Telltale Signs

From the series: Splatting Shit Against the Wall – Old or Rejected Writing Otherwise Collecting Dust

All you gotta do is look on the internet and there’s dozens of lists that’ll tell you the signs of a marriage in decay. For the purpose of this exercise, we’ll refer to them as the telltale signs.

Cecil has been retired nearly 3 years now. After a stint in the Army, he’d ended his laboring days repairing and building custom golf carts. Since then, Cecil hasn’t done much but cultivate his lethargy and waistband to the point that it’s exiled his pecker to parts unknown. And aside for his stop into the hospital to raid the cafeteria salad bar of kalamata olives, telling his wife, “Why not load up on it all when it’s the most expensive thing on the bar. 48 cents an ounce is a helluva bargain for kalamata olives. And it’s all olives. Not any water.” – other than that, Cecil doesn’t do much. But his pride over the olive scam is aplenty. That amount of olives lasts him a week. He goes out of his way to find creative uses for the olives just so he’ll have an excuse to go back the next week. His wife, however, is not impressed with the scam nor his creativity in using the olives.

HIs wife Claudia has grown to hate him for his laziness. She started with gentle persuasion leading through light-hearted chiding all the way to direct insults as motivators, but none have worked.

As she thinks more and more about divorce, Cecil thinks more and more about purchasing a Daisy pellet rifle to silence the goddamn squirrel that squawks outside the bedroom window all morning. He dreams of 12 pumps for maximum pressure and the pellet nicking its skull, the squirrel falling in a bushy tailed twirl like a downed helicopter. That’s how his days begin.

Last night had been the worst of their fights so far. Claudia pleaded they should do something together, like driving up to Richland Center and spend a week in a luxury cabin like they’d talked about for years before Cecil retired but Cecil brushed the idea off.

Claudia said if things don’t change, she’s gonna leave. So when Cecil said there’d be change and Claudia asked what kind, Cecil just left it at a cryptic, “wait and see” and his wife accepted that. He’d shaken his head pretty sternly, after all.

Claudia was already gone when he woke up the next afternoon. First he cursed the squirrel, “motherfucker, I’m gonna blow your head off someday,” before putting his plan for change into action.

He went to the bureau, grabbed a pair of socks and undid the wad Claudia had folded them into. He slipped on the left one as normal, but the right sock, he turned inside-out; then put it on his foot that way. He did this with clean socks for the whole week until Sunday rolled around, when Claudia’d had enough of another weekend of cigarettes and light beer and football.

“So where’s all this change you talked about?” she asked.

“Oh, it’s here. You’re just too wrapped up in yourself and your Blueberry Festival bullshit to see it.” It was true too. He’d told her once during the week that she looked nice, a kind enough gesture that wasn’t his general practice, which Cecil attributed to the influence of the sock. But she’d already forgotten about that.

“No, kidding, Cecil. I’m telling you. This is it. Things change or I’m leaving real soon.”

So the next week Cecil wore both socks inside out and when Sunday rolled around again and his privates were still in hiding and the beer tasted and piled up the same, Claudia declared, “Cecil, I’m out. I can see things aren’t ever gonna change. You’re nothing but a fat, lazy slob and I’m not spending the rest of my life with that.”

Damn, Cecil realized. Maybe the sock thing’s not working out so well.

“Just give me another week,” he pleaded. “I really got something this time.”

“It’s not investing in minks again, is it?” She reminded her husband they’d already agreed no to that.

He said no. This would be something entirely different. Just give him a week, which she accepted, still holding onto hope for a drive up north to the cabins.

On Monday he started wondering the best place to buy the pellet gun and what would happen if instead of shooting that squirrel in the head, he just hit the body? Would it scare and hurt it enough to just leave? Then he got a pair of clean underwear from the drawer and, holding the waistband at each end, snapped them inside out. The new plan was to wear a fresh, new pair everyday, inside-out, just like the socks. So that’s what he did.

Being a large man partial to fried foods and the occasional can of tamales, Cecil tends to “leak some oil”. Claudia was doing the laundry on the following Sunday while her husband watched The Bears. That’s when she noticed the skid tracks oddly on the outside of all the briefs.

What the fuck is this?, she thought. One or two days might be a coincidence but 6 days in a row? Something was definitely going on.

She stormed upstairs, confronting Cecil in his chocolaty slick  Barcalounger, “What’s this with you wearing your underwear inside out?”

He’d laid the bread crumbs and she’d followed. He was anxious to see if the rest would play out as he’d imagined.

“What up with your underwear? Wearing them the wrong way now?”

“Well, you said I needed a change. So I did.”

“By wearing your underwear inside out?”

He shifts his weight, crashing the footrest to its neutral position. Encased in cocoa leather, wrinkled around the edges like an elder, it gives the coming pronouncement an added air of authority and conviction. And it is the Churchill model, after all.

“I thought it might somehow give me a new perspective on things. I’ve even been wearing my socks inside out but a self-centered bitch like you wouldn’t ever notice.”

“Jesus chris. I wish I’d have just found porn instead of this idiocy.”

Well, that was an option too but Cecil was a bit reluctant to reveal his browsing history of BBW’s and big booty gang-bangs. He’d yet to think that one through.

Claudia grabs her jacket and heads for the door. Things weren’t going as Cecil’d imagined.

“Where you going?”

“My sister’s. We’re done.”

“Wait. Wait.” he pleads. “I got one more thing.”

“I don’t wanna hear any more about the blue cheese on the salad bar. The olives are bad enough.”

“It’s not that. I swear.”

But Claudia hits the door before he can detail the plan for pouring his milk in the bowl before the cereal.

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