Posted in Fiction

There Goes The Bride

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Once upon a time women stayed at home. They took care of the kids and the house. Men went out to work, made money and supported their families. Then things began to change. The shift in power had been gradual, until the year 2025 and then change had advanced rapidly. Women had been essential in the work place for many years and the men just hadn’t noticed what was developing. Females became the stronger sex. They became more self-assured and with their newfound confidence, they grew powerful, assertive and aggressive. Yes, aggressive, just the way men had operated for centuries.
Now, a man was lucky to find a job that paid minimum age, if his wife would even let him go to work. Jake’s father had told him stories about how it used to be, stories that his Dad’s father had told to him, old husband’s tales about the way things had been in the Twentieth century, before the takeover. For over seventy-five years, men hadn’t possessed the independence, or the financial
freedom, items which the male species had once claimed as their birthright. They didn’t seem to mind. It was a woman’s world now, and the men had learned to live with it.
What choice did they have?
“Niki, you forgot your lunch!” Jake ran out the front door after his daughter, just in time to see her bus pull away from the corner. He threw her lunch after the bus, and tramped back into the house. He plopped down at the kitchen table, and took a sip of his lukewarm coffee. Getting his wife, Michelle, out to work and the kids off to school each morning, was like running an obstacle course.
“Where’s my math book?”
“Dad, the dog threw up on the sofa!”
“Hon, is my red dress back from the cleaners?”
“Dad, Niki won’t get out of the bathroom, and I gotta go!”
“Jake, for crying out loud, can’t you ever control these kids?”
After he finished his tepid coffee, he took a roast out of the freezer for supper. Maybe if he cooked a nice meal, she wouldn’t be so cranky tonight. Ya, and maybe after the kids went to bed, he’d take a shower and splash on that new after-shave. He could wear the silk boxers she’d bought him. She was always complaining that he was never in the mood, but what did she expect after he cooked and cleaned all day? She thought that all he did was sit in the recliner, watching football and drag races, swilling down cold beers, while she was at work.
He heard music outside. It was the Snap-On Tool truck! He ran upstairs and fished under the mattress, feeling around for his stash of money, precious dollars he’d saved from the grocery allowance by clipping coupons.
Hank and Pete were already standing at the truck as Jake hurried across the street.
“What are you gonna buy?” Hank was asking Pete.
“I dunno. Last week, I bought that nice eight-piece screwdriver set and I got lectured for an hour. She said I was wasting her money. I told her it was on sale and she laughed in my face. Said I’d buy fleas from a dog, if they were on sale!”
“You think that’s bad?” asked Jake. “Michelle cut up my Master Card cause I ordered a fishing rod from the Sportsmen’s home shopping channel! She said, “You’ve got enough to do around the house and you can forget about going fishing with a bunch of unshaven house-husbands!”
“Come on guys! Quit the chatter. What do you want today?” Cindy asked. “How about a power drill? Or this nice metric socket set that I have on special?” Cindy climbed down out of the truck and stood there beside them, as they huddled around the merchandise, trying to decide.
Suddenly Jake said, “Let’s go guys. Come on.” He seemed panicky, and his face was flush.
“But, I’m still looking!” Hank insisted.
“I don’t care, I said let’s go, now!” Jake demanded.
Cindy winked at Jake, as she said, “See ya next time, boys.”
“Jake, what’s wrong with you?” both friends asked, as the truck drove away.
“Cindy rubbed her hands all over my butt and whispered, ‘Come for a ride with me big boy and I’ll show you how to use these tools,’ Jake answered.
“Wow! Are you gonna tell Michelle?” asked Pete
“Are you kidding? She’ll just say it was my own fault and ask me what I was wearing! And maybe it is my fault. I should’ve thrown on a decent shirt before I came out.”
“Well, that’s true, but after Michelle is done yelling at you, she’ll beat the nuts and bolts out of Cindy!” laughed Pete.
“Just forget about it.” was Hank’s advice.
“Hey, you guys wanna come over, and have a beer? We can watch the wrestling until the kids come home from school,” said Jake
“Sure, but don’t let me get drunk this time, guys!” said Pete. “Last week after we had a few, I tied Jimmy to a tree in the backyard because he wouldn’t clean his room. Margie was pissed! She took the kids out to eat that night and took away my car keys before she left. I’m still walking!
