Verdad Magazine Volume 21
Fall 2016, Volume 21
Fiction by Elizabeth Trueblood
Furious fingers push, prod, and knock aside cellophane bags of orange and red, jars of peanut butter and jelly emblazoned with brand names, frantically searching for that one package that would solve all my problems—nothing. I slam the cupboard door shut and move onto the next one, dig about in the disorganized jungle of foodstuffs; I don’t want to give up my hunt. I give my futile search a few more minutes, then stand up.
“Why do we not have any Oreos?” I wonder aloud.
James looks up from his script with a sigh, pen poised over his yellow legal pad to continue his list. He raises his eyebrows. “Since when do we have Oreos?” he asks.
I huff out a breath and turn to him. “Since I need Oreos, that’s why.”
James opens his mouth to respond, then shuts it again. Wise of him. He returns to the script. “Okay, does the candelabra come on just in scene five, or is it on earlier than that?” He mutters to himself.
I pace around the kitchen and watch him from the corner of my eye. I pause, hover over his shoulder, and glance at his list. He stops writing halfway through a sentence, and turns to look at me.
“Can I help you with something, honey?”
He’s being a dick. Why? “Are you sure we don’t have any Oreos? Because I swear I thought we—”
“We weren’t going to buy sweets anymore, remember?”
My brow furrows. We didn’t agree to that. Did we? “When did we say that?”
“We didn’t say that. You said that, after you saw another picture of that girl from college in that Gotham article.”
God, Rebecca. Now I remember—I was looking for the reviews section and there she was, all juxtaposition with her alabaster skin and inkblot hair, sitting on a white sofa in a red dress, mouth open in laughter. Probably at me. Gotham wasn’t her only haunt; I’d seen her in In Style, Better Homes and Gardens, and even, on occasion, the Rachael Ray magazine. That bitch.
“She was taunting me,” I grumble.
“How so?” James asks.
“She just—she’s just so—I dunno. Saccharine.”
He looks up once more, and a flurry of concern moves across his face. “You have nothing to be jealous of, you know. You’re both successful.”
“I know,” I snap, and he holds up his hands and goes back to his work. I’m not done yet, though.
“If you didn’t want to go sugar free, why didn’t you say something? Maybe we’d have Oreos right now if you had,” I grumble.
James stiffens in his chair; for a moment I think he’s going to rise, give me the distraction I long for, but instead he exhales, a heavy sound, and snaps his script shut. He picks up his legal pad, pen and highlighters and heads for the stairs.
“Where are you going?” I demand.
“Somewhere you won’t be able to use me to procrastinate.” His voice floats down just before I hear the latch of our bedroom door slide into place.
Excuse me? “I don’t use you!” I yell at him. There is silence upstairs. I sit down at the kitchen table in a huff. “I need to bounce some ideas off of you!” I call.
“No you don’t.”
My eyes narrow as I stare up the shadowy stairwell. “You’re a terrible husband!” I shout.
“So it would seem,” he replies.
I sigh, open up the cupboard again, and stare into the bleak, Oreo-free wasteland. After a moment’s silence, I come to a conclusion.
“I’m gonna run to the market to buy some Oreos, I’ll be back in—”
“No, you’re not.”
Ha! The monster speaks! “Says who?” I taunt.
“Says nobody. You can’t leave because I’ve hidden the car keys.”
Now it’s my turn to be silent. I can feel his smugness from the second story. I storm up the stairs, ready to burst through the bedroom door, I slam my hand down on the doorknob and—the door is locked. Of course.
My eyes narrow, and I press my ear up against the door. “James,” I say, my voice low and dangerous, “where are the car keys?”
“In here with me,” James replies.
“Can I have them?” I ask.
I breathe furiously out of my nose and storm back down the stairs. “You are the worst sort of person!” I shout over my shoulder at the locked door.
“I am not, Lee. For God’s sake, I’m working. And you should be too. Remember what happened last time?”
“I am working! This is called brainstorming.”
“Yeah. When you’re done being a child, I’ll help you brainstorm, if that’s really what you’re after.”
He’s right. I’m behaving like a four-year-old. But I can’t help it—every time I get frustrated with my work, this seems to happen. Of course, it would probably stop if he would just give me the help I need. “I’m filing for divorce!” I shout, petulant once more.
“Okay. Love you.”
I chew on other empty threats and insults that I want to throw at him as I fume. My husband is an ass. A little voice in the back of my head tries to remind me that he only does this because he loves me. I tell that voice to shut up.
I bounce on the balls of my feet and glance to my left with unease. A chink of lemon light leaks from my study door, at once a reprimand and an invitation. Come on, the light seems to say, you’ve got stuff to do. Get in here and get it done. I’ve never before had a deeper desire to tell my study door to screw off.
I sigh and shuffle back to my office. I push open the door.
My computer’s screen glows white, a silent taunt. Come on, the text bar coaxes, come on. I stick my tongue out at it and flop down in my desk chair.
I don’t want to look at the depressing, short paragraph on the monitor, so I spin in my chair, long, slow swings around and around, and stare at the ceiling. “Nobody cares if I thought the play was good or not!” I yell. My voice echoes through the silent house. The grandfather clock ticks in the den, the only answer I get, James the Dick still content and hidden away. I stop spinning and glare at the computer screen. I re-read the opening of my review.
