Copyright is held by the author.
ROGER RETURNED home from his law office on this Friday night happy that the work week was past. He turned up the thermostat and decided to pour himself a glass of Prosecco and sit on his living-room sofa and reflect on his current state of life. His wife would be home soon, so he decided to enjoy this moment of solitude. I’m a lucky man. I have an apartment in a historic house in Newport within walking distance to my office, I have a wonderful bride who will be home any minute now who will light-up my evening, and I have central heating. How did people ever live without central heating? Ha! With my bride, the Prosecco, and central heating, I’ll be nice and warm tonight.
The steam rumbled in the radiators. Roger closed his eyes and could see and feel the wave of heat cast from the radiator under the window that looked out to Main Street. A modern marvel central heating is! But my feet are getting cold. These pine floor boards are a curse! I’ll fix that. He set his Prosecco on the coffee table and went to the bedroom where he put on a pair of extra thick wool socks and his fur-lined moccasins. “That should do it!” he said out loud.
When back in his sofa, he let his mind wander and watched out the window for Gracie to return. It was not long before she turned onto the sidewalk and approached the front door. She’s always smiling. Roger jumped up just in time to open the door for her. He bowed slightly and swept his arm inward as she stepped across the threshold. “Welcome home, my lady.” He closed the door behind her keeping the chill of the November air outside.
“Oh! That’s a nice little surprise.”
“Why don’t you put your things away and join me on the couch? I’ll pour you some Prosecco.”
“Oh, how nice to be home.” She removed her long, red winter coat and hung it in the closet. After closing the door, she twirled around with her arms out-stretched, “How do you like the latest fashion from my shop?”
“The short skirt, my dear, becomes your long legs and the up-turned collar is but a slender frame for you warm, rosy smile.” he said, raising his wine glass in a toast to her.
“I’ll just be a sec.” She stepped into the bedroom and changed into a pair of wool slacks and a wool sweater, then joined her waiting Roger and wine on the sofa.
Ha! Always the nature girl. No shoes. No socks.
He turned his head to her and spoke in a low tone, “Brrrrr. Squeeze next to me and keep me warm.”
She kissed him on the cheek. “One more sec, I’m starved. I’ll get some cheese and crackers.” She put her wine on the coffee table, bounded up and walked across the floor into the kitchen.
How can she possibly do that? Walk across the cold pine floor and onto the bitter cold linoleum in the kitchen with nothing on her feet. She’s a marvel!
He watched her, enjoying her way and motions as she hummed a summer song in good spirit. She took the cheese from the fridge and a box of crackers from the pantry and placed them on the counter. Planting her feet on the linoleum square to the counter, she sliced the cheese into squares, and piled a handful of crackers on the plate. I can hardly watch. Her feet must be in abject pain by now.
Gracie left the kitchen and placed the crackers and cheese on the coffee table. “Have some, honey.” They settled into the couch. “Let’s stay in tonight and cuddle. It’s cold out there, and it’s been a long week. Let’s keep each other warm.”
“Sounds perfect to me,” though he thought of how her iceberg feet would feel against his legs when they went to bed for the night. Zounds! He had known her for four years now, and had noticed this little oddity before, but never gave it any thought. With the heat still rising in the apartment and the floor still bitter cold, he turned his head and asked her, “Honey, how is it that you can keep your feet on this ice-cold floor and not feel any discomfort, or pain, really?”
Inwardly, she bolted. She turned her head slightly and gave him a side-long glance, peering at him from one unblinking eye. He had not seen her do this before. I think I hit a nerve! “Just wondering, that’s all. When I came home, I put on a pair of heavy socks and my winter slippers. My feet were getting so cold.” She peered for a few seconds longer, then reached for her wine.
“I don’t know,” she said with a blasé tone. “I don’t give it any thought.”
He bit into a cracker with cheese and chewed. “I know your feet aren’t dead; they’re ticklish ones,” He said with a little smile.
“Well, I just do. That’s all.”