I told her this morning that she needs to make an appointment to go see my therapist with me. I asked her to go months ago, but she’s always too busy. I told her that we need counseling, so that we can learn to communicate and establish intimacy. That always calms her down. She hates going to therapy! I bet she gives me back the keys tonight!”
“Ya, well at least the boy listens to you now,” Hank joked.
“My father did worse than that, believe me!” added Jake. “Women have no idea how hard it is to stay home with the kids. They go to work, have friends, a social life, fancy clothes that we have to wash or take to the cleaners. They have control of the money, all of their meals are cooked for them, sex when they want it and what do we have?”
“Come on Jake. Cheer up. After all, we have housework that never ends, kids who don’t listen to us, unless the wife is home, ESPN and all the beer our allowance can buy!”
“I hope you’re not trying to cheer me up,” Jake replied.
They all laughed, as they tromped over to Jake’s.
The guys flopped down on Jake’s sofa and Jake sat in the recliner, flipping through the channels, until he found the wrestling. “Where do they find these huge mama’s?” he wondered aloud.
“I dunno,” said Hank. “But I bet they all take steroids!” They all snickered.
Jake passed cold beers around and opened a giant bag of potato chips. The three friends sat there, munching and enjoying the wrestling matches. The kids got out of school at 3:00 o’clock, so Hank and Pete set out for home about 2:00.
After they left, Jake flew into action.
He gathered up all the dirty laundry from the kid’s rooms and stuffed it into the washer. He added a cup of Tide\w Bleach and shut the cover. He went back to the kitchen, loaded the dishwasher and then he popped the roast into the microwave.
Next, he went into the living room, and turned on ESPN, so he could watch the Dallas Cowgirls play the Chicago Bunnies. His dad had told him that men used to play pro-football, but Jake had a hard time picturing men slamming into each other as furiously as the women did! He got out the vacuum cleaner and ran it around the furniture, while he watched the game. Michelle griped at him cause he never moved the furniture, but he just couldn’t see a reason for cleaning in places where it wouldn’t even show!
Tonight, Michelle would be glued to the colossal image screen, watching her favorite soaps, “These Are The Days of Her Life,” and “All His Children.”
His dad had tried to warn him that marriage was no picnic, but did Jake listen? No, of course not. Michelle had swept him off his feet, and now look at him. Just another middle-aged, overweight househusband, a man who couldn’t even support himself and his kids. If she ever decided to leave him…just thinking about it gave him an anxiety attack! Of course, divorce was outlawed now, but she could still leave and live with someone else.
Sometimes he woke up in the middle of the night, shaking and shivering, his body in a cold sweat. He had the same nightmare, over and over. Michelle was walking away from him and the kids, arm in arm with some muscle-bound man, a boy really. No beer belly, no receding hairline. Jake would throw himself in front of her, begging her to stay. She would step over him and just keep walking. It was every man’s worst fear. The guys in the neighborhood had all watched it happen to Mike. And Mike was still in that “hospital.”
Jake thought about how decent Michelle was to him; how she supported him and the kids. He remembered the worthy intentions he’d had that morning. He shut off the vacuüm and dialed their baby sitter’s number. “Hey John, could you pick up the kids at school and keep them for a few hours?” he asked.
“Sure, I have to get my three anyway. I’ll pick them up and we’ll all go to the park. Maybe get some pizza for dinner. Just give me a call when you wanna pick them up.”
“Thanks a lot, John, I owe you one.”
Jake shoved the vacuüm cleaner into the closet and ran upstairs to take a shower. As he toweled off and pulled on the silky green boxers, he glanced at the clock. If he hurried, he’d have just enough time before she got home to bake her favorite carrot cake. Then, he’d put the roast in the oven to brown; serve it with some potatoes and onions.
When she comes through the door tonight, he thought, I’ll stop running around the house and I’ll really listen to her when she tells me about her day at work. That always puts her in a great mood!
I’ll give her a back rub while she relaxes with a cup of cappuccino and after we eat; I’ll turn on some soft music and ask her to dance. I’ll hold her the way I did when we were dating. We’ll dance close and slow, my hands massaging her back, he fantasized.
Their marriage wasn’t perfect, but he had it better than most of his friends. Michelle didn’t hit him, she didn’t go out and get drunk with the girls, and he didn’t think she cheated on him. Of course, Mike had been the last one to know! Anyway, Jake knew it was up to him to keep the marriage strong, to keep the passion and the tenderness alive. Well, he was ready to rekindle that flame when she came home tonight!
The End

