BY KYM MULDER
Copyright is held by the author.
PROPPED UP in her husband’s precious, food-encrusted, beer-saturated recliner, Krista tried hard not to breathe in through her nose as she silently cursed her husband for insisting she recuperate in his favorite chair. She’d only agreed to the plan as she was afraid that sitting in her own lovely chairs all day long might cause some damage. She had, however, insisted that she sit facing the large windows at the front of her house. At the very least, it was a comfort to know that some things in Krista’s life still managed to remain in perfect order.
Outside, every lawn was lush and immaculate, bordered with a tasteful sprinkling of pink and yellow tulips; the large maple trees, alternating red and green, lined the street and lazily swayed in the warm breeze. It was as it should be on the outside; on the inside Krista was simmering in misery. She couldn’t run her own household and couldn’t cater to her husband and children. Krista wallowed in self-pity. And then, of course, there was that itch. Krista resisted the urge to rake her nails across the fibreglass cast wrapped around the full length of her leg and instead swallowed another Percocet. No way was she giving in to that damn itch. It tortured her night and day. But one thing she could still control was to not bloody well scratch.
After all, losing control was what led to Krista’s confinement in the first place. Whose bright idea was it anyway to go waterskiing? Even in her younger years, Krista had never given into peer pressure. but fast forward to adulthood and she easily relented to the expectant pleas of her two kids, Fox, seven, and Remy, five.
“We’re at the cottage. Come on, mom. You never do anything fun,” Fox had said. Or had it been Remy? Krista’s mind was much too fogged to remember. Perhaps they’d both said it. Then again, the neighbour’s beautiful teenage daughter had just done a spiral across the water that Remy had said was the coolest trick ever. Youth wasn’t everything.
And, of course, it hadn’t been all bad. Waterskiing had been easier than she’d expected, probably because she was so devoted to her yoga practice. She’d been quick to pop up on the skis and glided effortlessly across the water. As she neared the custom ramp their neighbour had erected in the water, her kids jumped up and down waving their arms at her to do it. “Jump! Jump! Jump!” they shouted over the roar of their speed boat. And she did. It was the landing that came too quickly that snapped her one leg in two places and sprained the other.
Patting the place where the tormenting itch continued, Krista cursed her moment of weakness. It would never happen again. There was nothing she could do to make the situation better for herself. Never one to sit around, this feeling of hopelessness and insufficiency stripped away at her nerves.
“Well, I’m off to get my hair done,” Deb, her mother, said from the kitchen. “The kids have their afternoon snack and are happily playing downstairs.”
“Thanks for helping out, mom. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t come in to take over for me. I’m glad you could follow my instructions for the kid’s schedules,” Krista said, still staring at her street of 1960s side splits. It really was a beautiful place to live, but for one exception, her new playboy jerk of a neighbour next door, who was finishing mowing the lawn, shirtless. Not a bad sight, but when you’re stuck looking out the window, even Jimmy Stewart became a sleazy voyeur.
“So, Leon should be home soon?”
“Yeah, he texted me 15 minutes ago. I’ll be fine. Just remember the side door only locks if you pull it hard.”
“I never forget, dear,” Deb said, coming into the living room to kiss her daughter on the top of her head before leaving.
“Oh, come on,” Krista said, trying hard to restrain the anger that had been boiling up inside of her since the day the playboy had moved in.
“It’s our neighbour’s whore of a girlfriend.” Wishing she could move back away from the window a touch, Krista couldn’t help but watch the perky 20-something leap into the sweaty neighbour’s bare chest and start making out for all to see. The playboy swung the girl around and squeezed her bouncy butt, surely leaving a nasty bruise. Krista had never been carried away by such lust. Her eyes were glued to the couple as he tugged at the hem of the whore’s tank top, pulling it up to reveal a flat, taught stomach. As he ran his hands over the exposed skin, Krista felt a twinge of excitement and revulsion at the same time.
“That’s quite the show,” said Deb. “Good for him.”
“No, Mother. That’s not the problem.” Dragging her eyes away from the fleeing lovers, Krista ignored the itch that seemed to have expanded its territory. “Look at that,” she said, pointing out the window at the garish nightmare before them.
Parked right in Krista’s view, in front of her house was a zombie of a car. At one point it had probably been a Chevy Cavalier, but in its present incarnation, it was Frankenstein, rebuilt over and over again with different car parts, colours, and a strange half-hard, half-soft roof. Rust outlined the car where bits of metal had been welded together, flaking like infected scars, and the windows were either permanently down or simply missing.
“Well, that’s not a pretty picture.”
“It’s a total junker and it’s wasting away, shedding metal slivers on my lawn.”
“Now, now,” Deb said, patting her daughter’s shoulder. “It’s not like you to be so quick to anger. You haven’t been yourself since the accident. I’m sure the car won’t be there for long.”
“Are you kidding me? That piece of crap is going to stay there wasting away all weekend. One day I’m going to snap and leave a note on her windshield saying, ‘Move your car, asshole.’”
“Calm down, dear.” Deb kissed Krista’s head once more. “Why don’t you wait till you’re better and confront her?”
Krista rolled her eyes. Her mother had no sense of decorum.
As Deb started to leave, she heard a sweet voice behind her. “Bye, bye, Grandma.”
Remy ran up to her Grandma and gave her a big hug and kiss. Krista, once again, cursed under her breath. The last thing she needed was her daughter to start swearing all because she hadn’t kept it together.
Deb left, going out the side door, and Remy sat down on the edge of the chair, which teetered and squeaked in agony. Krista pulled out her phone and handed it to her Daughter who promptly ran off to play some app she liked.
