‘Umph!’ by André Lewis Carter

Sex Pistols Johnny Rotten DESTROY Seditionaires 80S Punk T-Shirt-1.JPG

Don’t get me started about yesterday, okay?

It’s a damn good thing I don’t wear dentures, they’d have gone scuttling across the floor the way Ethel hauled off and slapped me. I think I went into momentary shock.

We were sitting at a table in our favorite all-you-can-eat buffet and she asked me some fool question. I answered and she belted me a good one. Jesus! Everybody in the place was staring at me. Brad fell across his table braying like as ass.

What did she ask me? What had I said? Was I looking at the waitress’ ass again? But I’m always looking at that ass. It makes me think of twin hippopotami wrestling in a burlap bag.

When I finally focused, Ethel was back on her side of the table glaring at me with her arms crossed. Her right knee was bouncing up and down like a drill-bit. I knew I better risk saying something. “Uh, honey,” I began, but she put up a ringed index finger and growled, “You want to choose your next words very carefully, Bubba.”

Yikes! I had crossed into the “Ain’t no way in hell you can talk your way out of this” zone that men constantly fall into when they’re not looking. I once saw on Facebook a picture of a legal pad with a caption that went something like, “Below is a list of ways to win an argument with a woman,” and the legal pad was blank. Well shit.

It didn’t help that she looked totally hot in my red Johnny Rotten T-shirt. She always stole it from me to wear when she was feeling lovey. Of course, at this point any positive feelings she had for me were definitely past tense. Her eyes looked as red as my borrowed shirt.

“Baby, I apologize. You are absolutely right, I was being insensitive again and I’m sorry.” This tack usually worked but today she didn’t look like she was buying it. Her pressed lips were a crooked line and her eyes narrowed. She cocked her head, smoothed her frosted bangs, and took a deep breath. Uh oh, she had that look!

In fact, yes, I could feel it coming. She had decided that we needed “to talk about this.” Egads! Of course the real problem was that I didn’t know what the hell “this” was that we needed to talk about. My mind had kind of gone blank due to the pain in my jaw (although I had to admit it had felt like a righteous-type of slap. It was a palm-led, closed-finger masterpiece. Shit! Focus, man, focus!).

“Well,” she began, “I really think we need to talk about this.”

Sigh. “Don’t you think we should wait until we get home?” I was thinking to myself, “Say yes! Say yes!”

“No, I think we need to talk about it now while it’s still fresh and hurtful.”

Shit. “Come on, we don’t need to be putting our business in the street like this. People are staring.”

“I don’t care, I’m getting sick of this shit. I get no reaction from you unless you want to fuck or I’m pissed off. What the hell’s the matter with you?”

Uh oh, it was a trick question. “Uh baby–”

“Don’t give me that “baby” crap. Answer the damn question.”

“Oh come on, what are we fighting about? I said that I was sorry, didn’t I?” Whoops! I shouldn’t have said that!

Her eyes widened. Crap! “Fuck me, you don’t know do you?”

“I don’t know what?”

“Why I’m pissed off at you! You don’t even know, do you?”

“Well, yeah, I mean you did just slap the taste out of my mouth, which was very immature I might add,” I rubbed my cheek for effect. “I know your mother raised you better than that. And to start this shit in public is just–“

“First off leave my mother out of this, she always takes your side anyway. Second, I didn’t start anything, you did, and thirdly stop trying to change the fucking subject and answer my question.”

Fuck! I had forgotten what the question was! No, wait, and then I remembered, “So the question was what’s wrong with me, right?”

“Yeah.”

“See, I listen to you!”

She gave me duck lips. “Mmm hunh.”

“So, is that like a rhetorical question?”

“In your case it probably is. What am I going to do with you?”

Damn! Another trick question! I decided to plead the Fifth. “I don’t know honey, I try, you know? I don’t mean to piss you off so much.”

She leaned her elbows on the table and cradled her head. Then her head shook and she started to laugh. Damn. Was I supposed to laugh too? Was I halfway out of the doghouse? Which end of me was hanging out? Would she give me a clue? Throw me a line or two?

She looked up and gave me a sad, helpless look. “You are sooo lucky I’m in love with you you stupid son of a bitch.” Okay, that wasn’t too too bad. There was the mention of love for me in that sentence.

I gave her my most sheepish grin, “Believe me honey, I do know that I don’t deserve you. But swear to God I love you too, no matter what.” I grinned widely, hoping that she wouldn’t punch me in the mouth.

Yeah, yeah, I know. She is so right. I really do need to get my act together.

André Lewis Carter earned his MFA from the Wilkes University Maslow Family Graduate Creative Writing Program.

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