It was Sunday morning, early, Gracie’s house. I walked there, woke her up. She fixed me a cheese omlet and toast. The Wimp was still in bed. Gracie was half asleep.
Gracie said, “Are you okay?”
“I’m okay,” I said. “Are you okay?”
“Sure, I’m fine. Okay.”
“Then let’s be okay together for awhile,” I said. “Why don’t we go to the mountains for the day, maybe two days. Just the three of us. A family revival. We could be there before lunch. It’s beautiful outside.”
“I’m not that okay,” she said.
“Then you don’t really think I’m okay,” I said. “You don’t believe me.”
“That’s not it. I just can’t go. Don’t want to either.”
“You think I’m crazy.”
“I’m not that stupid. I think you’re sick.”
“So? Being sick can be a hell of a lot of fun. We’ll have a good time. Anyway, I’m not sick. I can get a note from the doctor.”
“I’m not going,” she said.
“You look better than ever.”
She wore a white nightgown, her dark hair spread across her shoulders. Her fist was jammed into the side of her face, propping her head up on the table.
“Hell, I know that. I’m still not going.”
“I’m bored,” I said. “Really. I need to do something. Go somewhere. You’re probably bored too. You look it.”
“I’m not bored. I’m tired.”
“You got any plans?”
“No, and that’s the way I like it.”
“We could take Artie along.”
“He does have plans. He’s coming over here.”
“Perfect. I’ll pack the car.”
“Pack it. But it’s not going anywhere.”
“The Parkway,” I said. “Can you imagine? All those vistas.”
Gracie said, “I’m being as patient as I can.”
“You’re being very patient,” I said. “Just say yes, you’ll go, and then I’ll quit begging.”
“No! I’m not going. No!”
“Okay, so you won’t go. Don’t get so angry about this.”
“You’re getting on my nerves bad,” she said. “You can’t stay much longer.”
“I want to see The Wimp.”
“I don’t think this is a good day.”
“Why not? Sunday?”
“You’re not making a hell of a lot of sense. Are you taking your medication?”
“Wait ’til another day. I’ll talk to her and call you.”
“She’s my daughter.”
“You’re being a real asshole.”
“So what else is new?”
“How can I get rid of you?”
“Good omlet,” I said. “Thank you.”
It was a nice day. Very blue sky. Very bright sunlight, but not too hot. It had rained yesterday, and this sun had the blossoms popping out all over the place. I walked over to the park, went up to this guy who was pushing his son on the swings.
“It’s nice out here, isn’t it?” I said.
“Sure is,” he said.
“You know, they really messed this place up when they changed the swings,” I said. “They used to have the big metal ones with real wooden seats. You don’t get nearly the swing out of these. And the plastic breaks. See those?”
I pointed at a couple of swings. The plastic straps – they were, theoretically, seats, the part you sat on – had snapped into two distinct pieces, rendering the swings no longer swings.
“I don’t see why they took out the old ones,” I said. “Sometimes the city does things just for the sake of doing them. It’s like they give it some thought, make a decision, but nobody’s thinking.”
“Yeah,” he said.
I walked down the road, stopped in at a convenience store. The good looking blond was on duty. She was wearing my favorite shorts, the white ones that showed off her thin, golden legs. I got myself some coffee, went to the counter for a little flirting.
“I bet you hate working on Sundays,” I said.
She smiled, shook her head, and leaned over for something. I was hoping she would do this. I looked down her top. Small breasts, but very very nice.
“It’s the pits,” she said.
“Do they pay you time and a half?”
“No way,” she said.
“They even make you work on holidays, Christmas and Thanksgiving, don’t they? Do they pay you time and half then?”
“Nope. No time and half.”
“Do you ever have trouble with men coming in here at night and bothering you?”
“My boyfriend comes with me when I work at night.”
“That’s convenient. Convenience in the convenience store. Nice guy, huh?”
“He’s a pretty good fella.” She looked at my coffee. “Anything else?” she asked.
“Nope, just this.”
I walked out and took a sip of my coffee in the parking lot, didn’t like it. Threw it in the trash. Went across the street to The Round House and ordered a cup there. I told the waitress all about the coffee I had just paid for, and then thrown away. Told her it tasted bitter, like it had been sitting in that pot all night long.
“Probably was,” she said.
I told her they needed to upgrade their coffee machine at that store. Get one that makes coffee automatically, continually, so that the store clerk didn’t have to always come around the counter and start a new pot.
Went out of there and called Althea from the pay phone. Stood there next to the street dressed like a slob, as usual, watching the church traffic ease by.
“So how are you feeling now?” I asked.
“Better, really better.”
“Then what are you going to do today? Can you come over?”
“I might try.”
“They might not let me.”
“Won’t they let you come out and play with friends?”
“Not usually. But I’ll try to come over this afternoon.”
“The place stinks again.”
“That’s gross. We’ll go somewhere.”
“I’ll wait for you there.”
So I waited. So, you say, I’m sick, manic, obnoxious – whatever. Hey, don’t I have a right to have my feelings hurt like anybody else. Get a little antsy once in a while, just like anybody else? Just because my feelings are chemically fucked, that doesn’t mean they aren’t chemically real, right?