Sandwiches

short fiction from Barstow & Grand

Ryan Purdy

About Barstow & Grand ...

Ryan Purdy’s “Sandwiches” was selected from the pages of Barstow & Grand – the Chippewa Valley’s newest literary magazine. With its first issue released in October this year, the annual publication exclusively features fiction, poetry, and nonfiction from writers with a connection to the region. Barstow & Grand’s first issue was made possible with support from the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild, the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center, and Volume One. Submissions for issue two of Barstow & Grand will open in March of 2018. The first edition is available at The Local Store. Learn more at barstowandgrand.com.

Lucy had just fallen asleep when her ears picked up the unmistakable din of her husband and Rick caterwauling up the drive. Despite the late hour, the two belted out the Willie and Waylon tune, "I Can Get Off on You," her husband singing Waylon's baritone, and Rick taking Willie's tenor.

She'd known her husband would be out late tonight, but hadn't counted on how late, nor that he'd be bringing guests home.

Weekend mornings, Lucy expected to find someone sleeping it off on their couch, but this was a Wednesday night, Thursday morning really, and she needed to be up in a couple hours to get ready for work. Exasperation settled over her, familiar as an old blanket.

Not a comfortable blanket, though.

One of those itchy afghans that never seemed to serve any purpose other than decorating the backs of furniture. It can be acclimated to, but that doesn't mean it's appreciated.

Though she loved her husband, Lucy found that during times like these, which were becoming more frequent, she didn't like him much.

Her shepherd-mutt Reggie, lying next to her side of the bed, issued a low growl, and she reached down a hand to scratch the back of his neck. "It's okay, Reg. Just dad." The growling stopped, replaced by the steady thump of his tail against the bedside table.

The front door crashed open amidst a storm of giggling as the two drunks slurred their way through forgotten lyrics. Living room furniture, the couch and her chair, creaked and groaned in protest beneath sopping men. Lucy clenched her teeth, clamping back the urge to storm out there, to tell them to shut the hell up. But her husband's drinking temperament, which could change from jovial to angry over the slightest perceived offense, kept her in bed.

Their voices carried back down the hallway, to the bedroom, and through the closed door. Her husband was scolding Rick.

"Shhh, b'quiet."

"Wha'?"

"I said, 'b'quiet. You'll wake up myol'lady."

"Oh, right. Sorry."

"S'okay."

"Yer th' best, Anderson. I love you, man. Yer th' goddamned best."

For reasons Lucy never understood, Rick always called her husband by his last name. She never called her girlfriends by their last names. Must be a guy thing.

"Aw shit, Rick. Yer th' best. Thanks."

"Got anything t'drink?"

"S'beer in the fridge. I'll get it."

Her husband clomped into the kitchen, his boot heels pounding on the linoleum like he'd break through the floor, and she heard the fridge open then slam shut. The beers cracked open and thunked together.

"Anderson?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm hungry. D'you think yer ol'lady could make us some sandwiches?"

"Sure, sure, sure. I'll go wake 'er up."

Lucy rolled over, turning her back to the door, and pulled the blanket up past her shoulders, creating a shield. She scrunched her eyes closed as hard as she could, willing herself to appear more asleep so that he might leave her alone. The bedroom door eased open, spilling a growing margin of soft, yellow light across the room. While her husband stood in the doorway letting the light eat the darkness, Reggie got up to greet him.

"Hey, Reg, you ol' mutt." Reggie's tale slapped against the bed now. "Alright now, get outtahere." Reggie's nails clicked as he trotted toward the living room. Lucy burrowed  further below the covers. Her husband leaned on his side of the bed and she contracted her stomach muscles, fighting against the gravity threatening to roll her toward the middle. His heavy hand flopped on her shoulder and shook her.

"Luce?"

She made a well-rehearsed move away from his hand, just enough to mimic the way a sleeper might react to movement or bright lights.

He shook her shoulder harder. "Lucy, you 'wake?" When she didn't respond, he jostled her harder still and called her by her teasing name. "C'mon, Eth-el. Get up, hon."

She'd been named after the red-headed protagonist on I Love Lucy, so to be called Ethel, even in jest, felt like a slight. Her husband knew this.

