Bob’s Brain [Repost]

Prompt: Ready

burning_book-t2

“I know I could probably do better than you, physically speaking,” Bob said. “We all have  our levels of attractiveness, and it’s funny that we rarely stray, either up or down, from those levels.”

So, Envy thought, could this be why such a presentable, almost handsome young man was never in a lasting relationship? He was a tall man, strong, broad in the shoulders and wide in stance, like a football player, with a fair complexion and neatly trimmed chocolate brown hair. His manner was open and friendly— always smiling, as he was now, with wonderful, traditional manners. He liked to open doors, take the curb side when walking, pay the tabs, bring a rose or a bottle of rosé when he picked up a lady for a date.

But he seemed to have no filter. Was that a result of indulgent parenting? Cluelessness? A disinclination towards self-examination? Maybe no one had ever called him on his proclivity for unnecessary truth-telling.

“Excuse me?” said Envy. They had stopped at a neighbourhood pub, halfway between the stadium and the car, on their way home. It was extremely dark, not as crowded as it should be, and the bartender seemed to be hoarding ice. Envy’s gin and tonic was flat and warm.

“Oh, don’t take it the wrong way,” said Bob.

“How should I take it?”

Bob leaned over and kissed Envy on the cheek. She pulled away. He said, “It can’t be a huge surprise to you, Envy. I met your sister-in-law. She is a model. You are not a model. It’s not a big deal, why do you mind?”

“If you think you can do better than me, physically, I think you should,” said Envy. Of course it was no surprise to her. She was distinctly un-beautiful: her eyes and nose and mouth were placed as if God had randomly thrown these features from a distance onto her face. She tended to have very sensitive skin, so it was rarely smooth and without blemish. She would never be taller, and, she suspected, would never be thinner.

When he’d picked her up at her new condo that evening, she was ready, coat in hand. She took the bottle of rosé and set in on top of a large cardboard carton. The hallway and living room were still stacked with boxes waiting to be unpacked. Bob peered in. “Bit of a hoarder, are we?” he said. She took that remark, and so many others, as if it was a joke. But no, it was not a random joke, it was just Bob’s brain spewing out unfiltered comments like a leaky faucet.

Well, this time it hurt.

“That was a hurtful remark,” Envy said. Bob started to order her another gin and tonic but she put her hand over his and shook her head. “I’d like to go home.”

“You could tell me I have a big nose, I wouldn’t be hurt if it was true,” Bob said, and then, as if he realized the weakness of the analogy, he made the mistake of expanding. “I just believe in honesty. I don’t lie, Envy. It’s not my style. I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings. I wouldn’t be hurt if you said something I thought was negative, because if I am honest I have to expect honesty in return.”

“I am telling you something negative. You say hurtful things and don’t care. You don’t have to share your every passing thought, especially when it is hurtful. Of course I know I’m not beautiful. We ugly ones are the smart ones, remember? Sometimes, crazy as it sounds, I don’t need to be reminded about the fact that I’m not pretty, like when I’m out on a date.”

Bob had the grace to look surprised. “But you are pretty.”

“But you could do so much better.” Envy stood up and put her coat on. Instinctively, Bob helped guide her arms into the sleeves.

“Not so much better,” said Bob, unadvisedly. “I mean—“

“Just take me home, Bob,” Envy said, sighing.

They walked the rest of the way to the car without speaking. This seemed to be the pattern for all her attempts at relationships, since Marcus. A conflict, then silence, then the last chapter finished and the book closed. And burned.

But as Bob started the car, he turned to her and said, “I’ve wanted to kiss you and touch you since I first laid eyes on you. I said the wrong thing. Here’s the right thing: you are not a model, but are the sexiest woman I have ever met. Will you come back to my house and allow me to make love to you?”

Envy stared back at him. She couldn’t help but wonder: Did he finally understand that the truth is not always expedient?

Was he telling the truth now?


  • Original Prompt: Lukewarm, February 12, 2017.
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Rash Decisions

Prompt: Home

Colorbock-Wide-Brim-Summer-Hat-Boardwalk-Style

“But I just started moving in here!” cried Envy. She removed her hat in a dramatic gesture and flung it across the room. It was straw and had a floppy brim and soared like a frisbee, landing gracefully on a stack of unopened cardboard packing boxes.

