27 June 2005


Todd and Sheila went inside for their 8 o’clock reservation at a local Japanese Steakhouse. They sat at the table around the large grill and sipped plum wine while the hostess took their orders. Sheila, always predictable, chose the shrimp and chicken. Todd decided on the salmon, which made Sheila’s nose crinkle a bit.

“I like your sweater” said Todd as the chef spun around his knives, catching the light of the fire on the grill in the reflection of his large spatula.

“I bought it during after Christmas sales last year” replied Sheila. She spoke to him but looked just above the head of the chef. Her smile was disappointing to the chef as he flipped an egg high above the table.

If there was one thing in the world that Todd hated it was unwashed jeans, and it just so happened that on this night he had been forced to wear the same jeans as the day before. Sheila had handed them to him, assuring him of their cleanliness with the same distant smile she offered the chef. Todd put them on but the second he sat in the seat of the Saab he could feel the dirt rubbing into his legs and especially behind his knees. Day old jeans seemed so low class.

The chef was cracking jokes as he scrambled the eggs into the fried rice. Something about carbohydrates that no one thought was funny.

“I was thinking Arthur” said Sheila, and Todd realized he had no idea how long she had been speaking to him.

“Sounds delicious” said Todd.

“Or Maybell if it is a girl. That was my great grandmother’s name” said Sheila. As soon as Todd recognized the conversation was about baby, he gave his now standard response “We have plenty of time to think about that” which had become introduced after his initial “Can’t you talk to your girlfriends about this?” had been proven to be a bad move.

Sheila disliked radio DJs. To her, it was the most useless profession to grace the Earth. The incessant interruptions in her top 40 hits by obnoxious voices clamoring on about the weekend’s hot spot or tickets to a show made her just red. Every morning on her way to work she would listen to her local morning show while she dropped by the drive thru for some coffee (no cream no sugar) and secretly plot how she would send a DJ to their knees after giving them a good talking-to about their expendable profession. The slight rage in the morning would get her through the day not unlike the caffeine filled Styrofoam cup.

Sheila’s shrimp was a bit overcooked but she nibbled it anyway. Todd ate his salmon too quickly. He ordered another plum wine and watched Sheila nibble nibble nibble. At another table a large party was laughing loudly at their chef’s carbohydrate joke.

After dinner Todd tipped the bar while Sheila freshened up in the powder room. He handed over a $20 when the host who had sat them tapped him on the shoulder. “Sir, is the black Saab your car sir?” he asked.

“Why yes it is.” said Todd.

“I’m sorry sir, but I think something has happened to it.”

Sheila exited the bathroom and then the restaurant to find Todd kneeling on the ground of the parking lot, staring listlessly at his car with tears streaming from his eyes. His windshield was smashed, CD player stolen, and the tires were gashed. “Why?” he said. “Why?”

Sheila walked next to him and stood, heels dodging broken glass. The reflection in the car door showed a man in a red sweatshirt and day-old jeans beside a woman with curls too restless to be pinned down. “You know its not your baby” said Sheila.

“I guess I should have known.” said Todd. His tears remained for the car.

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