Lucy listened past her husband, picking up Rick's living room stumbles. She could hear him tinkering with the stereo. The needle dropped and the instigators of the evening burst forth from the floor speakers, warning mothers to avoid letting their boys grow up to be cowboys. She abandoned her ruse, sitting up and letting the blankets fall around her. She turned to face her husband. A lopsided grin peered forth from a beard. She wished he'd shave.

"Dammit, Jake. I have work in the morning."

"Aw, c'mon honey, don'be mad."

"I'm serious." She threw a glance at the clock. "I have to be up in three hours."

"I know. I know. 'M sorry, okay?"

"No you're not."

"I am too. Don't you try t'tell me what I am or not."

His hand, a hardened product of construction, shot from the darkness, and snatched her arm. She could feel the cruel fingers dig into the meat between her muscles, and knew the handprint'd be there in the morning, a purple and  blue souvenir from a trip she'd wanted to end. She relaxed her arm. To struggle meant trouble.

"Okay, Jake. You're right." She softened her tone. "Could you try to keep it down?"

He let go of her arm, and she began rubbing life back into the tissue. She tried to picture what colors the flowers would be tomorrow, if he remembered.

"Sure, sure. Keep it down. I'll tell Rick."

"Thanks." She started to lie down, to hide underneath the covers. "Send Reg in please."

"I will. But, baby?"

"What is it, Jake?"

"Couldja fix us up a coupl'a sandwiches?"

"Jake!"

"Shhh!" He shoved his index finger against his lips. "Keep it down, wouldja?" She watched him scrunch up his face as he listened to see if Rick had heard them. "Please, Lucy, just a coupl'a sandwiches. Nothing fancy."

Sleep beckoned and a dull heat grew in the center of her chest, but if she didn't make them something to eat, they might drive into the night foraging for provisions. She didn't want them in the house, but couldn't let them leave in their condition. They'd already rolled the dice once driving here. Plus, two sandwiches in their bellies would soak up the booze, and soon enough they'd pass out.

Donning a lavender bath robe to cover her nightgown, Lucy slipped past Jake, and padded softly down the hallway, attempting to avoid Rick. Just as she stepped into the kitchen, she heard Reggie padding after her. Rick turned and caught sight.

"Hey, Lucy, how're ya, hon?"

"Tired."

"Oh yeah? What're ya doing up?"

"Making sandwiches."

"Shit, darlin'. Thanks."

"Uh huh. Sit down. I'll bring 'em out when they're done." While she put the sandwiches together, she listened to her husband and his friend bullshit in the living room, while the stereo played on. When she plopped the sandwiches down in front of them, Lucy counted six beers between the two men. Sleep would soon overtake them both.

With red, watery eyes, Jake smiled up at her. "Thanks, Lucy. Love ya, babe," and Rick echoed the sentiment around a mouthful of ham n' cheese. "Yeah, hon, you're th'best." She nodded once, then escaped to the kitchen.

With Reggie curled by her feet, Lucy sat at the table smoking Virginia Slim 100's, sipping a glass of Cooks poured from a leftover fridge bottle, until the only sounds coming from the living room were open-mouthed, chainsaw snores and a record needle skipping along the inner groove of the LP. Lucy stubbed out the cigarette she was working on and then, with Reggie in tow, began putting the house to sleep--turning off the stereo, rinsing and tossing the empty beer cans, and clearing the dishes.

Pausing in the living room, her hand on the lamp switch, Lucy looked down at the her husband and his friend. They'd succumbed to sleep sitting up on the couch, and Jake's head now rested on Rick's shoulder. She pulled an afghan out from under the two men and covered them up, then switched out the light, and walked down the hall to her bedroom.

She dressed quickly, pulling on jeans, a blouse, and her shoes, before going to the hallway closet. She moved the boxes of holiday decorations, exposing the stack of unused luggage she and Jake'd received as a wedding gift. She shifted her suitcase from the middle of the stack. As the case slipped free, the top two snapped down, and Lucy froze like a rabbit winding a hound. She listened hard over the thump of her heart, and only relaxed when she marked two separate snores. She hefted the suitcase she'd packed the last time he got shitty. 

"C'mon, Reg," Lucy said, patting her thigh.  The mutt whined softly and hurried to her side.

At the front door, Lucy fought the urge to turn back, and slipped out, easing the splintered and battered piece of wood shut behind her.

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