The morning after closing down the bar is usually interesting. Last night’s winner lay next to me smelling of cologne and Patron. He wasn’t a total stranger. I worked with John Murphy at house 52 a few years back. Newly divorced and lean he wasn’t a half-bad catch. My lack of trust in men and fire eaters, in general, starts him off with two strikes automatically.
I peeled my beer-soaked skin off the sheets and headed towards the shower. My guest stirred and rolled away from the sunlit window burying his face in my pillow. I shuttered adding this as reason number two why I must change my sheets. I turned on the shower water and checked my phone for messages. A few pictures from the bar popped up. Must also remember to kill my friend Cheryl.
Monday is a busy day for me. I run with my father to my brother’s house and we walk his kids to school. My sister in law is a fricken saint. She’s taking a morning business class, so I do what I can to help her out. It gets her to the class on time and gets my father out walking.
I felt renewed and much cleaner after the hot shower. I left some water for my bed buddy but wasn’t too happy about leaving him in my house to lock up. John is pretty enough, but when God was handing out brains the boy wasn’t paying attention. I sprayed my perfume on my neck and back and walked into my room to get dressed.
“Hey, there sexy naked lady. You have any coffee started?”
“Nope and you gots to get. I have a run scheduled with my Pops in twenty minutes.”
“You don’t go in till ten today. It’s only six-thirty. Let’s get some breakfast.” He yawned.
“Nah, we walk Bobby’s kids to school on Mondays. Get going if you’re going to shower before you head out.”
“Ahh, sending a man off with no coffee that’s harsh.”
“What? You want coffee ready in the morning? You should have kept your wife.” John laughed and rolled over, exposing his morning glory to the sunlight. It was not the most impressive I’ve seen but not too bad either. He rolled to my side of the bed, pretended to hump my mattress, and let loose the most robust, disgusting fart I’ve heard since I lived at home with my five brothers.
“You can get the fuck out John Murphy. Out!” I scooped his pants off the floor and tossed them on the bed.
John laughed and tossed my pillow at me. “Kitten, I’m just fucking around.”
“You’re a pig. Get out of my house and lose my number.”
“Jesus Christ, you’re a crazy bitch. I’m screwing around here. It’s just gas.” John had the good sense to dress while bitching about leaving. There were more bouts of whining and rounds of was I serious?
“Yes, I’m serious. Get the fuck out and don’t call me.”
“Christ, Kitten, what is your problem?” I closed the front door after him and continued getting ready to leave. The four-block trip to my father’s house takes less time to run than drive with moring traffic. I stripped the defiled sheets off my bed and tossed them in the washer before I locked up the house and left.
My widowed neighbor was out watering her rose bushes when I walked out the door. “Sorry for the noise Mrs. Orilley. Bad choices last night.”
“He wasn’t as cute as the last one Dear, and his car is very noisy.”
“Sorry again. Don’t worry he won’t be back.” My neighbor waved at me and smiled as I jogged down the street. She wore that mixed look of pity and envy I see from so many older women in my life these days. I laughed as I put on one side of my earphones. I’m single and I don’t mind being single. It’s not as tragic as it sounds.
The morning air was cold and clean. I started out slow to help burn the alcohol out of my blood but found myself really pushing myself by the time I got to my old family home. My father sat on the porch steps lacing his shoes and cursing at the sunshine.
“Holy crow you’re early. I thought I would get time to stretch, maybe fall down and get scraped up so I wouldn’t have to run.”
“Come on old man your doctor said you need to exercise after all that chemo crap.”
“My little, angry, taskmaster. I will remember not to take you with me next time I see that bastard doctor.” My father and my brothers all tower over me. I was the sixth child and somehow ended up only reaching five foot five.
“You would be angry too if your brothers got to name you after a fricken animal.”
“You looked like a little fluffy kitten. All the boys couldn’t wait to hold you in your fluffy little footie pajamas.”
“I know, I know. I’m just glad I didn’t look like a hippo or a pig. Plus having to wait for 200 fricken years to be born into a herd of boys is kind of a bitch too. ”
“Yes but your brothers love you. We all love our firey. little Kitten.”
“Joey might not,” I said, motioning for my father to follow me. He looked at me sternly and tried to get up from the step.
“Ahh, what are you two fighting about now?”
“I will tell you while we start out at a slow walking pace.” I motioned down the street and started walking. My father cursed something under his breath and followed after me.
He was diagnosed with lung cancer a year after my mother died. He probably would have died too if she hadn’t made us all promise to get our yearly checkups when she died. He stopped going to the doctor after he retired and didn’t need the health clearance anymore. His problem was caught early because he kept his promise.
