ISSUE 4 · SPRING 2010
My Little Life—
Fully Steamed and Mixed
My husband Chick is totally cool sometimes. Sometimes not. Sometimes his mouth looks like the end of a PVC pipe and I call my ex-boyfriend Bernie who lives in Montreal. Bernie says I should love Chick for who he is. But how does he know who Chick is?
“I don’t, Trinity.”
“But in a way, Bernie, I don’t know him. He can really do weird shit. Bernie? Bernie, are you there?”
“I’m here,” he yelped. “It’s just that my Baroness is waiting for me. We were at the tail end of making love when you rang and she doesn’t like me using my English at these moments.”
“Bernie I told you twenty times never to pick up when you’re having sex.”
“But Trinity—I’m behind her and my Baroness needs a good half hour to heat up. I’m just looking at a bed stand and a beachcomber wall. If I crocheted, I’d crochet.”
Sometimes I think I should have been a farmer or maybe a nun. You don’t get money, but food and heat are nice. Jesus doesn’t care about my cup size. I want to give up on guys. They come at you like a hurricane and then whimper along and die out after they’ve destroyed everything good about you.
I met Chick at Target. We were both in the automotive aisle. He compared tubes of Anti-Freeze. Very tall he was, but I could tell he just shaved. Who shaves right before they go to Target? This man had some explaining to do. I asked him if he worked there.
“I’m sorry I don’t work here. I own a Little Caesars pizza establishment and I also sometimes make the pizzas. My favorite color is green. My mom thought I had polio. Her mother thought she had polio. She actually did. I like persimmons and Dudley Moore films. I own a mustang. Car. You have the brightest teeth in the world. My friend in Wyoming owns a nice taco stand. I bet I can guess your weight. I want to teach you how to iron my dress shirts. I want to find a tree that looks like you so I can go there and be with the tree when I can’t be with you. I think we should go to the same checkout lane, because I have a big wallet.”
Chick was breathtaking and his name was a big plus. All my friends were totally envious. They started naming all their future babies Chick whether male, female, or hermaphrodite. And Chick had standards. Though he spent a bunch of time at Little Caesars he never ate the food because he thought it tasted like barf. One time he brought an ordinary slab of pepperoni home and squeezed it out on some incredibly tough weeds in the back. The next morning the weeds were gone, with the birch tree nearby turned pinkish-black. Chick preferred sweet potatoes and kale and kidney beans with dashes of fennel, dill, cardamom, and garam masala. He had a four-hundred dollar steamer that made food bow down at its feet and give off the greatest taste possible.
Chick had his ways and some were totally odd, but he was better for me than working at Safeway forever. He bought us jump ropes, we had lessons in Touvian throat singing, and we hitchhiked with black water pistols introducing ourselves as Bonnie and Clyde.
My mother really liked him, especially after he treated her to a permanent and facial. “Mrs. Klausman, you look like I feel. You are Bo Derek incarnate.”
Mother pushed at her bouncy hair and waved him off. “Oh Chick, you say that to all your girlfriend’s mothers.”
“Yes, but I never meant it till now. My favorite way of walking out of a locksmith shop is backwards. My favorite committee is the Ways and Means one.”
Mother took me aside and coiled one finger in her new-smelling hair, “If I were you Trinity, I would not hesitate to marry him. He can be a little consistently unfunny sometimes but that’s just nerves. He is generous to the bone and always smiling. He could be a congressman someday.”
And so it came to pass that we were married on a clear Saturday in June. Our first week went merrily until Chick’s steamer broke. I saw him on his hands and knees with it, cooing and whispering inspirational words like glowingly, hopefully, and willingly. Chick pretended I wasn’t there but I know better than my husband. I went to making us fried plantains as he gathered the black and white pieces in his shaking hands. “Trin, I’m going to have to get this fixed. Don’t wait up. The company is in Boulder, Colorado. It’s only about a twelve hour drive. I’ll be back in a few days.”
“What about Little Caesars?”
“I’m going to put up the closed sign on my way out of town.”
“Can I go with you?”
“I don’t think so, my little squirrel. The steamer and I have a bunch to talk about, a whole gaggle of issues that go back to the day I bought her. She’s been feeling a little abandoned lately with the wedding and everything. We might go to a spa together after they fix her up. It won’t be all fun and games cause she likes to process even when drinking champagne in the hot tub. I hope you understand.
“Come on Betty Lou,” and they left with her in the manufacturer’s box as the sun was going down.
. . .
Betty Lou could have bothered me more, but while Chick was in Boulder with her I received a very interesting call. “Mrs. Mortensen?”
“I’m not calling to talk to your husband, but I’m calling about your husband.”
I guess Chick forgot to tell me he once had a love affair with both a mixer and Cuisinart that Burl, a Dutch man, owned. They all now lived in Hawaii. Burl wasn’t exactly upset but Chick had promised to visit and take the two of them, Anya and Verushka, to Disneyland and he’d been a few years overdue.
