by Thomas Mundt
I have Sweet Pea on hold. She needs a moment to collect her thoughts, and her bills. They are voluminous, the lion’s share issued by her aromatherapist, and keeping track of them has almost become a full-time job. Which is good, because Sweet Pea has been between gigs since conception.
When I click the resume button, it sounds like someone is “hitting” a marijuana water pipe, the kind Dateline talks about, but only in the context of recent legislative shifts in Western states. Sweet Pea is still crying, or gargling. Maybe crygling, disinfecting her facehole while she weeps. Modern women, present company included, are multitaskers.
“Sweet Pea, stay with me. Don’t you die on me!”
She gets a real kick out of the last part. It’s a line from a recent movie, the one where the Mexican president goes rogue because Congress thinks he took another man’s life in Martha’s Vineyard. He knows the only way to get out of D.C. is to stab one of the pilots of Air Force One in the throat with a mechanical pencil and take the yoke himself. He didn’t want to do it, felt pretty badly about it. Even tried to save the poor schmuck. Hence the quote.
“I’m ready, Miss Cindee, if you’ll have me.”
The colloquialism always kills me, like I invited her to my nephew’s graduation or took her in on Passover. I work in Claims at The Pinnacle because my private tutoring business didn’t pan out. Turns out the demand for Dutch Low Saxon fluency is lower than I had anticipated.
I don’t do this for my health.
There is talk of collectors, hospital admins threatening to repossess her Sea Doo if prompt action on her grossly-overdue balance is not taken. I remind Sweet Pea that her case remains in limbo, that unless and until an expert determines that the thing in her Sgt. Squawker’s “Buffalo Chicken Mini-Nibbler” was in fact a prophylactic, liability won’t attach. The best thing she can do at this juncture, I insist, is take care of Sweet Pea. And, stay off of eBay. I opine that she has enough figurines by the looks of the jpg she emailed me last week.
Sweet Pea responds with a passage from Deuteronomy, something about a mule and the paths the righteous must seek. I tell her it all sounds beautiful, that God was really onto something when he commissioned that particular chapter of The Good Book. Could she photocopy it, so I can affix it to the bulletin board in the break room, next to the Al’s Beef coupons? She tells me that she’d love to but her library card has been suspended. Too many overdue Dan Baldaccis.
I hear about her son again, a homosexual. His Christian name is Cole but he goes by Coley on campus, a design school in Milwaukee whose name she can either never remember or summon the strength to mumble. He sounds gifted from the descriptions of his cloaks, unafraid of color and pattern. Sweet Pea asks me for the umpteenth time to stand in her Pro Wings. How would I feel if I came back from a vittles run and found two men in my living room, kissing on each other like The Lord’s asleep at the switch.
It’s a pretty good question, one of the better ones that have been posited during my sixteen-month tenure at The Pinnacle. I hit calendar in Outlook. I have a recorded statement to take in five minutes, a man in Dayton, Ohio, who claims the deck sealant he purchased at our insured’s hardware store never dried and someone’s going to pay for all the robins that got stuck and died, either in this life or the next. I must be succinct.
I tell Sweet Pea that I hope I would be kind, that Cole or Coley is just being Cole or Coley and, whether she realizes it or not, he’s what she signed up for in the delivery room. I advise her that I’m standing squarely in those Pro Wings, their tongues wagging like a husky with kidney failure, and I’m so agitated that I have half a mind to get Granddad’s buck knife out from under the sink and start carving initials into forearms. I suggest she love her son like he’s the only one Sweet Jehovah gave her, which, per my most recent SearchMissouri.org inquiry, happens to be science fact.
I wish her a pleasant rest of the morning and flick a gnat off my Diet Coke.
Thomas Mundt is the author of one short story collection, You Have Until Noon to Unlock the Secrets Of The Universe (Lady Lazarus Press, 2011), and the father of one human boy, Henry (2011). Additional teambuilding exercises and risk management advice can be found at www.jonathantaylorthomasnathanmundtdds.com.