They’d spent the day at Spanish Beach, lounging and cuddling and eating the picnic Bob had prepared and transported in an old-fashioned basket, where the plates, wine glasses, cutlery and other accoutrements all had their special storage places. He’d made, of course, fried chicken and potato salad. Envy’s contribution was a cold bottle of rosé.

Envy’s skin burned easily. She found hats uncomfortable, but she needed to wear one in sunny weather even as they sat in the shade. Now, that hat had found another use.

Drama.

Bob purported to hate drama. But, Envy found, all drama-creators hated the drama they created.

“And it’s a pretty nice apartment,” said Bob, strangely calm in the face of Envy’s outburst. “I like the big windows and the balcony. Nice crown moulding. What’d you pay for this place again?”

Envy gritted her teeth. Ok, they were engaged now, but she hadn’t ever told Bob what she paid for the condo. He continued to open his mouth and spit out whatever was closest, no matter how intrusive or bad mannered it was. Well, she could be radically honest too.

“I never told you what I paid. And I don’t intend to.”

Bob shrugged. He always said he wouldn’t be radically honest to others if he couldn’t take it himself. Envy didn’t know if that was true or whether that shrug was a carefully crafted and honed reaction that hid outrage or hurt.

She sighed heavily. “I don’t want to move into your house. I don’t like the location. It’s suburban, miles from everything.”

“There’s that giant park next door, the outlet mall is only a five minute drive, and there’s a satellite college campus—“

“Whatever ,” said Envy unpleasantly, wondering absently when had been the last time she’d been so rude.

“It’s not like you to be so abrupt,” said Bob.

“We’ve had this conversation. I don’t want to move, I haven’t even moved in here.”

“You’ve been living out of cardboard boxes for six months. I took that as a sign of your reluctance to settle in here.”

“I don’t need your amateur psychology, Bob.”

“I’m glad we’re having this conversation,” said Bob.

Envy stifled a scream.

Why hadn’t she unpacked properly though? This was the apartment of her dreams, light, bright, with high ceilings and polished wood floors, plenty of wall space for her art— yet none of it unpacked.

And what was the real reason she didn’t want to move in with Bob at his suburban but otherwise charming Victorian reno home right beside the park with the rose garden, which she adored and remembered visiting as a child? Bob even wanted to get married there.

Envy said, “I’m not ready to move.”

Bob nodded. “Not ready to move on, you mean. From Marcus. From all that.”

She thought of the last time she saw Marcus. In prison, when her leg was still in a cast, and he didn’t even have a lawyer. She got him one, and he pleaded guilty to the arson but not to the attempted murder.

That was love. That was passion. That was simpatico, trust, joy, heart-stopping sex, loyalty, even fealty. It was impossible to pinpoint the day when their connection began to erode. If there ever truly was a connection. If.

She was twisting the ruby engagement ring round and round her finger. She and Bob noticed this gesture at the same moment.

“No rash decisions,” he said.

“No rash decisions,” said Envy.

Be Honest

Prompt: Agile


Hello Wednesday,

My physiotherapist— treating Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome in my knee, which is much less serious than it sounds— is named Jonathan, and he gives me a series of simple exercises to do each day as “homework”. Just some stretching, bending, balancing, partial squats; but do you think it’s easy for me to keep up the routine? Maybe the issue is calling it homework. Years and years of serious strategizing to avoid all school work but especially the home kind have left me stubborn and resistant. And unlike school work, I can’t suddenly cram all my homework into one session on the Thursday night before my Friday appointment.

So in the interest of impressing Jonathan with improvements in my strength, flexibility, and balance, allow me to leave you with this small collection of favourite yet extremely tangentially agile-themed cartoons, while I go off and twist a few body parts:

cartoon pamplona bull

cartoon gym improv

cartoon blob no exercise


To your good health and flexibility…

~~FP

 

Rescue

Prompt: Zip

dog rescue nepal

“So, you’re the parents,” said Bob.

Envy tensed involuntarily. God, Bob, please don’t. We had a talk about your Radical Honesty. Please zip it this one time. Don’t tell my parents what I’ve said about them. Please please.

