There was an unfamiliar car on my lawn, a rust-red hatchback. I parked my Fiero behind it and looked inside. The windows were steamy. Greasy Pizza Machine boxes were stacked on the passenger seat.
The car on my lawn made me mad but that wasn’t the only thing. My husband Dale was the other. He was pushing 500 pounds and hadn’t had a job in almost a year, ever since he messed up his knee at the bowling alley. He’d sit in his recliner and read his bibles and pray for Jesus to heal his knee so that he could get a job in the anti-homosexual recruitment movement, going door-to-door. “Gays are stealing our kids,” he liked to say, sometimes in his sleep. Not our kids specifically. We don’t have any. Kids in general, he meant.
But he never could get out of the chair, he was so big. He went to the bathroom right on the velour because he couldn’t move, couldn’t even roll over for a bucket. I had to clean him myself. The crusty bits clung to his butt hairs like Christmas ornaments. I had to be fast before it seeped into the chair. I don’t say this to be gross.
He wasn’t always like that. Back when I met him, when we were in high school and he was ushering at the church, he was a different kind of man. This was ten years ago, about. “Jesus,” he said to me one Sunday after everybody except me and my grannie went home, “He had a big dream.” He gestured to the crucifix at the head of the church. “I’m part of it. And so are you.” My grannie, she thought he was the sun and stars. “You know he throws shot-put don’t ya? Varsity! Why that angel wants to help you,” she muttered. She’s dead now, thank God.
I tried to remember that he didn’t gain weight and have accidents on the chair to make me upset, and that I wouldn’t trade places with him for anything. But, still, a year of that, of supporting him, it made me mad sometimes. Plus I’m only 25.
Whenever I left for work he ordered pizzas, always from Pizza Machine. I knew because I handled the checkbook. I’d been working my way up to talking about it. I’d hung the plastic tarp against the wall behind his chair so I could spray down his hindquarters. This was just the other day. Over the sound of the water hose, I said, “Dale, honey, I’ve been looking over the budget. And we’re spending way too much on pizzas. These tips you’re paying, too. I love that you’re generous, but it’s just too much.” And Dale closed his eyes, looking all sad and remorseful and he shook his head like that sweaty pastor on TV and said, “I know, Lois, I know. But Satan has his claws in me with these pizza pies. I’m praying for guidance. I’m praying for strength. I’m trying so hard.”
I wanted to say, “Don’t blame Satan,” but he was the man and I was the wife and the house was his technically. Instead I said, “Tomorrow, I’ll put out some sandwiches. With low fat ham. It tastes good, so don’t roll your eyes, you big old bear.” He said that he would eat the low fat ham sandwiches. “With the Lord’s help,” he added.
But now, a day later, here I was, and the pizza car was out on the lawn, which was mostly gravel, but still. Made me mad. I wasn’t supposed to be home this early from The Fashion Shack. I wanted to be sure I’d placed the sandwiches within grabbing distance of his recliner. I didn’t want to hear any excuses.
I opened the screen door of our doublewide. The hinges sounded like a crying puppy. I took a step inside, turned to my left and saw Dale and the pizza delivery boy engaging in a sexual act that I had never seen and never heard of.
My husband was lying back in the chair. His brontosaurus legs were up at the foot of the recliner. The pizza boy’s back was to me. White earphones dangled from his ears. Dale was moving his feet back and forth against the boy’s organ. And at first I didn’t understand what I was looking at, it was all so bizarre. But then I did. I dropped my keys but I didn’t scream. I’m not one for high drama.
I felt the afternoon sun through the screen door. A mosquito was trying to escape. It flew into the screen and bounced off. I thought about Dale. And about how much I’d done for him. Washing him, buying his Pueblo Huevos extra-salty corn chips , and stroking his earlobes when he bawled. Nodding like a puppet whenever he spouted his nonsense. He’d made me hate myself.
I don’t remember walking to the kitchen, but I guess I did because the next thing I knew, I was bashing their heads with a dirty skillet.
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