Written by Gene Cashman III
he sheets were twisted and mostly balled up at the foot of the bed. Pillows- long ones, short ones, fluffy ones, flat ones were piled up and around the headboard. Rachel lay sprawled in its center. She looked as if she were making a solitary snow angel in the middle of the bed with legs and arms extended out in a giant x-shape. It was a peculiar scene to behold. She was alone. Her husband, Paul, was no where to be found.
The house smelled of fresh paint. Large blankets and quilts were sprawled on the floor. Upon closer inspection, it seemed they were being used to create easy movement for impossibly heavy pieces of furniture which stood on end throughout the house. The oak and mahogany beasts could be slowly transported like giant wooden glaciers on a bed of cotton thread pebbles. There were signs of activity but Paul was no where to be found.
A brown Labrador lay on the cushions of a couch, piled in the corner of what could be best described as a living room. However it more closely resembled one of those apartments were authorities usually find sixty cats, ten thousand newspapers stacked to the ceiling and the mummified remains of some long forgotten person. Amid the immense clutter of remodeling Paul was still nowhere to be found.
A gray tabby walked circles on a messy countertop until she found a satisfactory place to curl up. A warm, yellow puddle was inconspicuously pooled by the door to the refrigerator. A stressed out man in a paint stained t-shirt, boxers and socks emerged from the TV room. The room was dark save the bluish glow from the television. The man was parched and in search of a cola. The wetness of the puddle met the dryness of the sock with instantaneous and negative results. It is said that every action has a reaction. Well, Paul was now found and in a much fouler mood than before.
A bundle of vulgar words were hastily strung together and along with the aforementioned wet sock slung in the general direction of the sleeping cat. The cat had inadvertently snapped the last of her master’s straws, as evidenced by the cacophony of sound coming from his mouth. He rounded up the poor souls for immediate expulsion from the house. “You don’t have to worry” the seemingly crazed husband muttered to the cowering animals “I can only boil and eat one of you.” However, a faint noise emitting from the back of the house immediately calmed his anger.
Staggered footsteps approached. It was as if someone with a gaited walk were trying to navigate the cluttered hall. The noise grew steadily louder. All three souls began to sweat, hearts beating with a burning ache. The wet sock was now a foggy memory in Paul’s coagulated, tired mind. The cat hissed and clawed its way out of his grip scrambling under the entertainment center. The dog’s deep eyes pleaded for him to open the backdoor. A woman emerged. “Honey” he said cautiously “you awake so soon?”
A very tired, very hot and very pregnant Rachel stood firm in the doorway, hands on hip. “It’s midnight” she began “it’s still 80 degrees outside and you” there was a long pause “are yelling.” Paul wasn’t sure if this was a question or just a simple statement of fact. “Uh” he muttered, hoping for further clues. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to be so exhausted, so pregnant?” Knowing he was already dead meat Paul began his retreat. “Yeah, but baby you don’t understand. I’ve been working hard and,” the words were sliced from the air before he could finish. “Honey,” she said in a veracious tone “you have no patience. You watch sports when there is so much work to do.” He knew she was right. “You aren’t even considerate enough to let me sleep.” Without another word between them she returned to bed. Paul knew his goose was cooked.
The next morning dawned hot. It was one of those May mornings that indicate a long hot summer’s ahead. Rachel had risen early and driven to the Food Lion. She was now sitting coyly in the kitchen when Paul emerged for his coffee. “Morning” she smirked. “Sorry about last night” he said “I will work all day to clean this place up. I might even paint the nursery today” Rachel just smiled. This made Paul nervous. “Nope” she said “today you are going to be pregnant.” Paul nearly choked on his coffee. “I am going to be what?” Rachel proceeded to roll a watermelon across the floor. “Yep” she said “I am going to make you appreciate what I am going through.” Paul began to squirm. “Uh, yeah, but I have a lot to do.” Rachel pressed “it’s waited this long, it can certainly wait several more hours” her tone changed to make her point clear “you are doing this.” Paul swallowed hard and sheepishly asked “how’s this work?”