“Yes,” said Envy’s mother. “We are Envy’s biological parents.” Edwina Applegate was small and energetic, with grey-streaked smokey hair pulled back into a loose bun at the nape of her neck. She wore a very expensive red sheath, that hung upon her spare frame in a perfect, flattering drape. The “biological parents” remark was meant to be amusing. Actually, Envy did smother a tiny smile at her mother’s refusal to take the bait that Bob seemed to be offering, but on the other hand she felt the sting of her mother’s words too, because they implied what Envy knew to be true: that she was a disappointment to them. No one envied her beauty, and no one envied the wealth that her ex-husband had mostly squandered.

“I’ve heard a lot about you,” Bob said, honestly, taking her father’s outstretched hand and finding the grip rather overdone, as if Mr Applegate was making a point. He was a big man, his sturdy stoutness disguised by a loose, charcoal-covered sports jacket and an open shirt. He had a healthy crop of light brown hair, probably tinted since there was no grey at all.

While they enjoyed cocktails before dinner, Envy was careful to keep the topics of conversation neutral, knowing Bob’s honest opinion on the wet spring, the number of potholes in suburban and rural roads, and the dearth of fuel efficient cars outside of Europe would not cause offence to anyone.

“I take it Cash and Virginia and the baby aren’t joining us for dinner,” said Envy. She took a sip of her Bloody Mary, suddenly wishing it was bloodier (more alcoholic) and suppressed a sigh.

“Echo has colic,” said Edwina. “And you know your brother.”

“He’s becoming quite the doting mother,” said Darwin Applegate.

Bob’s honesty extended to his facial expressions. He looked surprised.

Envy said quickly, “There’s nothing wrong with Cash loving his baby daughter.”

“I bet you wish you’d had more time to spend with your kids, Mr Applegate,” said Bob. “You know, up-and-coming millionaire and all.”

This was met with an uncomprehending silence, until Envy coughed and said, “Bob trains dogs who rescue people from earthquakes.”

“Like when buildings collapse?” asked Edwina, an unwitting ally.

“Exactly like that,” said Envy.

“Do you personally supervise the excavations?” asked Darwin.

“No,” said Bob. “I just train the dogs.”

“Oh,” said Darwin.

They took their seats in the smaller family dining room. The table cloth was a white embroidered coffee-coloured sateen, with fresh-picked violets packed into three tiny vases set evenly spaced upon the table. They would wilt within a few hours.

A server brought in their dinner, platter by platter; each of them were casually passed around the table. Steak, roasted vegetables, truffled mushrooms.

Envy put her hand in her lap and glanced at her watch. Oh god. Seriously? We’ve only been her forty-five minutes? She looked around the table. No one was smiling. It could be worse, surely?

“This chimichurri is outstanding,” said Bob, making an effort.

“Thank you,” said Edwina. “Our cook, Connie, is from Peru.”

“Legally?” asked Bob.

Envy discreetly reached under the table, put her hand on Bob’s thigh, and squeezed. It was a warning and a plea. Bob took it as encouragement. He put his hand on hers and squeezed back.

“Just what do you mean by that, Bob?” asked Darwin, his voice disturbingly neutral in tone.

“Well I hear a lot of servants are in the country illegally, I mean it is commonplace. Probably all your friends do it too.”

“Connie was hired via a respectable agency,” said Edwina.

“Ah,” said Bob. “Good on you, then.” He lifted his wine glass in a toast, and emptied it in one gulp. He turned to Envy and smiled. His expression was, See? Not so bad after all, right?

Pretty bad, Envy’s eyes told him. She wasn’t sure if he got the message, because as the server was refilling his wine glass, Bob was staring at her mother. Then a quick glance at her father, and back to Edwina again. Woman past her prime. Rich old bigot who dyes his hair.

An odd kind of group telepathy seemed to occur. Edwina looked up and caught his Bob’s eye. Darwin looked at them both. No one looked at Envy. In a flash she knew what Bob was thinking. Don’t say it Don’t say it Don’t say it.

“I believe in family values,” said Darwin abruptly. He knew what this fucking young and ignorant man was thinking, oh yes he did.

“In my experience, family values people are the first ones to cheat on their, uh, spouses,” said Bob. He cut a roasted carrot into tiny pieces. “You know those bible thumper types, always being caught with their pants down.”

“That’s ridiculous,” said Darwin. “We believe in Jesus Christ in this household, and the Church believes in the family above all else.”

“Catholic, right?” asked Bob.

“We are Catholic, yes,” said Envy. Jesus God, if you’re there, help!

“‘We’?” said Bob.