Only one week and then Krista would be able to put some weight on her legs. In the meantime, there was neighbour watching, now disrupted by the return of the ugly beater out front. Irritated, Krista nervously scratched at the cast imagining what it would be like to really have a go at the skin on her leg.
Out of nowhere, the sound of birds chirping and the smell of freshly mown grass caught Krista off guard. It could mean only one thing: the side door was open.
Outside two little legs skipped around the front lawn picking up a ball, some scattered pavement chalk, and a bike helmet, all of which Krista had asked her husband to bring back into the house last night, but with so many instructions laid out, this too had been forgotten. Remy threw the ball and helmet at the garage door and danced her way down to the junky car.
“Oh, no, no, no,” said Krista. “She couldn’t possibly!”
In huge, blue, block letters Remy wrote: “MOVE CAR ASS HOLE.” Then at the end, she added a smiley face, her favourite thing to draw.
“Crap,” Krista said, shifting her body’s weight and losing her breath as the pain hit her hard, like a bug against the windshield. “Fox!” she hollered. “Get up here right now.”
Krista beat her head back into the old armchair like a snare drum. If her mother had closed the door right, or Krista hadn’t mentioned the car, or even better, had she never broken her legs, than her daughter would not have written her first sentence on the side of that car.
“Whoa, what’s wrong, Mom?” Fox asked, still holding the controller to his game system.
“Your sister is outside and she wrote on the side of our neighbour’s girlfriend’s car.”
“Pamela’s car? She’s really nice.”
“Right, I’m sure she’s just peachy. I need you to fetch your sister and clean the chalk off the car. Can you do that for me?”
“Sure, but I want an extra slice of pie tonight,” he said, finally putting down the controller.
“Whatever you want, buddy, just help your old mom out.”
Fox was quick to send his sister back into the house. By now, Krista desperately wanted to see her husband drive up the street. She would give him a call him, but she had no idea where Remy had deposited her cell phone.
As Krista was about to call out for her daughter, she noticed her son was pulling out the hose from the side of the house. Krista practically slapped her own face in disbelief as her son worked to spray the foul words off the car, missing half the time sending a geyser of water into the interior of the junker. Hadn’t he noticed the crap car lacked windows?
Krista stifled a small scream. Using the armrests of the recliner, she tried to raise herself up to get a better view of the catastrophe taking place. All the while she did her best to ignore the pain. Beneath her, the chair shook and rattled so much she quickly lowered herself back down.
“Remy! Quick, go get something to dry off our neighbour’s car. Now, please. Where are you, Remy? Outside now.”
Fairy light footsteps hopped out the door as Remy headed toward the front yard to help her bother. A trail of cottony soft paper fluttered like ribbon behind her as she went.
“Toilet paper,” Krista said in disbelief. “Have I taught these kids nothing?”
Krista could only sit and watch in complete horror as her two kids laughed as they toilet papered the whole car. Craning her neck as much as possible, Krista struggled to evaluate the damage. The car was wet, covered in soggy squares of paper, and the chalk had etched the words permanently into the doors. Stupid cheap chipping car paint, she lamented.
“Get back in this house right now,” Krista yelled, hoping they could hear her. “I mean it, or no TV, internet, or phone for the rest of your lives.”
Perhaps unable to hear her, but more likely ignoring her, Fox and Remy lost interest in the car and decided to squirt each other with the hose. They ran all over the yard and after a time, covered in mud and grass, they turned their attention to the backyard where Krista could only guess they’d be jumping on the trampoline.
Suddenly, a piercing scream broke the sound of children’s laughter and spooked a family of birds into taking flight. Pamela ran toward her car pulling her shirt back over her head and zipping up her shorts. She jerked the passenger side door open and a small waterfall cascaded onto the road. Something on the ground near the car caught Pamela’s eye. It was small enough to fit in her hand and Krista fought against the pain darting through her body to waver on the edge of the chair. The sun caught the object and a flash of light reflected back toward Krista.
The surprise caught her off balance and she tumbled to the floor. The chair sagged and groaned like an old man letting off gas before it rolled right over on top of her. She cried out from the sheer agony of broken bone rubbing upon broken bone. She bit her tongue over the pain tearing through her legs, up her back, and into her brain. When her mind finally fought through the fog, she looked up only to see a seething 20-something staring down at her.
“I found your phone,” perky Pamela said, her voice constricted, feigning control.
“Can’t be, Remy has mine,” moaned Krista, still trying to cope with excruciating pain.
Pamela pressed the ‘on’ button and a picture of Krista’s two kids came up as the phone’s wall paper. And, as luck would have it, Fox and Remy came running into the house, wet and dirty with bits of toilet paper sticking to their clothes and hair.
“What do you have to say about this?” Pamela said, nearly screaming.
Krista looked at her two red-faced, scruffy children. They were smiling and proud of themselves. They were definitely in trouble, but Krista couldn’t help but chuckle. Her kids were remarkable and rather inventive too. Fox and Remy weren’t following the rules, but look how much fun they’d had. Ultimately, her kids had done what she’d only dreamed of.
“Well,” said Krista, as she exhaled letting all her anger and frustration vanish, “I’ll have to talk with Remy’s pre-school teacher. Asshole’s a compound word.”
“Oh, and can you take a picture for me? It’s Remy’s first sentence.”
Pamela chucked the phone at Krista and stormed out the side door, nearly colliding with Krista’s husband. When he saw her laughing on the floor and trapped under his chair, he ran over to help her back up.
“What’s going on?” he said, a wide smile spread across his face as he took in his messy children and the destroyed car outside.
“Nothing worth mentioning. The kids were just helping me scratch an itch.”