Hildie S. Block and Sukia

People

Hildie S. Block

Response

“That’s the problem, you never want to change anything.”

Davis leaned back on his bent-wood lounge chair so he could squint up at his new bride standing over him.   He saluted her to block the summer sun.

“Yes, dear.”

“Don’t start with me.”

Randolph hooted “people” softly on his perch and scooted over a few inches on the 10 foot long bar.

“Look at this yard.”

Davis sat up and looked around. It worked perfectly for him.  He had his chair and he loved the perch that he had built for Randolph so he could come outside in the hot Virginia summers and hang with him.  He had a half buried galvanized steel bucket for holding beer or wine and keeping it cold.  He had planted flowers that seemed to flourish – the yard was covered in them – bright colors like a jungle.  So that Randolph would feel at home.

“Okay, I’m looking.”

“It’s mess.”

Davis squinted around the yard.  Randolph followed his gaze, head movements exactly.

“The yard.”

“Yes.”

“You think it’s a mess?”

“Yes.”

Just past dawn, Davis waded through the laborer traffic into Home Depot and bought a second lounge chair, and a small table and a romantic fire pit for the back yard.  He bought some tiki lanterns.  He set it all up before she came down for breakfast.

He had the coffee brewing when she zombie strutted into the kitchen.

“Cup?”

“Good Morning to you, too.”  She was dressed for work.  He revised, shifted and tried again.

“Good Morning, my love.  Cup?”

She sighed and took the cup, peered into it, sighed again and opened the fridge door for milk.

Davis had opened the sliding glass doors off the kitchen into the yard, but she didn’t notice and before he could react, she raced out to her car to dash to work.

Randolph jumped onto Davis’ shoulder at that sound of the car engine revving.  David held out a treat for him.  Randolph eagerly snatched it and then nuzzled Davis’ cheek before flapping back to his perch.

“I know,” Davis said softly.

“People” said Randolph in an understanding caw.

***

It had been whirlwind.  Davis wasn’t really the dating type, he was just happy in his house when he was there, and happy on his boat when he was there, and happy belly up to the bar when he was there.  He was really happy about once a year at an outdoor Jimmy Buffet concert.  He really hadn’t missed the whole family life thing.  He was 50 and content to make money captaining yachts and moving them up and down the Atlantic Coast for people who didn’t have the time to do it themselves.  It afforded him a life that was like a fantasy to him.

But then he met Rita.  Dead of winter, there was a band playing under a thatched roof stage at Fins — mostly Parrothead music, beach songs, steel drums.  She was a vision of beauty, blonde hair, tan in a sleeveless hibiscus covered sundress in the dead of winter, playing with a plastic blue whale that had come with her drink.

He slid next to her and said off handedly, “I think I’ve got cabin fever.  You know, when it’s this dark and cold out, I really need a Margarita.”  She had laughed, made the whale nod in agreement, and when his drink showed up, she stealthily moved a coaster under it.   She introduced herself as Rita, and her wing-man as “Margo” and the deal was sealed.

Easy to be around, Davis ignored the fact that she was 10 years younger, and had been married before.  A couple times.  Everything that night seemed to run parallel.

They spent happy times at the bar, happy times when she took some vacation and came with him on the boat, a single happy day in an unpronounceable island country, barefoot on the beach with a justice of the peace, happy times on their honeymoon in Bermuda in a cottage on a cliff overlooking the grotto.  He thought she’d love his place in the Florida Keys; they sailed there after Bermuda – but her reaction was unexpected.   He carried her in his arms over the threshold, Randolph clinging to his shoulder.

“Oh my god!”

“It’s great isn’t it?”  Davis turned on the lights.

“Davis – you want to call the police?”

“No, it’s okay.”

“It’s happened before?”  Rita called.   Davis had left the room to adjust the air conditioning and open the back door.

“Happened? Wait, what?”  He turned to face her as she arrived in the kitchen.

“The house – it’s been ransacked,” She looked around, “And the stove is missing and the  . . .”

“No, we always grill and it didn’t work great so I gave it away.”

“But the place . . . “

“Oh, I have a couple of friends who use it when they are here.  And looks like my cleaning service hasn’t come by since they left.  No biggie.  You want to grab some dinner?”

“I, I, I can’t.  I need to get stuff and clean this place if I’m going to sleep here.  The trash is overflowing, there’s beer cans, dirty dishes in the sink.” She gestured grandly, “Davis, we need to clean up.”

“Okay, fine – that shouldn’t take too long – then I want to take you to Jimmy’s and introduce you —  you’ll love it – it’s this amazing little seafood shack right on the beach – “

“You can bring stuff back for me.  This is gonna take a while.”