Paul felt emasculated and silly as Rachel dropped a pair of old coveralls at his feet. “Put them on” she panned. Paul then picked up the melon and held it firm as Rachel walked around him duct-taping it firmly in place. “It’s heavy” Paul lamented. Rachel flashed a wicked smile “sure is.” Once the outfit was complete Rachel stepped back to admire her work. “Okay buster” she said as she dropped his car keys to the ground “pick them up.” Paul laughed, “yeah right Rachel, real hard.” Fifteen minutes later Paul lay in a sweaty heap on the ground. “Hey Rachel, can I get a hand?” Rachel just smiled and walked out of the room.
The morning progressed with dozens of tests, all of which brought Paul a better understanding of Rachel’s newfound life. For instance, it took him nearly twenty minutes to get out of bed and he nearly crushed the melon when he fell off the couch while attempting to tie his shoes. By lunch he’d had enough. The melon hit the floor with a loud thud. “Okay Rachel I get your point, well done.” Rachel laughed at the serious look on Paul’s face. “See, I told you that things were hard and that you need to have more patience, now and when the baby comes.” Paul looked at his feet, “I know, baby.” Rachel put her arms around him “You’re going to be a daddy and I am going to be a mommy” she pressed her head into his chest “we have to do this together.”
Paul smiled at his wife as she carved two large wedges out of the watermelon. “Hey, that’s my baby” he joked. “I suppose I should get back to work” he said “the little one will be here in no time.” Rachel surveyed the room “you know I think that if we work all day Sunday we can get this place done.” Paul looked puzzled “yeah, but remember your speech about taking care of business?” Rachel’s wicked grin returned “I know but we need a break. The sun is out, the tide seems right, do you think it would be okay to take the boat to the sandbar for an hour or two?”
Paul beamed “You bet.”
The sandbar was pretty full, even for a warm May afternoon. “Everyone must have spring fever” Rachel said. Paul picked a fairly secluded spot and set up two folding chairs in the water, deep enough to get their feet wet. A mother and toddler played in the sand next to them. “They are cute, aren’t they?” Rachel asked with a smile. “Paul, what do you think you mother taught you?”
Paul thought for a moment “I don’t know, lots of stuff.”
Rachel frowned, “Come on, what is so great about your mother?”
The wheels in Paul’s head turned fast. “Well, she never, ever fails to tell me she loves me.” He said, scratching his chin. “She misses me, appreciates me and always let’s me know I am her boy.” Rachel smiled. “I remember that she would always kiss me or hug me, no matter how much I resisted it as a so called cool teen. I think she did it to remind me she was there.” Rachel rarely heard Paul speak this way and ate up every word. “She taught me to appreciate women, how to communicate with my dad, but she also taught me to love music, thunderstorms, the colors of spring and fall, ray ban sunglasses, parties, loud music,” Paul stopped and laughed. “Yeah, my mom was a party animal. She also taught me that cake can be an appetizer as well as a dessert.” Rachel laughed with Paul. “You know she is the one that taught me to look at a tree full of leaves and to see if I could count the varying shades of green. My mom’s pretty awesome.” Rachel took his hand “I want to be like that.”
The boat ride back to the landing was brisk and happy. Paul’s trademark smile was finally back. Rachel tried to count all the colors of green in the trees as they zipped past. She was thinking of what her child would say about her skills as a mom. Once back at the house Paul worked with a renewed vigor. By Sunday evening the house was mostly back together and the nursery painted. “Paul, I am proud of your hard work” Rachel said as she hugged him.
A satisfied look came over Paul’s face and he put his arm around her shoulder, hugging her. “Thank you for helping remind me what’s important. I think you are already a better mother than you give yourself credit for.”
Rachel smiled, “I love you too, my sweet little watermelon man.”