PRESENT TENSE (Me Moria)

 

        Danny awoke angry. In the weekly motel he had not slept well and he did not have the rent. It was Sunday morning but today his favorite preacher would not be on TV.

        The smiling talking news head had said, “The Reverend O. L. Duck bumped his head on the limousine door and later collapsed inside the exclusive restaurant. His condition is listed as guarded.”

        Tomorrow Danny’s boss was cutting Danny’s salary by fifty cents an hour. “To prevent layoffs,” reasoned his boss just before his boss departed with the family for a trip to Las Vegas.

        Danny had not shaved or showered yesterday. He now faced the mirror and brushed his snarled hair. He smeared cold water on his forehead with a facecloth. He glared at his reflection. It glared back with angry bewildered eyes from a pale puffy face.

        “Fuck, I’m dying. I fucking hate this life.”

        Claudette was still asleep.

        “It’s fucking eleven o’clock!” snarled Danny.

        Claudette remained undisturbed. She remained undisturbed about almost everything that made Danny smolder.

        “I guess I get to go tell the fucking manager that I don’t have all of the rent. Shit. Fuck this. Thanks, God. Why do I fucking give a shit?”

        Claudette suddenly arose from the bed, silently, and shuffled to the window. She peeked through the draperies.

        “It’s an overcast day,” she observed softly.

        Danny did not look her in the eye. He was glad that he had not lost his temper again. He was glad that he had waited that extra five minutes. If he could always wait five more minutes, not “count to ten”, but wait five minutes more, things could work-out; he wouldn’t always have to fight.

        Claudette poured milk for the cats. She brushed her teeth. To Danny she moved like an angel within her own time. Claudette had a world all her own.

        Claudette could charm the manager into taking a partial rent payment.

        Danny was scared. The less he cared, the less he did, the better things seemed to be. It made him think about God again.

        “God, what fucking good am I?”

        Claudette made coffee and counted the money.

        “Did you hide away any money?” asked Claudette.

        “I have two dollars,” grumbled Danny.

        “Hey, the sun’s coming out,” said Claudette, as the cats parted the draperies to peer outside.

        Coins clinked, clinked, jingled, and jangled like tiny bells as Claudette sorted a palm full of change.

        “Do you want a sandwich in a minute?” asked Claudette.

        Danny answered “Yeah,” as he tried to remember what was left to eat in the food drawer.

        The cats looked out into the world beyond the parted draperies and calmly contemplated the motion and noise. They watched a thin gnarly man who could have been young (who could have been old) stiffly pushing a shopping cart toward the trash dumpster.

        “How do I look?” asked Claudette as she stood before the door. She had brushed her long blonde hair and she had pulled on her lavender sweater with the embroidered heart.

        “Good”, answered Danny. “Your face even has a good color.”

        Claudette went outside to the manager’s office. Danny re-lit a dwindling Avanti cigar butt.

        Danny thought to himself, “That’s one good thing about these Italian cheroots: they last and they still taste OK.”

        Claudette returned after only a few minutes, smiling.

        “No problem?” asked Danny as he held the door open.

        “No”, she said. And she added with a whisper, “He said that rates were going down next week. Back to winter rates.”

        “Hal-a-fucking-loo-yah!” cried Danny, rolling his head back and giving praise to the ceiling. Danny blew a big fart; a fanny-fare of trumpeting release.

        “Why do you always ‘say’ the same thing?” said Claudette with disgust.

        “This is different”, laughed Danny. “Something, one fucking thing, is finally going our way.”

        Claudette went to the top dresser drawer and withdrew a half loaf of Health Nut bread, four slices of cheese-substitute individually wrapped in clear plastic squares, a bag of Eagle potato chips half empty and folded, a small Roma tomato, and half a green chili pepper.

        “The mayo is in the ice bucket,” said Claudette as she handed Danny a paper plate, half a paper towel, and a blue-handled bread knife.

        They sat together on the bed and made their brunch.

        On TV was a news story about young adults going to a summer camp in Oregon where they learn Chinese social customs.

        “Fucking bullshit!” spluttered Danny.

        The TV interviewer asked a boy why he was at this summer camp, why he was learning Chinese culture, and the boy replied, “If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em.”

.

        “See?” squeals Danny. “Instead of going to a camp to learn math or geography or design, these fucking millennial brats are learning how to kiss butt!”

        “No so loud,” hisses Claudette, looking toward the draperies.

        Danny thinks to himself, “I must be waking up. I’ve switched to present tense.”

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