I must confess that the seed for this fable grew from a casual conversation my husband and his friends had at work, about what the world would be like if men stayed home. When my husband told me what they had said (himself included) I knew I’d have to cultivate this seed, and nurture it into a full-grown man-eating plant. (Sorry guys!) I hope I did your concept justice,
embellishments and all! Jeanne Marie

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Posted in Fiction

The Ants and The Housewife

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The ants were watching the housewife. Zoe, their Queen was dead. Boric acid and sugar. They had delivered it to their Queen in all innocence. Princess Zia was leading them, because without a leader they were helpless, but she was so young. She was trying to take her mother’s place but she hadn’t even begun training for her own nest when her mother died from the tainted sugar.

The ants waited, silent, deadly, hungry, watching the housewife, hoping she would release the grains of white sugar from the container that they couldn’t breach, the big white plastic gallon with the ant proof, tight blue cover. Then they could eat and regain their strength before the battle.

Oh yes, there would be a battle today.

They watched as she drank her coffee and started to pull down items from the food closet. They hated her. She had killed so many of them over the past few months and they were out for more than sugar now, they also wanted a taste of revenge
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No luck yet on the sugar. The crazed ant killing housewife didn’t even use sugar in her coffee. They watched her, never taking their teeny eyes off her as she bustled about the sparkling clean kitchen. Bleach. The physco even knew about bleach.

She wiped down the white counters and washed the kitchen floor with it every morning, hoping to wash away their scout’s scented trails. Thanks to her, most of their scouts were dead. Cruelly crushed by her deadly pale fingers and then washed down the stainless steel sink.

It wasn’t fair. They had lived here in the empty house for years because the crumbs and sugar spilt by the previous owner, a ninety-year old woman, had been more than enough to support the nest. She had never even noticed them when she was alive. When she died, the empty house had become their own private food locker. The kitchen drawers alone had held enough crumbs to carry them for ten years or more. Under the stove and the refrigerator there had been mounds of crumbs, more than they could carry back to the nest, even if they had worked night and day. But they hadn’t worked night and day.

They had become lazy and smug, taking nights off to run around and play. They had thought the house would be empty forever. Thanks to the endless food supply, the nest had flourished, spread out to encompass over a thousand square feet beneath the house. Their house.

Then the housewife moved in and started cleaning out the drawers, washing the counters and the floors, vacuuming the rugs.

At first they had still been able to feed, favoring the new supplies she bought in abundance instead of the moldy, old crumbs. They were still happy little ants and then BOOM. One day she found them in the food pantry and she had declared war. Bombing, spraying, squashing, poisoning in devious ways. Pulling out the electric stove and the refrigerator, she’d scrubbed under them with bleach, and then she had sprayed more poison. She poured flaming Cayenne powder around the cracks, behind the appliances and under the cabinets. Then she sprayed more poison.

Just when they thought she was calming down and they could sneak back into the kitchen, she found them scouting in her bathroom and she absolutely freaked when she found the stupid baby ants playing on her bed pillows.

The war had escalated. She began to tempt them with dishes of sugar-water and boric acid, laying out traps and lairs to capture the stragglers who hadn’t died from the insecticide. That was the death of their beloved Queen Zoe.

