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Between the Lines


Rod Stewart

Another hour and I would be free squirmed Cheryl to herself, while sipping the last splash of her lukewarm tea. She glanced affectionately across at Marvin, slumped like a wrinkled pajama clad plush toy, barely propped up in his chair behind the curtain of Saturday's paper.

"You have nothing clean for church or work. So I'm washing a load of your tailored white silk shirts. Did you dump your hideous red golf socks into the laundry basket as I asked you?" piped Cheryl. Knowing full well that the conversation was a failed cause in competition with the news broadcast. Those flaming socks made him into a ridiculous clown. Thank goodness he only wore them out on the course. As she sighed at the embarrassing thought.

"Wha. . . ?Yeah. Oh yeah. . . " dribbled Marvin. Although deeply absorbed in the current written affairs his ears did function, contrary to feminine here say. Yes, he had attended to his dashing red socks. As a matter of fact the whole pile was thrown into the chugging washer.

"Hey, Hon,  I need some coarse chunks for drainage in my geranium pots. There are half a dozen cracked cups, saucers and mugs sitting in the cupboard that we never use. "cooed Cheryl slyly. It was a cover up really. As she had reached for her own cup this morning, his favorite one had toppled onto the counter splitting in two with innumerable splinters. Rather than be caught with the evidence and face a day of boiling anger she concocted this lame plan.

"Sure, dear. Sure. " sputtered Marvin as he was fully immersed into the article on divorce. He couldn't believe that half of all marriages failed before their tenth anniversary. How could society let families collapse like that? The ramifications weighed heavy upon his mind.

Smacking his parched lips "Sweetie, could I please have my tea? When you have a moment. Thanks. "It really wasn't the tea but his cherished blue flowered china cup that he wanted to hold. On picnics when they were courting a dog's age ago,  Cheryl and himself had always shared tea from that same cup. A matter of sentimental reassurance that at least their world was together.

Cheryl pretended to be lost in the view from the kitchen window. Not to disturb Marvin,  she had already taken the tea cup pieces out to the garage. While strolling to the garage, she blushed at the sight of the cold frame doors wide open. She had forgotten to close them, just that once,  before last night's severe biting frost. Marvin's dear herbs were now withered to a mess of pitiful bleached scribbles on sugar powdered licorice earth. When committing the crime of hammering the cup evidence into smaller indiscretions at the garage entrance, Cheryl spied a crafty feline's tail. Hovering inside the cold frame. Likely digging war trenches into Marvin's wartorn plant battlefield. She had enough of that nuisance. Dropping the hammer, Cheryl grabbed his nine iron from the sack of clubs and went swinging wild as a whirling dervish. Intending to scare the living crap out of that annoyance. Unfortunately the club slipped from her grasp. It went careening,  scraping across his MGB sports car hood then smashing a lovely lace crack pattern over the entire windshield. Thankfully she knew that her husband didn't have any plans for today. She would tuck the car into the garage and call the auto club later to repair the damage. Doubling insult, of forgetting about the cup shrapnel and forthwith stabbing a flat tire while parking the car.

Marvin was halfway to the point of no return. Engrossed by the reportage at hand. With the article citing lack of communication for the primary reason of divorce. Although he wasn't a chatterbox, when the cards were played, Cheryl and he could always count upon real face value. At that moment without beverage, his acute senses caught a pungent whiff "What's that strange smell, Dear?"

"I suppose that's the garbage piling to overflowing under the sink again,  Sweets. If you have a chance. . . "twirped Cheryl. She couldn't bring herself to announce the passing away of Binky the budgey late last night. There was no way her hands were touching a dead beast. The repulsion almost made her choke on her last mouthful of tea. "I'm heading out of town, Dear" she blipped.

Cheryl had a full agenda. Her girlfriend Sue had agreed in a pinch to accompany Mrs. Shopper to the big city before Marvin mole emerged from his hole. They would pick up a tire, fresh nursery herbs, order a new china cup, phone the auto club and grab a bird on the way home. It would drain their bank account for the weekend. But her paycheck would top it up again on Monday. She was also supposed to sign the legalities for ownership of their new summer cottage this morning with the lawyer. But obviously plans have changed. She left a message on the solicitor's answering machine to that effect. While she was out flailing murder at the cat and Marvin was snoring oblivious,  the lawyer had returned her call. And left a message on their phone machine.

Marvin had barely noticed Cheryl's "Goodbye Honey. " from the closing back door. Promptly her car engine purred out of sight from the driveway. He shook himself away from the morning news with a stretching yawn. The divorce article had buried him into a dazed depression. Even the sunshine belting into the kitchen beared false security. Directly Marvin shaved and washed his slovenliness,  transforming him into some form of sentient state. Tromping downstairs and groping into the laundry arena. "Red socks. Red socks. Hmmm. "surmised Marvin. Nothing in the dryer. Lifting up the washer lid scrawled disaster across his face. Bloody pink silk shirts wound into a ring with red cotton socks inside. "How the heck?! "as he stomped upstairs again. While steeping himself a cup of ordinary tea in an ordinary cup Marvin glaced over at the birdcage. Shocked to see a pair of claws curled heavenward. "Oh gross! What a stench! " as Marvin reached inside and disposed of the feathered deceased. He had to get out of this damned house.

Slamming the door in frustration,  he stretched a sigh of relief outside. Walking over to his hobby herb plot Marvin nearly died. Weeks of nourishing seeds indoors. Then tenderly transplanting the shoots into the cold frame. "All for this. . . " as he swore in utter disgust. "I've had enough. . . " wailed Marvin. Maybe a round of golf would take the edge off the calamity. Raising the garage door drove his temper stratospheric. Smashed glass, his cup crushed and bent nine iron could only be remedied by a lethal stiff case of brew from the liquor store.

With empty wallet, Marvin dragged limping pessimism step by step down to the village bank. Punching in his code at the automatic teller. That was nearly followed by his fist through the screen as the machine tersely spewed back the reply of zero funds. "Ahhh! " screamed the fugutive of catastrophe. There was no alternative but to return as prisoner to the jailhouse. And serve sentence for what?!  He mulled over the details. Trying to make sense of the calamity. Were the events simply coincidence? Or were they intentional? The morning words of divorce began percolating through jumbled jello thoughts. Of what Cheryl said. Or didn't say. "Surely not that. . . " sobbed Martin.

As he pressed the button on the answering machine "Marvin!  This is your lawyer Mark!  Cheryl and I are out of town. I'm sending you the papers tomorrow. "

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