from it, pleasingly so, but you already know I’ve admitted to being stupid about poetry. Anyway, I hope you don’t mind my sometimes just lurking in these crazy days : )

    Oh good, very good! When you’re in the dark like I’ve felt I’ve been during and since my ESC class, I will take hitting a nerve, any nerve. Oh, not entirely so, for chrissakes. I lose my sight… I do want to hit nerves, good nerves, the ones I aim for, subconsciously or not. And from your comment, I see I hit the right one in you. I’m thankful. And yes, dearest Anno, I am working on a piece for Esquire now (thanks to Quin) amidst all the craziness. That probably will hurt me over the course of 4000 words, but it’ll be a milestone, just even doing something like this.

    LOL! Damn it! That ending would have taken some depth off the piece but hell if I don’t wish I’d thought of that! At least thought of it and had the chance to say yay or nay, to keep it deeply earnest or to have some fun. Well, I’m glad you had fun anyway! And same goes for you as Tumblewords—I see your flamenco piece and I’ve been lurking, thinking about Ottmar Liebert, whom I was all about in the early 2000’s. Still dig his album. Still wending my way to you.

    Yes, that’s it too—unmet plans inspiring choppy waters (so Piscean and appreciated!)—and so true. And how astonishing human nature, to realize the chop but to see it as smooth out of desperation for everything to be alright. The mind is an amazing and fearsome thing, both. At least those occasional reminders, like the signal Kimmy was getting, are there to heed if we can, and so find our true path. Aw, you know what I’m talkin’ about : )

  9. Wow! Very well written. I felt as if I were right there in that room, seeing and feeling everything Kimmy did. Although, I wanted her to open that window and toss the guy out. Love/Hate. Guess she didn’t mind him so much after all.

  10. BJ
    That’s it, another relationship in neutral! Not good enough to be from heaven, not bad enough to be from hell…might as well stay in it. LOL! Thanks for stopping by, BJ : )

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