He wondered. If you’re in pain or great discomfort, you don’t just ignore it. You do something about it. She obviously likes it for some reason. I wonder what it is. He decided to talk to her about it some other time as this evening was moving along nicely and he didn’t want to alter its starried course. They chatted for a while longer, and when the cheese and crackers were gone and the wine bottle was empty, she went to the kitchen to make dinner. Thoroughly relaxed he watched her in her preparations, but couldn’t get his mind off of her feet on the icy linoleum.
“Do you have popsicle toes?” he blurted out.
She stopped humming and gave him another side-long glance. Her stare was chilling and all telling: Don’t ask me that again.
He read her frigid body language. I should have kept my mouth shut. But, I hit a nerve. What is it? Why is she not telling me why she wants her feet on the painfully cold floor? She has a secret! That’s it: a secret. We’re married now. No big secrets. This is going to drive me nuts. Every time I see her feet on the floor I’ll wonder what she’s holding back. Hey hey! Chill-out brother! Chill. Let it go.
The radiators grumbled. Roger still had a chill. He got up and turned the thermostat dial until he heard it click, and returned to the sofa.
In short order, Gracie called from the kitchen, “Rog, do you mind setting the table? Dinner’s about ready.”
“Okay.” He replied, happy to get his body in motion to help fight off the chill.
“Let’s eat at the kitchen table tonight, it’s warmer out here, okay?”
Gracie organized the stir-fry, rice, and salad into bowls. I’m not going to tell him. I’m not. I don’t know how he’d react. I’ve known him all this time; he’s my husband, but I think it’s best I don’t tell him.
Roger zipped around the kitchen table with great stealth and overflowing curiosity.
“Here it comes, ready or not!” She brought the dinner to the table and sat down.
Roger sat across from her. “It smells wonderful. I can’t wait to dig in.”
“Serve yourself and don’t hold back, there’s plenty.”
They served themselves and began eating. Roger was famished and forked-down a few hefty bites. He took his eyes off the stir-fry and found Gracie looking at him. She smiled. On a lark, Roger bent over sideways and looked under the table at Gracie’s bare feet, which were planted on the bitter linoleum. He bobbed up and raised his eyebrows.
Gracie wagged her head in mock disappointment.
He stared at her.
“Okay, okay, I’ll tell you. If you insist, I’ll tell you. Are you sure you want to know?”
“Yes. Please tell me. The mystery is killing me.”
“We have a good marriage; this could change things. I know you’re a forgiving man. Are you certain? Once I tell you there’s no going back. Are you sure?”
“I can handle it. Please tell me.”
“Ok. Here it is.” She said with her eyes looking down in defeat. “Well, here it is. I’ll tell you.” She stared him in the eyes, and leaning forward, said emphatically, “I am Sasquatch.”
Roger rolled his eyes. “Oy!”
“At night,” she said, glaring at his eyes, “when you’re asleep, I roam the countryside stomping my feet into the marvelous ice-crusted snow, terrorizing farmers and children, cows and chickens. So, there you have it. Now you know.”
Roger spun his head in a circle.
“Oh. Well, that solves that mystery.” Roger was humoured, but still a little annoyed, thinking that she was still keeping a secret from him, and it irked him, not really caring what the secret was, but that she was keeping a secret from him at all.
“You asked,” she said with a devilish smile.
The radiators in the kitchen and parlour clanged in unison, diverting Roger’s attention away from his annoyance.
Roger put his fork down. “Sasquatch make heap good stir-fry” Roger said, scratching his ribs, imitating an ape.
He changed tack. “If I may ask, Sasquatch, once your feet are on the linoleum for a while, does the spot where your feet are warm up?”
“I don’t notice. It’s just invigorating.”
“Invigorating?” She said “invigorating” last winter after she walked out of the house with no coat and no shoes or socks to retrieve the newspaper at the end of the sidewalk. It was snowing. She walked back into the house and stomped her feet on the mat, looking at me and my mystified expression. “Invigorating, is it?” Ha! That’s my nature girl.”