A part of me felt responsible and I explained to Burl that Chick was short-staffed at work and trying to repair our furnace. But then the lights popped on in my head. “How did you know he was married, Burl?”
“He called Anya last week and told her. They’ve always had something bordering on a sibling type of relationship. It’s more physical with Verushka.”
“Is she the blender or the mixer?”
“No, Verushka is the Cuisinart.”
I know I should have probably told mother about these developments but with a husband ten years older I figured it standard for a man to have a past. Betty Lou I could understand for the practical reason of how important she was to his diet, but the Hawaii girls got me irked.
Chick was a day late and though I kept myself busy with cleaning I also managed to find a bundle of carbon-copied love letters addressed to a manual Nicer Dicer called Shelley. I took out all my Bobbie pins before I read the last one dated a month prior.
. . .
Chick returned late at night. I heard him putting Betty Lou on her pedestal in the kitchen. Then he came to bed. I rubbed his head. He smelled like tar.
“Hi, Trin. You know what I was thinking about on my way up the stairs? The time we broke into the Paul Simon concert and ended up dancing on the stage. So incredibly wild I still haven’t washed that pair of pants.”
“Chick that wasn’t me. We haven’t even ever been to a concert.”
“Well we shall,” and he opened his phone. “I’m calling for tickets right now.” After a while he said we only had two choices for the next night—Grand Funk Railroad or Franz Schubert. He smiled and said, “You decide, Babs.”
“Let’s rock out with Franz Schubert.” Then he kissed my face wet and we sunk into slippery bliss.
. . .
After Chick went to work the next day I asked Betty Lou about their getaway. She was not forthcoming and pretended to be asleep but finally answered, “Everything you need to know is right inside your husband’s head. Why don’t you ask him?”
“Why is he so stressed, Betty Lou? Has he already grown tired of me in eleven days?”
She started inching away, but I held her back. “I thought women are supposed to stick together.”
Very calmly she said, “We are women. And you are a woman. But I’m the other woman.”
. . .
Very soon I decided to believe foul play was at hand. By marrying me Chick thought he gained a little speck of dust he could just step on as he went from one woman to another. I scraped together some money and visited the fortune teller Angelica. She had retired her crystal ball last year and now just used a withered dandelion to show her solidarity with the earth and eschewal of man-made products. She had just roasted some eggplant, but I couldn’t eat; my marriage was falling apart. “You must eat,” she growled. “You must utilize the steamer that is giving you so much trouble.”
“But there’s a Hawaiian blender and a Cuisinart, too. Well, they’re not Hawaiian, I think they’re Russian or Dutch. But those are the real witches.”
“No, darling, no. What is her name? Betty Lou? Betty Lou is the cause of everything. The Hawaiians, the Russians—no. The Dutch man always scare Chick. Chick afraid of men more than anything.”
“How can you know that?”
“Chick is lightweight. He broadcast too much.”
When I came home Chick was in the bedroom with the door closed. Betty Lou was parked in front of it. “What are you doing there?” I cried.
“Chick is changing,” Betty Lou moaned. “He wants his privacy.”
“This is ridiculous.” I tried to push Betty Lou aside but she shot some excess steam at my ankle and I howled with pain.
Chick, his face covered in cookie dough, came out. Betty Lou raced away. “Chick, why aren’t you at work?” I said.
“I was feeling kind of like not working today. Also I have to go to the airport.” He saw a shirt of mine on a chair in the hallway and said, “Is that my shirt?”
“Stop wallstoning me, Chick.”
“My friend Verushka is visiting. Only for two weeks.”
“I will not have another woman in this house.”
“She’s not another woman. She’s my old friend. We saw the ’99 eclipse together in Leeds. I’ve told you about her dozens of times.”
I stuffed my fingers in my ears. “No Chick, no. I’ve talked to Burl already. I know about the charade.”
“But honey, Burl’s happy I’m picking her up. Getting one of them to Disneyland is better than none.”
. . .
Verushka wasn’t a pushover. In fact, the tubby but thoroughly gorgeous model made in China but raised in Moscow had Betty Lou and me dusting the house every night of her stay. And she didn’t talk like a Russian or Chinese—she had an elegantish way of speech. “Darling, that ledge is still lacking a satisfactory, thorough cleaning. Please forgo the gossip little ones. Chick is in very good company, the best in fact. The best company one can offer.”
After she left the room, Betty Lou stared at me, imitating how I talked, “Elbow grease, sister.”
I was now sleeping on the couch and every night Chick put Betty Lou behind a cupboard so they wouldn’t hear her crying. I, of course, had better hearing than a steamer and I listened to a whole dance and frolic between them. It was like Caligula meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The growling, the speed cycles, the vivisection of Chick’s ass skin. Everything and anything they did turned them on and they laughed and giggled like high school girls with water balloons.
Chick promised me the affair would end after they went to Disneyland and he kissed my ears and then my hips and gave me a twenty to buy a bag of red onions and sixty sweet potatoes—Verushka’s favorite food to cut, owing to the sweet, meaty tan inside that massaged her blades during purée.
