Reality Road Kill (work in progress!!!!)

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CHAPTER 25 -- PAYING BILLS

Paul arrives at Maggie’s front door at the same time as the morning paper. In fact, Paul must wait while the paper boy in the pickup makes six tosses through his passenger side window, one for each resident who pays for the paper, nailing the front gate each time. He tosses the last one to Paul and then drives away.

Paul is wide awake after that cigarette and even more pumped after the close call with Dwight, but he still takes off his clothes and crawls into bed with Maggie. It’s 5:45 a.m. He spoons her from behind and she sighs and turns to meet him. Her eyes widen.

“You stink. Yuck.”

“I do?”

“Like cigarettes and body odor and bad Indian food.”

“I’ve been working three days straight.”

“Get out! These sheets are clean and I don’t want you in here, you animal.” She pushes him away with her hands and feet. Paul reaches under the covers and touches her bare legs with his cold hands, making her jump.

“Stop it, Icicle Man! I can sleep for another hour, leave me alone.”

Paul climbs out of bed. He puts on a robe, goes into the kitchen, puts on coffee and leafs through the pile of mail waiting for him on the counter. There are two paychecks, six bills, his bank statement, and plane tickets. He opens the envelope with the tickets and read the itinerary -- flight to Honolulu, another flight to Kauai, free shuttle to the hotel, and twelve nights and thirteen days at the Kahala Beach Hotel. Paul stares at the plane ticket. He is thirty years old, and this is the first time seeing his name on a plane ticket for a vacation that he himself had bought.

Maggie bought it though. Time to fix that, he thinks. He grabs his checkbook and calculator from the side table, pours himself coffee, and opens envelopes. Once he deposits his two paychecks, his bank account will be in full bloom, but then he must deal with his Visa bill, his student loan (still in arrears), his share of the rent and utilities, the money he owes the film lab where his film is locked up, his car payments, and now this vacation.

When he finishes his calculations he almost throws his coffee cup through the kitchen window. He didn’t have enough to pay her for the trip, even with one more paycheck coming. One of the bills would have to go unpaid, but which one?

He glances out the window. He hadn’t seen the repo guys in three weeks. He sent in five months of payments, but he is still behind four. He should pay this bill off first...but then he’d be going on a trip to Hawaii completely paid for by his girlfriend.

Paul decides to gamble. He writes three checks and empties his bank account. His Visa balance is low enough that creditors won’t call, he is up to date on his student loans, and the biggest check goes to Maggie for the rent and the vacation. His last paycheck will cover next month’s bills but then he’ll be broke again, with four back payments still due on the car, that damn car, and he hasn’t even driven it in months. And his film? He feels like he’ll never get it out of the lab.

But he’ll worry about that next month, when he got back from vacation, tanned and rested. It will be a new chapter in his life. This trip will be good. He is giving himself a real vacation in a real hotel, like an adult. He and Maggie would finally patch things up. Her place is feeling more and more like his place too. Being thirty doesn’t feel so bad.

He hears a car outside and peeks out the window. The brown Cutlass Impala slowly drives by.

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