|OBJECTS AT REST
I love lazy Sunday mornings. The gentle banter over a steaming, well-brewed cup of coffee. Fresh, hot bagels. Sprawling together on the couch to share the Sunday Times with the man I love. Nothing can quite match the grace, the easy elegance of these weekend moments.
A rather loud and slightly irritated voice interrupted my thoughts.
I stuck my head out of the bedroom. “What?”
“There’s coffee perking.”
“I know, I put it there!”
“Well, come and watch it or turn it off, please!”
I cast a longing glance back at the bedroom, where I was trying to get my affairs in order.
John looked me over as I stood at the stove. “What’s the matter?”
He tugged me to him. “What were you looking for in the bedroom?”
I flushed under his gaze. “My wallet,” I mumbled finally.
He put down the cup he was holding. “Where did you last see it?”
“I don’t know!”
“What are you supposed to do to help keep track of it?”
“Put it in the same place every night when I get home.”
He looked at me.
“Not hard enough, apparently,” he said. “All right, then. Let’s go find it.”
I followed him out of the kitchen, feeling a bit guilty for making him look but admittedly very grateful that the search was under his control now. I watched his back for reassurance.
“You’re mad at me,” I accused.
“I’m not mad at you.”
“I’m not mad. It WOULD be nice if you could, occasionally, try to keep track of your things, but I’m not mad.”
I glanced at him hesitantly. “I know I had it in the apartment last night because I was looking for quarters for the meter…” I trailed off.
“You wouldn’t need quarters for the meter if you’d park in the garage, Tris,” he said icily.
“So you’re mad!”
I folded my arms. He promptly unfolded them and kissed me before pointing me toward the bedroom.
“Go check your dresser.”
“It’s not in there!”
“Tris. Have you forgotten the set of house keys famously lost in your sock drawer?”
I glared at him. “That was a long time ago.”
I hadn’t wanted to admit to losing the darn things, and it had been an exceedingly difficult task to swipe John’s when it wouldn’t be suspicious, then sneak them to the somewhat sketchy locksmith on 96th street to be copied.
“It seems like yesterday,” he said sweetly, kissing me again and shoving me gently toward the bedroom.
I poked through my drawers, looking for that all-important bundle of brown leather. The incident with the keys had ended with a break-in and the revelation that the locksmith was involved in some shady business involving multiple copies of keys and a B&E ring. We’d gotten an exclusive, lost our television and microwave, and moved to a doorman building. The memory of it gave me a twinge and I wandered back out to the living room.
“Are you sure you’re not mad at me?”
He pulled me into his arms. “Positive,” he said into my hair. I hung on for a minute.
“Let’s find your wallet before we starve, shall we?”
I was flinging clothes out of the hamper, searching, when John appeared behind me. I sat up mid-fling and John caught the undershirt neatly in mid-air. With his other hand he produced my wallet.
“Hey! Where was it?”
“Refrigerator. Vegetable drawer,” he said crisply.
“I don’t want to know,” he said. Of course John has never lost his wallet. Tris, it’s important to keep track of your things. Tris, you won’t lose things if you know where they are. Etcetera etcetera ad infinitum.
I reached for it and he held it out of reach, gesturing to the bathroom. “If you don’t mind, perhaps you could straighten up the damage from Hurricane Tristram.”
Ruefully I tossed laundry back into the hamper.
“Follow me,” he said when I’d finished and I trailed him out into the living room, John beckoning with the wallet as if enticing a dog with a biscuit.
I watched him suspiciously as he extracted the toolbox from the hall closet.
“What are you doing?”
“WE are doing a little home improvement.”
This couldn’t be good.
* * *
“I don’t know how to DO this!” I wailed in sheer frustration.
“I just told you how to do it,” he responded callously. “Tap gently. Come on, Tris, I really think you can handle it.”
I glared at him. He was holding the small piece of polished wood, clamping the nail in place. His other hand covered mine where I unwillingly held the hammer. I gave the nail a tentative tap.
I didn’t want to put up the stupid thing. Who ever heard of a wallet shelf anyway?
Right next to the door. What would we explain to our houseguests? That I was too forgetful to keep track of my things? I scowled.