Oops. She hadn’t told Bob that she’d returned to the church after Marcos tried to kill her. Was that an important ommission?

She stood up. “We have to go,” she said.

“Sit down, Envy,” said her father.

“No, we really do. We have tickets,” Envy said. “Bob?”

“If they have tickets, Darwin…” her mother said, the colour starting to return to her face.

Bob stood up. Someone fetched their jackets. Bob didn’t speak again until he said, “It was sure interesting meeting you both,” as they shook hands in parting.

Her parents, not being honesty radicals, were silent.

Bob’s Brain

Prompt: Lukewarm

burning_book-t2

“I know I could probably do better than you, physically speaking,” Bob said. “We all have  our levels of attractiveness, and it’s funny that we rarely stray, either up or down, from those levels.”

So, Envy thought, could this be why such a presentable, almost handsome young man was never in a lasting relationship? He was a tall man, strong, broad in the shoulders and wide in stance, like a football player, with a fair complexion and neatly trimmed chocolate brown hair. His manner was open and friendly— always smiling, as he was now, with wonderful, traditional manners. He liked to open doors, take the curb side when walking, pay the tabs, bring a rose or a bottle of rosé when he picked up a lady for a date.

But he seemed to have no filter. Was that a result of indulgent parenting? Cluelessness? A disinclination towards self-examination? Maybe no one had ever called him on his proclivity for unnecessary truth-telling.

“Excuse me?” said Envy. They had stopped at a neighbourhood pub, halfway between the stadium and the car, on their way home. It was extremely dark, not as crowded as it should be, and the bartender seemed to be hoarding ice. Envy’s gin and tonic was flat and warm.

“Oh, don’t take it the wrong way,” said Bob.

“How should I take it?”

Bob leaned over and kissed Envy on the cheek. She pulled away. He said, “It can’t be a huge surprise to you, Envy. I met your sister-in-law. She is a model. You are not a model. It’s not a big deal, why do you mind?”

“If you think you can do better than me, physically, I think you should,” said Envy. Of course it was no surprise to her. She was distinctly un-beautiful: her eyes and nose and mouth were placed as if God had randomly thrown these features from a distance onto her face. She tended to have very sensitive skin, so it was rarely smooth and without blemish. She would never be taller, and, she suspected, would never be thinner.

When he’d picked her up at her new condo that evening, she was ready, coat in hand. She took the bottle of rosé and set in on top of a large cardboard carton. The hallway and living room were still stacked with boxes waiting to be unpacked. Bob peered in. “Bit of a hoarder, are we?” he said. She took that remark, and so many others, as if it was a joke. But no, it was not a random joke, it was just Bob’s brain spewing out unfiltered comments like a leaky faucet.

Well, this time it hurt.

“That was a hurtful remark,” Envy said. Bob started to order her another gin and tonic but she put her hand over his and shook her head. “I’d like to go home.”

“You could tell me I have a big nose, I wouldn’t be hurt if it was true,” Bob said, and then, as if he realized the weakness of the analogy, her made the mistake of expanding. “I just believe in honesty. I don’t lie, Envy. It’s not my style. I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings. I wouldn’t be hurt if you said something I thought was negative, because if I am honest I have to expect honesty in return.”

“I am telling you something negative. You say hurtful things and don’t care. You don’t have to share your every passing thought, especially when it is hurtful. Of course I know I’m not beautiful. We ugly ones are the smart ones, remember? Sometimes, crazy as it sounds, I don’t need to be reminded about the fact that I’m not pretty, like when I’m out on a date.”

Bob had the grace to look surprised. “But you are pretty.”

“But you could do so much better.” Envy stood up and put her coat on. Instinctively, Bob helped guide her arms into the sleeves.

“Not so much better,” said Bob, unadvisedly. “I mean—“

“Just take me home, Bob,” Envy said, sighing.

They walked the rest of the way to the car without speaking. This seemed to be the pattern for all her attempts at relationships, since Marcus. A conflict, then silence, then the last chapter finished and the book closed. And burned.

But as Bob started the car, he turned to her and said, “I’ve wanted to kiss you and touch you since I first laid eyes on you. I said the wrong thing. Here’s the right thing: you are not a model, but are the sexiest woman I have ever met. Will you come back to my house and allow me to make love to you?”

Envy stared back at him. She couldn’t help but wonder: Did he finally understand that the truth is not always expedient?

Was he telling the truth now?