Short Stories Jun 28, 2020

Traffic along the State 36 Turnpike had been less than usual, and even the I-25 into and around downtown Denver felt minimal. Thin, brilliant white jetstreams streaked the deep blue sky above the city, and a warming sun bore down into Colorado. The weather forecast had enticed Kaylene and Marty to retract the roof of the convertible for their day trip from North Boulder into the malls of Denver. The air was ripe for some retail plundering, but the atmosphere within the open cabin of the Porsche was layered with equal tiers of spoken and unspoken animosity.

“So why’d you tell me I’ve got a fat arse?” she railed, while peering straight ahead. To look at him would be a self-diminishing action which might concede another point to Marty during the bout.

“Whaaaat? I never said you’ve got a fat arse! They’re your words. Don’t put words into my mouth,” Marty stammered, voice more guttural than usual, as he indicated to change lanes and gears.

“You may as well have. I’m still feeling really wounded. You might as well have just told me straight out that you don’t find me attractive any more. Bastard!” she hissed through gritted teeth.

“Jeez Kaylene, you hear what you want to hear don’t you? I’m finding it more and more difficult to dance around your insecurities. It’s like you bury small landmines around my life and I’ve got to tiptoe everywhere for fear of treading on one. I don’t know when or where they’re going to explode. It’s bloody stressful that I can’t relax.”

“Fer Chrissake, Marty. Do you think I enjoy this?  You might find me hard to live with, but I’ve gotta live with myself too. How do you think you’d cope with menopause, with the dilemma of taking HRT or not? “

Marty’s reply was to crudely slam the gearbox down another cog and accelerate fiercely across 4 lanes towards the next exit from the freeway.

“I can’t focus on city traffic and jab, duck and weave with you. If you want to continue this, we need to get off the freeway,” snorted Marty, stifling a long drawn out exhalation of exasperated breath.

“And don’t roll yer bloody eyes at me either!” hissed Kaylene.

“For God’s sake, you’re not even looking at me, Kay. I never rolled my eyes. How the hell would you know that?”

“Yeah, well, I sensed it. It’s your go-to response when I need some support.”

Veering angrily down the exit lane, Marty took a sharp right hand turn and braked hard with a screech of rubber. They were parked illegally outside a multi-storey residential block which was adjacent to the Interstate freeway that they’d just exited. Down here, perhaps 50 metres below the I-25, the whoosh of freeway traffic resonated and was seemingly amplified by the blocks of stone, residential apartments. It was a less than salubrious neighbourhood. Slumping in his seat, Marty took a deliberately deep breath and peered straight ahead.

“I have never said you’ve got a fat arse. That’s all in your head. You twist my words to suit your own agenda, Kaylene.”

“Oh… my… God!” she hissed. “Before we left Boulder, just 40 minutes ago, I asked if my jeans made my toosh look big. And what was your reply?”

“I said no…” ventured Marty.

“I call bullshit on that Marty. Your exact words were ‘No, your jeans don’t make your toosh look big.’ “

“And I meant it, Kay.”

“No you didn’t. You were snidely insinuating that my arse was big and that my jeans had nothing to do with it. Why didn’t you just verbalise it Marty. Why didn’t you call me a hippo or something adolescent like that! You’re so bloody unsupportive when I need you. Bastard.”

“Well I just can’t win can I?” he muttered, mostly to himself, but through gritted teeth.

“It’s not about winning. It’s about supporting me,” she whimpered, tears welling in her eyes. “ And don’t get me started about how much you hate my hair.”

“Wha… whaaat?” stammered Marty, subconsciously squinting his eyes and wrinkling his nose in disbelief.

“Last week when I came home from the hairdresser, I asked if you liked my cut and perm.”

“And I said yes!” Marty replied, defensively raising his voice.

“Of course you did. But you were lying… to yourself and to me. What other lies have you told me Marty?” as tears began to roll freely down her face.

Exhaling loudly, he replied “Once again, I just can’t argue with that type of logic, Kay. You’re being irrational.”

Five squalid storeys above them, the owner of apartment 504 had left her wooden kitchen window open to enjoy a little fresh Colorado air after a winter of closure. The breeze from the Rockies was pushing the freeway exhaust fumes away from the building, and further out towards the Coloradan prairies. When he noticed the open window, Furball the cat sprang silently onto the kitchen benchtop and exited the window by leaping across to the rail of the small balcony which extended out from the loungeroom. The TV was blaring, the tattered privacy curtains were drawn so the owner didn’t notice when Furball suddenly crouched along the top of the railing. He’d spotted a small rodent greedily gnawing on a morsel of something at the end of the rail. Flattening his body, and taking slow, silent steps, he inched forward with murderous intent. Sensing that he could now spring from this distance, Furball drew his back legs forward so that he could gain maximum leverage. With tail twitching ever so excitedly, he tensed every feline muscle in that sleek body in anticipation of the most advantageous moment. Furball was a tightly coiled spring.

Twenty metres higher up, on the I-25, Augustus Schroeder III was the back seat passenger in a limousine owned by Daddy. Augustus was a 10 year old nose picking, entitled brat who was enroute to his baseball practice session whilst sucking from a can of Coke. Lounging back, head disinterestedly facing out towards the snow covered peaks of the Rockies, Augustus pressed the intercom and asked the chauffeur to wind down the electric window in the back. The driver unquestioningly did as he was bid. Summoning his strongest wind-up, Augustus pitched the can of Coke out the window as far as he could, which was aided by the extra weight of half the contents of sugary liquid. Summoning the driver to rewind the window, Augustus and his chauffeur disappeared further into the distance and the anonymity that freeways provide.

Tumbling end over end in a trajectory outwards and forwards, gravity eventually overwhelmed the pitched can and it began plummeting downwards, trailing a thin stream of brown, sticky Coke. It landed with an exploding sound on the top of a balcony railing about 30cm behind a tightly sprung cat. Furball’s shocked and involuntary reaction was to shoot straight upwards almost 1 metre, whilst simultaneously whiplashing his body around to face whatever had exploded behind him. This movement threw him sideways and as he began the descent downwards to the safety of the top of the railing, he realized he was now about a metre too far out. With 4 legs fruitlessly attempting aerial swimming, Furball began a horrifying 5 storey descent, with back arched in terror.

Meanwhile, parked directly on the kerb under Furball’s apartment, Marty and Kaylene were seated in the open convertible, just commencing round 2 of the fight of the century. Reduced to silent tears, Kaylene went quiet momentarily, so Marty opened round 2 with a few verbal jabs before sending out a flurry of well timed shots. He thought he was gaining traction in the pointscoring.

“I just can’t deal with this much longer. I don’t know what to do or say anymore. I try to be supportive but you keep at me incessantly. I get it that you say you don’t like yourself, but I think you’re just compensating for your self-loathing by trying to beat me up emotionally and mentally. You’re constantly nagging as though your sole mission in life is to change and improve me. I just can’t stand your cattiness!” Marty shouted before slumping into his seat again, head tilted back.

Turning to face Marty, Kaylene purred contemptuously, “Cattiness! My cattiness! Geez Marty, you’ve got no idea what I can summon when I want to be catty!”



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