This story is by Mari Wagner and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“I’m so sick of you. You think you’re a princess,” George snaps at Catherine, “and everyone has to do whatever you want. Well I, for one, will not fall for your acts anymore. You’re driving me crazy.”
Catherine is cringing in fear as she listens to George. Suddenly her eyes widen, she goes stiff and falls to the ground; an arm dramatically staged across her eyes. A diminutive peep escapes her opened mouth to appear she’s sick, or fainted or dead. Murmuring a few puffs of air Catherine stops breathing as long as possible to convince George she’s gone to greener pastures. It doesn’t work. George steps around her body to the sofa. His favorite TV show is on. Also, he knows if she’s dead now she’ll still be dead after the show. And if she isn’t dead, she’ll show her face for round two soon enough. So, George waits patiently. Catherine stays put. It’s a true showdown, an unspoken war of wills.
The second commercial break arrives and George glances at Catherine. She should be sitting up yelling her head off by now. He’s mad at himself for focusing energy on her but the twisting in his stomach is consuming him with anger. This fight’s going on too long and he wants it finished. But before he can do anything about it, the TV show resumes, diverting his attention.
Without warning, Catherine springs up, pretending to cough sputter and shake as if magically revived from the afterlife. He looks at her from the corner of his eye and her piercing glare stiffens him in fear. She’s acting as if she’s ready to gut him in two with ninja swords.
Turning his full attention back to the TV, George does not see Catherine pounce on him screeching. “How dare you ignore me! You don’t care if I live or die. All you care about is the TV, computer, and your stupid stuff! You’re a worthless clump of space to me, George.” She continues even louder. “I do everything around here. I’m the one who straightens up. Look around, it’s a mess. I clear the table and countertops, not you. You’re never around when we’re working. You sit all day, feet up, expecting me and the kids to wait on you, and bring food. In exchange, we get the privilege of watching you breathe and pass gas. It’s not fair! And you have the nerve to believe I,” she pauses with dramatic flair, “am the one who gets waited on? I don’t think so buddy boy!”
Catherine takes some deep cleansing breaths, then continues in her martyred way. “You’re just darn lucky I stay to take care of the kids. What would Madeline do if I wasn’t pushing her to finish her homework? Those kids would fail if they had to rely on you, George! Barking orders while watching TV does not get homework done. I’m the one who knows a gentle roll of a pencil near Madeline will remind her of schoolwork.” Still impaling his heart with her eyes, she conjures a miss-know-it-all voice. “And good luck trying your tactics to get Chris to stop playing computer games. He needs me to ruin his games by pressing the keyboard, so he’ll close that darned console.” Catherine is readying herself to land another verbal blow but turns and walks away instead. George’s head is hung in shame, which offers her ego the air of superiority she needs.
Watching her leave, George jumps to rev the computer to see his favorite photos, the ones she won’t let him look at when she’s around. Grateful Catherine’s rant is over, George mumbles out loud in defiance to Catherine, but very very softly, in fear of her, “Blah Blah Blah, who does she think she is? A bitch? She’s so much worse than that. My guess, she’s demonic. Oh! I would be so much happier with a bitch any day instead of her.”
Calm reigns supreme until Catherine comes back into the room. George half looks up from the computer screen towards her. From the look in her eyes, she’s ready to apologize. “George? Are you getting a lot of work done, honey? Sorry I was mean to you. I’m not sure what’s going on with me. You work so hard and keep us safe in this big house. The garden is looking wonderful and you never ask for help because you know I hate dirt. Again, I see what you do and I’m sorry for how mean I was. Will you please forgive me?”
George looks into her big beautiful eyes and sees the sincerity. He was going to forgive her even if she never asked. Because their relationship is built on a cycle of fighting like cats and dogs one moment, followed by forgiveness and peace. Without intervention, it’s destined to repeat over and over. They just can’t help themselves; it’s the way they are.
During her apology, George was slowly turning the monitor away from Catherine’s sight. He couldn’t let her see what was on the screen because it definitely was not work related. He didn’t want to reset Catherine’s inner gorgon. So, with the computer finally turned away and her oratory complete, he stands tall, displays an aggressive look on his face and walks to her side. He meets her shoulder with a playful bump and gifts her with his goofiest grin. The fight’s over, bringing truce in time for the kids’ homecoming.
George can’t wait for Catherine to go back to work. The house is too small for both to stay home all day. She’s employed at a veterinarian’s office. She’s the receptionist and greets people arriving for appointments. Although she has an important job, she has to stay home temporarily because of a viral outbreak that could spread. Yet he should be the only one home during the day. This was the understanding from the beginning. He works best alone because groups of people make him anxious. Deep down, George knows Catherine loves to be at the office anyway, so she’s not stuck home with him all day. However, she probably doesn’t know he feels the same. Distance is the only cure for their relationship.
We hear the bus stop outside and watch with wonder as Chris and Madeline come through the door heading straight to us. They are giggling about something. We kiss and love up these two perfect kids for the tiny moment of time they give us before heading off to their separate rooms until dinner.
George is pondering how the kids can grow so fast and turns to ask Catherine… nothing. Because the look in her eyes evokes so much terror, he inadvertently takes a step back. She’s staring at him, fuming mad. George wracks his brains to think what he’s done. He braces for the incoming barrage of verbal indignities from her until he makes a quick-turn decision. George will bring this argument to a halt before it begins. He stretches himself to the full height of his standing body and gives her the flared-nostril-squinty-eye stare of death, which works to shut her up. Ha! George thinks. He didn’t even need to say one word to win. George’s body shakes with glee at his success.
The door opens again. Patty is home from work. She’s a veterinarian. He’s always first to welcome her because he’s lord and master of the house. Patty bends over to ruffle the soft wispy hair on George’s cute head. Using her high-pitched sing-song voice, which makes George’s body quiver with excitement, Patty says, “How’s my little boy? What did you do today? Were you a good puppy, Georgie? Where’s Catherine? Where’s my sweet little catty girl? Did you eat her Georgie?”
Catherine finally walks over with the knowledge of victory smug on her face because she just peed on the good rug near George’s chew toy.