Now, it was going to end, one way or the other. She couldn’t kill them all unless she burned the house down and they weren’t going to move out. Zia stood and gave the signal. Thousands of soldier ants silently crawled into formation behind Zia and began moving toward the housewife’s feet. The line was about an inch wide, hundreds of tiny red sugar ants on the march, silent, slow, and short-tempered. Streaming steadily toward the woman. She was oblivious to them as she continued to arrange the ingredients for her baking project

The ants were on the offensive now, crawling like an upward stream of brownish red sludge, they moved closer to her. Closer. They were almost to her feet.

Zia reached the housewife’s big ugly right toe first and she stood defiantly on the craggy toenail to instruct the troops. “I may not live long enough to become your Queen,” she signaled with her antennas. “But today we will drive this housewife out of our home and we will avenge my mother, Zoe, your Queen.”

More ants poured out from behind the fridge and flowed down the cabinet. They joined the thousands already on the floor, marching as one, they streamed toward the housewife.

**********

When she woke up that morning, she was determined to make her mom’s Christmas cookies. She had been too depressed to make them for a few years, since Mom had died three years ago, but this year she was determined to restart her Christmas spirit engine and what better way than rekindling her best Christmas memories? Kneading Italian cookie dough for hours with her mom and hand rolling hundreds of the little wreaths for friends and relatives. She’d made the cookies for years with her own three kids and then with her grandchildren. Mom’s Italian cookies, anisette, orange, lemon and strawberry, they represented everything she now needed to touch, to smell. They would light her heart back up, she would become focused in the simple task of rolling cookie dough in the palm of her hands, little strands of finger shaped dough, folded over to make wreaths and then dipped in different types of sprinkles, chocolate, red sugar, green sugar, multi-colored dots, she had bought them all.

She knew from past cookie baking projects that she would become focused and happy, smelling the memories of her mom’s wood stove, remembering the big tins of warm cookies they would get ready to mail to all their relatives.

She didn’t realize until she was a grown woman that the cookies were all her that mom had been able to afford, that the long hours of back breaking labor needed to bake the three to four batches she’d helped mama roll each year were love offerings sent in place of store bought presents. No boxes wrapped in red and gold, no packages tied in ribbons and bows.

The kitchen and the wood stove had been the center of their minute corner of the world during Christmas seasons gone by and every Christmas, without fail, the Christmas cookie mixing bowl came out of the cupboard. People might forget Christmas presents they unwrapped under the tree and checks that came in the mail, but no one ever forgot her mom’s gift of delicious bright-colored cookies.

She reached up into the spice cabinet and took down the little brown bottles of flavoring and the four plastic bottles of food coloring. Red, green, blue and yellow.

The batch of dough required twelve eggs, twelve cups of flour, twelve cups of sugar and the mound of dough would be enormous. It would be cut into four sections and then each section would be kneaded with a different food color and flavor.

Sometimes she cheated and made a half-batch, but not this year. This year she was going to mix up a whole batch and spend several days rolling and baking the scintillating wreaths. She began to break the twelve eggs into a glass bowl, watching for pieces of egg-shell.

The phone rang and she washed her hands, catching it on the last ring. “Hi honey, nope I checked, no ants this morning. I even decided to make cookies since it’s been a few days since we’ve seen any of the little buggers. Ya, I know, I’m sorry they got in your spagetti and meatballs. It was the darn sugar I put in the sauce. I know, I know…okay, love you too, see you later.”

She set aside the cell phone and went back to cracking the eggs. Mom used to sing when she worked. Searching her mind for a suitable song, she set the eggs aside and began to measure twelve cups of flour into the huge silver bowl Mom had bought her. It sounds easy to count to twelve but knowing better than to believe she could maintain the necessasary concentration, she scratched a pen mark on a little piece of paper each time a cup went into the sifter.

Zoe paused on the woman’s big toe. Giving a silent signal to her troops, behind her the marching ants stopped. Zoe had seen a big can of Raid Ant Killer on the counter next to the woman and although she couldn’t read, she knew what was in that can and what it could do to her army. If they attacked now they would be covered in the deadly ant spray, easy targets as they grouped on the floor prepared to attack.

Zoe signaled again and the troops began to reverse their march, silently creeping back up the wall and into the small hole in the ceiling that led back to their nest. Zoe knew they would need a better plan.