The dinner passed with light banter and much doubt. Roger doubted her motives for not telling him her secret. Alice doubted her ability to keep her secret from her husband for much longer, in which case she would lose an important domestic battle and would forfeit her personal privacy to which she believed she was entitled. He is, after all, my husband. Shouldn’t I share “everything” with him?
After dinner Roger washed the dishes, which he had come to accept as his responsibility. During this time, he allowed himself to daydream and push his worries aside. While his mind was surf-casting for flounder off of Plum Island, her cold feet on the cold linoleum blasted their way into the forefront of his thoughts.
“Arrgh!” he blurted out loud. He knew he was becoming obsessed and that the problem of her cold feet and her secret were not going to go away. I must find out. I must.
“My darling, tell me. Would you please? Just tell me. Seriously this time. Seriously. I mean seriously.”
Sitting at the end of the kitchen table, sorting the day’s mail, she looked up and peered at him with one eye.
Oy! That glare! My beautiful Alice has the eye of a lizard.
“Seriously?” She replied. He was starting to wear her down. She wanted this to end. But, not yet. Maybe I’ll wear ‘him’ down! “Okay. I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you. Do you want to sit?”
“I’ll stand. I can take it.” He said, now standing at attention at the firing line with his chest out, stomach in, and a dish towel in his hand. “Shoot!”
“Okay, here it is,” she said looking him square in the eyes, knowing he didn’t want to hear what she was about to say. “In my previous incarnation, I was a polar bear.”
Roger drooped his shoulders and blew out a puff of air. His eyebrows winced inward. The radiator pounded with a thud.
They both looked at the radiator. “It wants to let off steam, but it’s not coming out,” stated Roger in dismay.”
“It’s cast iron and tough. It can take the heat.” She said with buoyant, hopeful eyes.
“It wants to whistle.”
“It’ll whistle later.”
What does she mean by that? … Oh boy!
He returned to the kitchen sink and Plum Island and ultimately to the iron-clad secret that dogged him.
Alice was flummoxed, not wanting to give up her secret nor their cozy evening to come. She had one more idea, a desperate idea she thought, that might appease Roger, at least for now. She looked at him and then repaired to the bedroom heading toward her lingerie draw. As she stepped past the closet she saw the shoe box on the shelf that contained the slippers she bought over a year ago, but never wore. Ah ha! Maybe I can derail this crazy, unsettling situation by wearing slippers. Humm, slippers or lingerie? Slippers or lingerie? Slippers. I’ll give slippers a try. Why not? If it doesn’t work, maybe I’ll have to tell him my secret, but then if I do, I’ll be unhappy. And I’m not so sure he’ll be happy either. I’ll get us beyond this one way or another.
Begrudgingly, she put her slippers on and walked out to the kitchen where Roger was just finishing storing the dishes. She walked back and forth across the linoleum, making obvious large thumping steps to get Roger’s attention. He heard her thumps and turned to look at her. Seeing her slippers, his jaw dropped and his eyes opened wide. It took a few seconds for him to realize what he was seeing.
“Oh no! No, no, no, no, no!” I’m killing off my Nature Girl! He gathered her up in his arms. “No slippers. No slippers! Chuck ‘em. Please, no slippers.”
She looked at him wide-eyed and perplexed.
“I like your cold feet. I like you just the way you are, cold feet and all.” He knew he’d regret saying that later. Zounds! “Chuck ‘em, okay? I won’t tease you anymore.” She can keep all her secrets. They don’t matter. I trust her. I don’t want her to change.
She was surprised by his reaction, but it was too good of a deal to pass up.
“Ok. I’ll chuck ‘em.” She took them off and walked around the kitchen floor, smiling up at Roger all the while. He returned a happy smile. “I’ll put these back in the box. I’ll be right back.”
She went directly to her lingerie draw and found his favourites, and returned to the parlour where Roger was now sitting. She swayed into the room and caught his eye.
Roger stood up and whistled. He gathered her up and whispered, “It’s time to retire, my darling.” As they left the parlour, Roger cranked up the thermostat and closed the door behind them, leaving Sasquatch and the polar bear behind.
The radiators clanged and banged and whistled in roaring harmony, though Roger and Alice never heard them.