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TOE Short Story :: The Compact – Ch 4


by Michael Davidson

Chapter Four

The stoplight turns redtogreen. The person behind honks three times. I let him wait. Honk to his heart’s content. When he flashes his brights, perhaps thinking I’m deaf, I put mom’s compact away and continue driving down Almeda Road. Spring weather in Houston, unpredictable, today it’s steamy, sunny, all my windows down. Tomorrow it might cool down, warm up, rain until it floods. Or it might stay the same.

As expected, the stoplight at the next intersection turns red. I pound the steering wheel with the fat of my palm and mutter threats between my teeth. Recently elected mayor supposed to do something about this problem from what I understood. That was on his agenda according to the sources, coordinate Houston’s traffic lights. Make certain the green-phase is synchronized on city streets. Make driving a more pleasant experience. But this mayor has been in office several months already and I don’t see a change.

Driving is still miserable in Houston.

I look at the time. The minute hand getting on towards seven thirty. I got off work a half hour ago. After eight hours of ringing up mostly unpleasant customers, shelving newly acquired books already put in the system, and inspecting used books before making a decision on whether to buy or decline, I’m ready to go home and indulge myself with a beer. Watch a movie, read a novel, before going to sleep and waking up to a berserk alarm clock. Do it all over again. But it isn’t yet time to do what I want. No, I’m still on the clock as far as I’m concerned.

Every Thursday at 7:30 PM: tutor Big Head.

With my car parked, I knock on the door of apartment 1624, the home of the Korean couple. It requires another knock till I hear an inner door close and a pair of socked feet coming towards me. The husband opens halfway, realizes who it is, and invites me in with a smile and nod of his big head.

I don’t see his wife. Truth is, I’ve never seen her. I’m only aware of her through pictures over the mantel of their fake fireplace. Husband doesn’t talk about her. Not even when I force the issue, asking how his wife is doing today. He pretends to be flummoxed by my question. Giving his big head a confused expression.

But I know she exists, the pictures confirm this, especially the glamour shot taken after their wedding, the one with husband and wife propped against a stonewall, probably cleaned for this shot, still dressed in tuxedo and gown.

Not only that.

The door down the hallway with the light shining through the crack between carpet and wood:  she’s in there.  I’m certain she’s in there – their bedroom – behind closed door, presumably sitting at a prefab desk or lying on their bed. Hard at work.

I wonder if she’s wearing any clothes in this spring heat.

June 12, 2009 7:46 am

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