It wasn’t fair. And I HATE tools. I swung the hammer a bit more enthusiastically and the corner caught my finger as it descended.
“Ow!” I pulled away, dropping the hammer in surprise. John yanked me back before the hammer could hit my foot. I stuck the injured finger in my mouth. John pulled it out again, prodding gently.
“That HURTS,” I informed him. He led me into the kitchen and removed an ice pack from the freezer.
“You’re fine,” he said firmly, situating me on a chair. “Ice that.”
I pulled the ice pack off my finger. “It’s freezing!”
“Yes, ice tends to be that way. Hold it there, please.”
He returned to the hall, where he picked up the tools and tapped the shelf experimentally, then attempted to shake it. “You did a good job,” he said approvingly, putting away the tools and placing my wallet on the shelf.
“Thanks a lot,” I scowled. “I think my finger is broken.”
He handed me a glass of water. “Hardly. You barely glanced off it—and you wouldn’t have hurt it at all if you hadn’t pulled your hand away from mine for that last swing. Losing your temper with tools is NOT smart, nor is it safe.”
Oh, I hate it when he’s right. It happens far too often.
“I think I’m mad at YOU now,” I informed him.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Aren’t you even a little mad?” I ventured.
“We can finish the mad libs later, Tris.”
“You ARE frustrated!”
“Tris.” He led me into the living room, sat down, and patted the couch next to him.
“Well, I’M frustrated,” I muttered.
“But you’re not mad.”
“No. They’re different. There’s no… FRUSTRATED cow disease.”
“There might be if you took up farming, darling.”
“You’re mad at me,” I repeated.
He pulled me down beside him.
“My finger hurts,” I said pathetically. He lifted my hand and kissed the finger in question.
“You’ll live,” he said heartlessly. I brought my feet up under me and sulked into his chest. He kissed the top of my head, cheerfully and cruelly ignoring my state, and reached past me to the coffee table for the newspaper.
“What did you do with the Metro section?”
I shrugged, turning my head further away. He peeled me off gently.
“Darling? A clue?”
I considered it. “I can’t remember.”
“Where did you last see it, Tris? Lining the bird cage?”
“We don’t have a bird.”
“Thank goodness for small favors.”
He sighed and stood up, pulling me with him.
“You take the inside rooms; I’ll take the outside. Let’s synchronize watches.”
I glared. “Can’t I just summarize it for you?”
“Go on.” He pushed me gently toward the bedroom. “And, Tris? If you’re going to read the paper first, dissecting it and strewing the parts around is a bit inconsiderate, don’t you think? Of course, losing the sections is rather inconvenient as well.”
He didn’t have to say it; I said it to myself. Tris, can you keep track of ANYTHING?
I gave the bed and the bathtub a cursory glance, then wandered back out.
“Can’t find it.”
He peered at me over the top of his glasses in a manner of which I’m not particularly fond. “Did you LOOK?”
“Well, go look harder.”
He swatted me with what was left of the Times. “Go.”
I humored him. No use arguing newspapers with an editor—they’re so picky.
I gave the search a little more effort. Not in the bathroom. Not in the closet. Not under the night table. I even opened my sock drawer, which of course contained nothing but socks and…a canceled check, which I peered at with interest. It could wait. Meanwhile, my finger was still faintly throbbing, my arms were tired, and I was getting sick of running around the apartment. I closed the drawer perhaps a little too firmly in frustration. It was louder than it should have been over the sound of John rustling through the papers on the coffee table.
I paused, hand on the drawer, gaze fixed through the open doorway into the living room.
John appeared in a moment, lounging in a somewhat threatening manner against the naked jamb.
“I didn’t slam it!”
He looked at me.
“I was just trying to close it,” I muttered.
I moved across the room with as much casualness as I could muster.
When I reached him he cupped my face and tilted it toward him, looking me directly in the eyes. “Until I am lounging comfortably again on the couch with you—AND with the complete paper—you are not very high on my list. I would step a bit more carefully if I were you.”
He kissed my forehead. “It’s all right. Just behave, please. The bureau won’t look very attractive if I have to take off the drawers.”
“NOW you’re mad at me,” I said darkly.
He sighed, gave me a quick squeeze and a much less pleasant swat. “Not at all. Stop trying to deflect this and help me smoke out the news.”
