Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BORED - Begins 1-11-18 / Ends 1-18-18 (01/11/18)
TITLE: Hunky Dory
By Jan Ackerson
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In the minute that remains before Tchaikovsky invades the silence, Stacy previews her day. It’s Tuesday—Bob will want meatloaf. There are no potatoes in the pantry; she’ll have to go to the store. Banana pudding for dessert, of course. For a moment, Stacy wonders wildly what Bob would say if she made something different. Tapioca, maybe. She snorts, knowing that he’d be puzzled, but kind. No banana pudding? Well, this is just fine. Do you suppose there’ll be banana pudding next week?
Later, Stacy stands in the shower, feeling irritated at Bob for no reason. She knows that once she’s headed for the coffeepot, Bob will already be in his recliner, reading the editorial page with his slippers dangling from his toes. He’ll make a few inarticulate noises—either a low chuckle or a grunt, depending on whether he agrees with the editorial—and then he’ll say…
“Listen to this,” says Bob, and Stacy answers him from the kitchen.
“I’m listening.” She half-listens while the coffee is brewing, then takes a mug and sets it at Bob’s elbow. Thank you, my dearest, she thinks.
“Thank you, my dearest,” says Bob. Stacy sighs.
He’s a sweet man. He’s never once raised his voice at her, in all their thirty-two years of marriage. He praises her cooking. He buys her lovely gifts. He’s handy around the house.
Stacy is utterly and completely bored with him.
After Bob finishes the paper (I’ll be in the basement, puttering around), Stacy starts a load of laundry and sits down to read for a while, but she feels squirmy today, itchy. Bob’s tuneless whistling drifts up the stairs, and Stacy thinks Can’t he just be quiet? She runs her fingers through her hair, scratching her scalp, realizing that what she’s feeling isn’t a literal itch. Her heart is restless—and suddenly she has an idea.
There’s a man—Stacy doesn’t even know his name. He owns a little bookstore, and they’ve exchanged courteous words now and then when Stacy has shopped there. Nothing she wouldn’t have said even if Bob had been standing right there with her—but she knows, with a certainty located low in her belly, that if she goes there on her way back from getting potatoes, and asks him to lunch, he’ll go with her.
She doesn’t allow herself to think past lunch, doesn’t even consider why she’s changing into the jeans that make her look slimmer and tying a jaunty scarf around her neck. Nothing wrong with looking nice while she runs her errands, is there?
“I’m going to town,” she calls down to the basement, and Bob pops into view at the bottom of the stairs, wiping his hands on a rag. See you later, crocodile, she thinks, and waits for him to say it. But he surprises her by whistling softly through his teeth.
“Hubba hubba,” he says, and tips an imaginary hat.
She breathes in, surprised, and almost starts to walk down the stairs to him.
“See you later, crocodile.”
There it is. Could he possibly be any more predictable? She walks to her car and points it toward town.
When she returns in the middle of the afternoon, her cheeks are pinker than normal, her eyes bright. She starts immediately on their dinner, wrapping two potatoes in foil, then mixing hamburger and breadcrumbs, milk and eggs, and patting them into shape. She can hear Bob, still in the basement, and wishes he’d come up.
She wishes, in fact, that he’d walk up behind her and wrap his arms around her waist, that he’d kiss her neck and dip a finger into the banana pudding mixture.
She never went to the bookstore. She sat in the parking lot for a long time, then drove straight home.
And when Bob does walk up behind her, she settles back into him, contented. “How was your day?” Hunky dory.
“Hunky dory,” he says. “Hunky dory, my love.” And kisses the top of her head.
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