I thought if I made it through this visit I could still find happiness with my husband. He just had to get some things out of the system, sew the willful oats, and rub his lips on a seasoned, familiar metal until he got sick of it and wanted a woman with real legs and kneecaps. Chick didn’t listen but he was so cute and he’d stolen my heart—I did what any respectable woman would do. I went to a bar in a low cut blouse to pick up a guy who would kick his ass.
Because Betty Lou and I had bonded over our degradation, I brought her along, hoisting her on the shiny, brown bar. Our catch was an older man named Timmy. He slurred a lot but he was much bigger than Chick. Something about a thyroid problem and a fancy for cream cheese Oreo tort; it took two bar stools to hold him. Timmy liked to move his fingers in front of your face when he talked to you. That is, when he could talk. Mostly he just breathed and took five minutes to say the sentence, “When I meet a beautiful woman my heart hurts but I always buy her a cold drink.”
Timmy had a large motorized cart with a small basket in the front and he followed us home. When he made it through the door ten minutes after parking the cart, he asked for something that had both chocolate and peanut butter, though it took another while for him to ask this. Betty Lou didn’t budge, “Just wait till you do your duty, Timmy.” He staggered to the sofa, sat down, and broke it.
When I came to the bedroom door I heard Verushka telling Chick to arch his back more. I blasted at the door. “Get decent. I’m coming in.”
I knew it was locked and I dragged Timmy up as he broke a few more floorboards. Huffing at the door, he said, “Would—hah, hah, hah, hah, ha-ah.” I pressed my fists into the folds of his belly and sprouted up on my tippy toes to peck the bottom of his fourth chin. Nothing. I relaxed and pointed to the door. “Will you break it?”
He bent his head and fell through. Chick, his body twisted like in a wacky shit ballet move, looked back half aghast. The first time I’d ever seen him aghast and still only half way. Verushka covered her blade section with a pillow and swore in Russian or Hawaiian.
“It’s nothing I haven’t seen before,” I shrieked and she shouted, “You miscreants. Can’t you leave two lovers alone?” I kicked at Timmy to get up but a pink goo poured out of his mouth. “There he is. Kill him. Kill somebody.”
Chick wrapped a kimono around himself. “My mom made that door.”
“Your mom has never left the state of Miami.”
He sat on the floor in the lotus position before a round of heaving, huge breaths. Then he looked at me, “Are you having a bad day, my little light bright?”
Crying, Betty Lou wheeled around Timmy and went to steal more of my Chanel Number Five. She kept weeping and talking about the abundance of Cuisinart mishaps compared to the relatively small damage done to human civilization by the steamer.
Verushka fulminated on the bed in sly, possibly masturbating shivers. “This is extremely unethical. To break into a room where two people are attempting to conceive a newborn. Where love breaks into blossom more and more and the detritus of a puny marriage gets erased, eradicated, and will soon be permanently elided.”
The slug called Timmy brought his mouth off the floor. “Can you—” and his breath halted anymore speech.
“Chick, I can’t do this anymore.”
He patted the floor next to him. “Come on the floor and pray with me.”
“But you don’t believe in God, Chick.”
“—order—” Timmy huffed and he started to lift his arm.
Verushka put away her lipstick. “What is that gentleman blob trying to communicate?”
Betty Lou shot a cool bolt of steam on Chick’s hand. “Come back to me, Sweets. I can reserve the lake house in Tahoe with my company’s credit card.”
Verushka argued how Hawaii was so much more pleasing than Tahoe. “The best people used to want to sweat in the cold, but that’s changed now.”
Betty Lou squealed, “You just like guys with really ripped abs and no butt hair.”
Chick beat his head silly.
“I want to have a child,” Chick said and he folded his hands under his cheek in a sleepy-time position. “After many miscarriages, Verushka is unable to.”
She seethed on the bed, then removed her pillow and started for Chick’s shoulder before I pulled her trailing cord and tipped her over. “You abominable hussy,” she screeched as she sputtered to a halt.
Timmy had made it to his knees. “—a pepperoni—” he said but Betty Lou sprayed him with icy leftover water and he fell on top of her and totally killed her. Her last words being, “Cut the shit, thyroid Timmy.”
“Chick how can I ever believe you again?” I said.
His eyes turned red and he crumbled. “But I want to hand down my Little Caesars to one of my kind.”
“You’ll have to go to therapy. We’ll have to go. You might need medication to fix the whole ‘I’m sexually attracted to kitchen appliances’ syndrome.”
He looked at me and sneezed. “If that’s what it takes, I just need to be a father, I know it. I know that will save me!”
. . .
I guess I should hurt. And my heart should spray poison towards my brain because I’m not all right, but I want to be loved, gall darn it. I want a large warm tide in the shape of a six foot man to take me and my short little body away from the complaining and fartheads and people who like to be mean in the world.
Chick isn’t mean. He’s just a little funny in the head. My mother told me we all get like that sometimes.