The Sure Thing

Todd would have to send her a text. Giving her a call meant he would have to go one-on-one and explain why he had to work late again and give her the opportunity to berate him for not standing his ground with the group again, so a text it would be. He knew she wouldn’t invest the energy required to return a text. His own energy was limited due to sleep deprivation and the crick in his neck from spending the past week on the old couch in the garage destined for Goodwill. Sleeping in the same room with Angie was not an option, much less sleeping in the same bed.

It was only an extra hour, but Todd knew how Angie was. She had kept the kid all week, and by Friday, she was ready for a break. His being late postponed her anticipated break and he already knew that on hitting the door, he would be regaled once again with how unfair the universe was to “bless” her with a uterus. How inconvenient it was for her to have to put her career on hold in order for them to have kids, especially since her career was the one with real potential, and his was the one going nowhere. Even though home was still miles away, Todd’s nostrils were already filled with the smell of burning martyr.

To Todd’s surprise, Angie met him at the door with their 2-year-old in tow. “We’re going out to eat tonight” she informed him. This was a bit disappointing, since Todd had already mentally dialed in at least a few minutes in his favorite chair decompressing with his “Traycee monkey” on his lap. The little nuclear reactor always met daddy at the door with squeals of delight every evening after work. Without doubt, reconnecting with his daughter was Todd’s favorite time of day, but tonight it would have to wait. Now it was time to load up and head to restaurant row for a family meal. Todd groaned inwardly a bit, but kept his mouth shut and dutifully took the keys to the minivan from Angie and climbed into the driver’s seat as his wife buckled the two-year-old into her seat.

The restaurant was neither Todd or Angie’s favorite. It was just convenient, reasonably priced, and kid friendly. At least this way, he wouldn’t have to deal with a sink full of dirty dishes tonight. Todd rubbed the crick in his neck with one hand, as he used the other hand to munch on a breadstick. He was half asleep, and halfway through his house salad when he felt something strange; something rubbing against his leg. With his head still in his salad, he craned his eyeballs upward to see what was going on. To his surprise, Angie was munching on a breadstick seductively and giving him “that look”.

For a moment, Todd wasn’t exactly sure what was happening, then he finally realized that his wife of seven years was rubbing his leg with her foot underneath the table. Whaaatt? That can’t be. Angie hadn’t had so much as a kind word for him in weeks. He knew that life would change with a kid, he didn’t go into that course blind, he just didn’t anticipate the change in her. Whether it was hormones, stress, or resentment for putting her profession on hold, Angie had become a complete banshee in the past year. It seemed to Todd that she didn’t go a single day without tearing him a new one for what appeared to be no reason at all. What was happening now just didn’t compute, but slowly, he began to make the mental adjustment.

The stress began to melt off Todd’s neck and shoulders and his breathing became deeper and more relaxed. His whole body began to show signs of release. This was a HUGE relief to him. Not from the standpoint of potential sex, that was a given, but what truly warmed his soul was the possibility that the iceberg surrounding his wife had begun to melt, and that their relationship could get back to “normal”. Angie only had to give him the “stink eye” for his stomach to be tied in knots for days, and this simple act of touch sent him a message that things were now fine between them. That was the most important constant of his life, and had been ever since they started dating in college.

Later at the movie, Angie whispered something truly naughty in Todd’s ear that made him blush and snicker. He spent the rest of the movie lost in his own thoughts, ignoring the pixels and popcorn in front of him. Half-way home, Traycee fell asleep right on cue. She was as limp as a dishrag as Todd unbuckled her and carried her to her room. He deftly removed her onesie and got her in her pajamas without waking her as Angie removed her make-up in the master bath. She then rejoined Todd, and they both stood there for a moment, basking in the concentrated cuteness of the sleeping child their union had produced. Todd let out a faint snicker.

“What’s so funny?” Angie asked. “Oh, nothing really,” Todd answered.

“No way funny boy, let me in on the joke. Maybe I could use a good laugh.” Angie said, as she started to tickle Todd’s ribs.

“No, I mean, it’s just that cartoon character in the movie tonight just reminded me of your dad a little. You know, the one with the big hands.” Todd stated as he tried to escape the tickle torture.

“What?” Angie scrunched up her brow with a confused look.

“The guy with the big hands. He just kind of reminded me of your dad, the way he tends to bulldoze his way through stuff.”

Angie didn’t reply, but just stared at Todd with squinted eyes.

“Stuff he doesn’t understand. He just tends to smash his way through it, you know..” Todds’ voice was trailing off.

Angie finally found her voice. “What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”

Oh no. There it was. The game ending question. Nothing good ever happened after that question. Wars had begun with that question.

“Oh, um, nothing. Your dad is just kind of forceful sometimes, that’s all. I think it’s a good trait actually. I wish I were more that way myself, to be honest.”

Angie pulled her arms away from her husband and wrapped them around her chest, tucking a hand under each armpit. The way she always did when she was angry. “So, my dad’s a bulldozer, eh?” She said, no longer whispering.

“No, that’s not….” 

“And I’m just like my dad, right? Just like you say, we’re cut from the same cloth, right? So I’m a bulldozer, right? That’s what you’re trying to say? Your wife is a bulldozer!

Todd’s mouth hung open as he looked for words, but the whimper of the two-year old made him turn his back and attempt to soothe the girl back to sleep. As he turned to face his wife, he only got a glimpse of her back as she slammed the door to the bedroom. The door slam woke the child again.

Once Tracyee was asleep again, Todd quietly slunk out of the room and trudged downstairs. He quietly opened the door to the garage, found the Goodwill couch and collapsed on it. As he rubbed the crick in his neck with one hand, he used the other to pull an old moving blanket over as much of his frame as it would cover. Without removing his shoes or tie, the 45-year-old operations manager drifted off to sleep.

 

Dan Coker

 

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