“The Year” opened at the Neil Simon Theatre this weekend, and I have to say I was intrigued. It is an interesting portrait of a modern whirlwind relationship, set in present day, and featuring the acting talents of Angela O’Day (Billie) and Kenton Worth (Lance) as the two young lovers who fall madly for one another over the course of one year.
Shit. “This sounds like a high schooler wrote it,” I mutter as I hold down the ‘backspace’ button on the keyboard. As I watch the words vanish I feel savage, triumphant. I’m soon left with an empty page, the text bar blinking at me, expectant.
I spin in my chair some more, eyes closed. I’m only seven hours away from my deadline, I think. Ha. That’s a funny joke. I think I might throw up.
Spinning helps, though.
James would help too, honestly. Even if I don’t have any ideas to bounce off him, his presence is a comfort. A distraction, but a comfort. Maybe I should go up and apologize. I was kind of being a bitch, after all. And it’ll get me out of this room, which wouldn’t hurt.
My feet hit the hardwood planks and I tear out of my study, down the hall and through the kitchen to our front door. I hit the windowpane just in time to see James climb into our car and start the engine.
“James!” I throw open the door and race down the front steps, but I’m too late—before I make the driveway he pulls out into the street and trundles away. He sees me in the driveway and has the nerve to wave.
“You ass!” I scream after the car as it retreats. I watch him leave until the car is around the corner, gone. My face heats up—I think I’m developing a stress twitch. And it’s all his fault.
I stomp back into the house, back through the Oreo-free kitchen and into my study. I slam the door behind me. I flop down in my chair and haul myself up to the keyboard. I pose my hands over the keys and start furiously clicking away.
“The Year” strives to paint a picture of the modern American marriage, which is all well and good, if one knows what one is talking about. It was obvious to me, however, that the playwright, Glenn Smith—a young up-and-comer new to the Broadway scene—has only the faintest idea of what being married is really like.
I smile as my fingers dash over the keys, each hard smack, each new letter a release of anger. Every time I get stuck or frustrated, he does this. He abandons me, and I’m sick of it.
Being married is like being in a state of constant war: both involved parties desperately try to gain the upper hand because neither has anything better to do.
I pause for a moment, and consider what I’ve just written. “Well…not because neither has anything better to do,” I say. “More like because…” I sigh, and my rage begins to cool.
Because love is a fickle thing, just like anything involving two people is certain to be.
Like ours. I read over what I’ve written once again and nod. My smile grows more benign as I continue to type. I feel a slight twinge of guilt in my stomach.
The performers captured this elusive quality well, in spite of the obvious incompetence of the playwright in his text.
Well, I can’t be too nice about it. I’d lose my job.
The casting of Angela O’Day as leading lady Billie and Kenton Worth as her lover, Lance, was an excellent decision. The chemistry that flowed between these two was palpable in the room—though much of the dialogue was trite and melodramatic, O’Day and Worth somehow made it believable.
I type with almost manic energy; my thoughts hit the page with flawless precision. As I work, the time slips by—how long have I sat here, one hour? Two? It hardly matters. I am in the zone, now.
And so, as the play came to a close, I wondered—did I enjoy it? Overall I think yes, I have to say I did. Because through all the drama, the outbursts and conflicts, the love between Billie and Lance is indubitably real. “The Year” provides its audience with a message that love blows sometimes, but in the end, it is worth it.
My ring finger touches the period key one last time and I sit back in my chair. I read over the whole piece, making some changes (Jesus, I say the word fuck a lot—okay, Smith isn’t completely incompetent, I’m just being a bitch) and then give my work a final once-over.
It’s good, for crunch time.
So…why do I feel like shit?
I spin slowly in my chair again. “I,” I say to myself, “suck.” And I owe my husband an apology. I sigh, get up, and walk out of my study. I slump into the kitchen and listen—the only sound is that of the grandfather clock, its ticks steadfast in the silence.
Maybe he isn’t back yet.
I turn to go back into my study and hide, too big a coward to go searching through the rest of the house, when something catches my eye.
There are the car keys, on the hook right where they’re supposed to be.
He is back. Fuck.
I take a deep breath. “James?” I call out, my voice tentative and small. “Honey?” I head for the staircase to look for him in the bedroom when I see a paper shopping bag and an envelope on the kitchen table. The envelope has my name on it.
I open the envelope. A pug smiles up at me, tongue lolling out, from the glossy cover of a greeting card. I open the card and there’s no pre-printed message inside—just a few lines from James.
I’m not mad—nobody ever said living with a writer would be easy. But see? I knew you could do it. I’m sorry I snapped at you, too. I guess living with a stage manager during tech isn’t easy either.
And (since I know you’ll berate yourself about this) I still love you. Always have and always will, you crazy creative type, you.
I smile at his diatribe; we can laugh about it now. God, I love him. I set down the card and peer into the brown paper bag.
Inside is a package of Oreos.
BIO: Elizabeth is a senior at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan, majoring in English with double minors in theatre and writing. Previous publication credits include The Eunoia Review ("The Literate, December 2014), Inertia Magazine ("Did You Miss Me?" January 2015) and Inwood Indiana ("On", March 2015). Elizabeth is a feminist, theatre enthusiast, and novice cheese aficionado; in addition to writing she enjoys acting, cooking, and spending time with her loved ones.