Davis looked crestfallen.  They only had a few days left ‘til she had to be back at work.  If they were going to sail back up the coast, he didn’t want to spend that time cleaning the house when he knew someone else would do it in a couple days.  But this was marriage and they were in it together.

“Go faster with two?”

“Yes.  But you don’t have to.”  She flashed a whitened smile and he knew she didn’t really mean that.

“I know that, honey,” he turned on the stereo and Bob Marley’s Legend started right up.   No Woman No Cry. “Let me start getting cleaning stuff out of the closet where the service stores it.”

Randolph cawed “People,” but the newlyweds took no note, as they began to Clorox the house on the beach.

***
When Rita came home from work, Davis had dinner ready, coconut shrimp curry, the house smelled great – beach music was flowing out of Pandora and the tiki lamps and the fire pit were lit because the sun was already sinking.

It was only two months since their marriage; maybe 6 months since they met.  In that time Davis’ wardrobe had doubled, and that was even including some of the archival Hawaiian shirts that had met their maker.   His hair was cropped close and his beard neatly trimmed.   There were new pans in the kitchen but they worked well enough after some getting used to.  The rice wasn’t quite what Davis had hoped but the curry looked better than usual, so it was a trade off.

When Rita arrived, he handed her a glass of white Sangria and led her outside to eat the curry, Randolph on his outside perch, the Virginia sun setting against the glowing potted hibiscus, climbing clematis, flowering crepe myrtle, and bushy bourganvilla that  made the yard attract hummingbirds, butterflies and, he hoped, tired Ritas.

She barely spoke, but seemed to enjoy her chair and the tiki torches.  She seemed to relax.  Davis exhaled loudly, and said, “I realize it’s all about compromise.”

Rita took a sip of her wine, and said distractedly, “What?  Oh, right.  I called some contractors to take a look.”

Davis squinted through the night at her.  “I’m sorry?”

“I called a couple contractors to look at the yard.  I’m thinking a stone patio.  Maybe replace the siding?  Some landscaping?  That tree should go.” She pointed a manicured finger toward the crepe myrtle.  “It’s really a jungle out here.”

Davis’ shoulders sagged but he didn’t say anything.

Before he knew it the contractors arrived and started working.

The first thing they did was pull out Randolph’s 10 foot long perch, tear up where Davis sat, put in a stone garden surrounding the new stone patio.  They took down the crepe myrtle and removed all manner of bush and vine.  Now the backyard sported an excellent view of the neighbor’s glaring new TV through their side window.

When Rita came home from work, Davis’ clenched jar met her at the door.
“Randolph’s perch.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Randolph’s perch.”

“Davis, I’ve had a long day.  Can you speak in sentences?”  Rita put down her bag, and kicked her heels under a side table.

“The contractors took down Randolph’s perch.  I want to know if they will be putting it back up.”

“Hmm,” Rita busied herself flipping through the mail.  “ Okay.  Perch?” She pulled out an envelope and set it aside.  “For the bird?  I don’t think they do that.”

Davis turned into an Easter Island statue.  “The perch stays.”

There is silence.  Davis took a sip of beer.  He turned to reset Pandora so that steel drums start playing.

“How long do parrots live?”

Davis, his back still to Rita, exhaled a whistle.  Randolph echoed his whistle and hopped onto his shoulder.  “What did you just say?”

Randolph leaned toward Rita so he could hear this one, staring right into her eyes.

“Well, I just figured if he’s not going to be  around that long it wouldn’t be worth it . . . you know to center the whole yard around him. “

Davis’ teeth set in a line that was uncomfortable and unfamiliar to him.  “The parrot will outlive us both.”

“Oh,” Rita’s face was a blank sheet.  “I had no idea.”

“Clearly.”

“No, I mean that . . .”

“Rooting for his death . . . “

“No, just that . . . “

“I think we are done here.”  Davis turned to stride out the back, into his escape, his paradise, but the yard was torn up.  He cursed and came back in, and headed out the front instead.

Before Randolph knew it, the landscapers were done, Rita was gone and things got back to normal, though he did have a new perch out in the newly landscaped yard.  Davis’ hair was still somewhat neat, his beard began to grow in, and it was almost time to be back to moving yachts up and down the East Coast for people who were too busy to enjoy the task themselves.  Davis was out buying some supplies for an upcoming trip.  Randolph settled his beak into his wing, but not before squawking.

“Fucking people.” He swung his head side to side.  “Fucking people.”

___________________________

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One Comment

  1. Cheryl Somers Aubin
    Posted July 26, 2011 at 7:33 pm | #

    Hilde: Really a great short story! I enjoyed it! Great picture, too, Sukia

    Best, Cheryl

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