“So,” he said huffing and puffing. “what did you do to your brother.”
“He’s the one that cheated on his wife. I just pointed out that Laura is the most like our mother. I may have mentioned that he was cheating on our dead mother by fucking that coffee house girl.”
“Kitten, my God. That is between Joe and Laura, not you.”
“Oh yeah right, they are family. He tricked that sweet girl into having three kids in four years and then he fucks a Barista.”
“It’s not your business, Kitten. Once you find a husband you will understand how much this is not your business.”
“There will be no husband. I’m not ending up saddled with a gaggle of kids while my husband fucks anything that smiles back at him. If my sweet, innocent brother can’t be faithful to Laura, who is way too good for him by the way, then why even bother looking?”
“You can’t think of marriage that way. It’s hard to keep a relationship going. Both people have to work at it, all the time.” My father sounded nostalgic. I’m sure in forty years he and my mother experienced rough patches, but I never heard of anyone cheating.
“So you think Joey being a piece of shit is somehow Laura’s fault?” The bro club always closes rank. I was shocked to hear the same rediculous tone from my father.
“No, I don’t think that. I don’t have an opinion on the subject and your brother isn’t a piece of shit, he’s human.”
“If that what passes for human. I'll keep putting fresh batteries in my non-human husband and skip the drama.” My father was falling behind. I grabbed him by the arm and pulled him along.
“Ugg, Kitten, please. It’s too early in the morning for sex toy talk.” My father was out of his element but he tries.
“I kicked a real boy out of my bed this morning for farting in my sheets,” I confessed.
“What a pig,” My father said, shaking his head.
“That’s what I said. What kind of toad shits in someone else’s bed.” It would be easier for my father if I were more traditional but I’m not. He came to terms with my constant parade of boyfriends years ago.
“I don’t know what the world is coming to but I am really sad for you young people trying to date. It sounds awful,” he said shaking his head.
“You should try dating. Mom passed four years ago now. She wouldn’t want you alone, cooking your own dinner for God sake.”
“Who am I going to date?” My father asked tossing his arms up at the sky.
“I bet Joe can give you some advice maybe even some phone numbers.”
“You are so, so bad.”
We reached my brother Bobby’s house in time to walk the kids to school. I hugged my favorite sister-in-law and locked up the house for her so she could leave. Cindy was always reaching out for something better in life. She wants to go back to work once all the kids are a few years older.
On the way down the street, my father was talking to each of the kids about their upcoming winter break and what they were going to do with the free time. I heard a plop sound behind me and turned around in time to watch a bird drop dead on the sidewalk. I motioned for my father to keep walking. He put his hands behind two of the kids keeping their focus forward and picked up the pace. It wasn’t too long before I noticed a dead rat in the gutter and cat dead on the edge of a lawn. Small animal death was evident all down the street.
The wind picked up and a small gush of wind blew by me bringing the faint rotten egg smell of sulfur. The children and my father didn’t seem affected. We walked the kids into the playground. Mrs. Alton, my old fourth-grade teacher, sat on a chair at the corner of the main steps welcoming the children to school. She wore the cheerful smile I remembered from my youth and bright green smock with the words school volunteer embroidered in gold across the chest.
I suddenly felt so old. A quick gab of reality pierced all the way to my spine showing me a glimpse of my lonely future.
“I have my nieces and nephews, like ten in total,” I muttered.
“Twelve, don’t forget David’s two. Helen the oldest is out of high school in the summer.” My father switched into Commander mode. His face morphed into the politically correct smile he wore to work every day for thirty-eight years. He stood tall and began inspecting the dead critters in the street. I could see his fireman spidey senses tingling. One dead critter fine but I counted five, all close to storm drains. Something wasn’t right.
“Look there on the other side of the street.” My father pointed to the slit in the gutter. A faint fog assembled at the edge of the drain for a moment before being swept away by the light morning breeze.
“Yeah, that is odd. You should call Uncle Frank. Have some probies collect air samples and take readings.”
My time on truck was short but I was good at my job. My mother hated the thought of me running into burning buildings like my brothers. It’s a family tradition she didn’t want me to carry on.
I work in investigations now. A relatively tame sidestep that pleased my mother to no end. The position has manageable hours and less danger. Something my mother insisted was crucial to having a family of my own. It might sound sexist but in my experience, a household, like any kingdom, runs at the pleasure of the Queen, or it burns down at the ruin of the King. I want a king that doesn’t shit in my bed. I don't think that's too much to ask.