I grunted and acquiesced, reluctantly.
In the living room I checked half-heartedly behind the sofa cushions. “Maybe I recycled it?” I said uncertainly.
John mused on this for a moment and then, following some strategy only he could comprehend, he dropped to his knees and disappeared briefly under the blue chair. He got to his feet, holding the newspaper rather gingerly with two fingers.
“It gets dusty quickly under there,” I said defensively. Admittedly I was, sometimes, too busy to change the attachment and run the vacuum under the furniture.
He closed his eyes briefly. “I know they’re both blue, sweetheart, but other than that what exactly confused you between the chair and the recycling bin?”
“I wouldn’t recycle it before you’d read it!” I protested with dignity.
He gave his head a brief, firm shake, as if trying to clear water from his ears. I’d never doubt his brilliance, but sometimes the man gets so CONFUSED in the middle of our conversations!
“All right. I don’t want to know how it got there or,” he gave me a stern look, “why you’re harboring dust colonies under the chair. Get the vacuum and take care of that and maybe we can read the paper in peace sometime before Monday.”
I glared. “I vacuumed yesterday!” We switched off chores by week, a technique that hadn’t worked very well in my college dorm, but then again no one in my suite had had quite the persuasive powers John possessed.
He pointed unfeelingly toward the linen closet and I sulked away. I huffed my way noisily through the vacuuming, not being particularly careful about bumping the chair legs. John stood over me calmly, watching the task with interest.
“Thank you. Put that away,” he said when I’d finished and was about to abandon the wretched machine, which was whining loudly. I scowled as I lugged it back to the closet and closed the door firmly. It swung shut a bit more firmly than I’d intended.
John crooked a finger at me without a word and I approached him with care, my saunter losing some of its confidence the closer I got.
“Do we really need to have another conversation about slamming doors?” he asked quietly.
Even John’s rhetorical questions somehow demand answers.
He turned me slightly to swat me hard, once, and I jumped.
The key is to give the right answers.
“No, we don’t need to have another conversation about slamming doors,” I said through gritted teeth.
“Good, I’m glad to hear it. Why don’t you go over there and show me you know how to close a door properly?”
I stared. He gave me a slight push in the general direction of the linen closet. I walked over uncertainly and opened the door, glancing at John. He trailed me to the closet and nodded encouragingly.
“Close it. The right way, please.”
I shut the door with incredible care, very softly.
He nodded, approvingly this time. “Very nice. Why don’t you do it twenty more times, for practice?”
It was not a request. It took a great deal of self-control not to slam the closet door and hurl something heavy his way.
“My finger hurts,” I complained after nine perfect door-openings and closings. I was injured, for crying out loud; did he have no sympathy?
“You’re not using that hand,” he pointed out calmly.
Nope, no sympathy. None at all.
By the twentieth time I eased the door shut carefully, the sheer tedium of the exercise was beginning to dissolve my annoyance.
John held out an arm when I finished and I ducked under his chin, twining my arms around his waist. We stood like that for a minute while I made a private vow never to close another door at all if I could help it.
He kissed my hair. “If it’s not too much trouble,” he said mildly, “do you think now we can settle in with the paper?”
I nodded into his shirt and he pulled me by the hand toward the couch. “Nothing else I need to know about? No more unfinished chores? Lost wallets? Mice in the cupboards?”
“Haven’t you forgotten about that yet?” I asked, hurt. The mouse wasn’t hurting anyone and I was perfectly happy feeding it cheddar crumbs and giving it a corner of the cabinet under the sink. This had been in our first apartment—I’d seriously considered leaving John when he’d insisted on calling the super who, naturally, called an exterminator.
He ruffled my hair and I gave him a small smile, remembering the drive out to the country with the mouse in a cardboard, hole-punched box…the grassy, wooded area where we’d released her…John’s teasing me that she would have felt more at home under the subway….
He led us both to the couch, dropped down and pulled me into his arms, spreading the paper out around us.
“Ah, luxury,” he said, taking his time with a kiss before handing me the Week in Review. I snuggled against him, propping my feet daringly on the coffee table. On the seventh day he rested…
The look on his face was absolutely priceless.
“Where on earth are my reading glasses?”