Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Breakfast At Deanna's

I used to like to write short stories. I wasnt very good at it, I just did it for fun. I created a couple of characters, Thad & Deanna, and put them in all kinds of situations - it was kind of like a game. Sometimes they knew each other, sometimes they dated, sometimes they were married, sometimes they were well off, sometimes not, sometimes they didn't know the other existed, sometimes it was a work relationship, sometimes they were old, sometimes young. I played around with it. What follows is the last short story I wrote using either character (Deanna is the main character, Thad is just refered to), and I believe the last short story I ever wrote. I wrote it back in July 2003, 5 years ago. Hard to believe. Believe me, it aint no great loss to the literary world. Anyway, here it is, Breakfast at Deanna's.

Breakfast at Deanna's


Deanna sat at the kitchen table, groggy. She hadn't slept well the night before, and the strong coffee she was drinking did not seem to be helping. Thad was out of town on business again, and Deanna had a love hate feeling about that. On the one hand she liked the freedom it gave her, she didn't have to worry about Thad, or what he thought, or how he felt, or put up with his moods, she and the kids could go pretty much where they wanted when they wanted, but on the other hand, she never slept well when he was gone, was ever on the alert for some kind of intruder, worried that some simple problem would come up that she would not know how to handle, and missed the heavy, rythmic breathing and physical warmth of his body when he laid in bed next to her. Thad and Deanna had been married for 12 years, and the seemingly infinite passion of Deanna's earlier years with Thad was gone, but it had been replaced with comfort and security. When Thad was gone, most of the comfort and security seemed to go with him. Deanna didn't realize this. She just knew she couldn't sleep well and had vague feelings that she never would have identified as fear when Thad was away.

Deanna looked up at the clock. She had a lot to do, but for now she had 30 minutes to herself. She was going to sit at the table, sip on her coffee, and wake up. In 30 minutes, she was going to shower, get herself dressed for work, wake up the kids, start them some breakfast, wake them up again, deal with any emergencies a 10 year old and a 7 year old may have, get them dressed and fed, finish getting herself ready, get them off to their daycare, and head to work to deal with whatever the business world threw at her.

Abbey, Deanna's golden Tabby rubbed against her ankle then pushed his head into Deanna's leg. Deanna reached down and gave him a scratch behind his ears. Abbey looked up and made a purring sound. Deanna leaned back, patted her leg a couple of times, and in an instant Abbey was in her lap.

"I fed you, Abbey Road," Deanna said, "you have plenty of fresh water, clean litter, now you just want to be petted, right? Well you are king of the house, and I live to please you."

Deanna scratched under Abbey's chin and he stretched out his neck and purred happily, then curled up in her lap for a snooze.

The other animal in the house was a small dog, a Yorkie named Bob who weighed less than Abbey, but who felt he could take on a German Shephard all the same. Deanna had never had a small dog before, she felt they were too yippy, but she had to admit that this dog had personality. And he was pretty too, and Deanna and Bob both enjoyed it when Deanna brushed his long hair. Bob had his toys, his own routine, and he and Abbey got along just fine.

Bob did tend to bark tho, and he was barking right now. Deanna propped her chin up with one hand and petted Abbey with the other. She had let Bob out this morning, what could be his problem? Bob continued barking.

"What's up boy? You trying to tell me something? Timmy's in trouble?", Deanna said loud enough for Bob to hear. Abbey looked up, affronted that his nap was disturbed. "Sorry Abbey, but apparently Timmy's in trouble."

Deanna moved slightly and Abbey jumped down on the floor, voiced his indignation and walked away to find something else soft and warm. Deanna stood up and walked into the living room. Bob was going crazy. He was barking so hard his front paws would lift up off the floor, then he'd run around in a circle, jump on something, then start barking again, his little Yorkie nose inches away from the bottom of the front door, his little Yorkie butt in the air, tail wagging furiously, ears straight up. Bob was excited.

"Hey Bob, is there a cat out there?", Deanna said to the dog. "I'll check it out and we'll get that mean ol' putty tat out of here. Who does he think he is walking around your house?"

Deanna picked Bob up, tossed him gently into the kitchen and told him to sit and stay. Which he did. That's the good thing about Bob, Deanna thought, you can pick him up, and he's very obedient. He's an anti-cat. She went to the living room door, and cautiously opened it. It might be a cat, but it could just as easily be a skunk, racoon, ground hog or axe murderer. Deanna stood in the doorway, leaned out a little and looked to both sides and out into the yard but did not see anything. She was about to close the door and go give Bob a hard time when she looked down -- a long black snake was stretched out on her porch, next to her door jam, less than an inch from her bare feet.

Deanna made a sound that was not quite a scream, a sound a person makes when there's no time to react to an impending disaster, the sound she might make when she looks up while driving and sees that she's going to rear end the car in front of her and there is nothing she can do about it. Deanna made the sound of pure panic. She jumped back and slammed the door, and instantly her heart was racing and she could feel the results of tons of adrenalin chemicals being released into her blood stream. She took some deep breaths trying to calm down. Bob came bounding in, as much as a little dog can bound, and began yapping at the door again. Deanna wanted to run up to the bedroom and tell Thad, but of course Thad was gone, sleeping in some snake free hotel, no doubt.

Deanna hated and feared snakes. She didn't see it as irrational, she had grown up in a place abundant with snakes, including rattle snakes, copperheads, and water moccasins, snakes which would put you in a hospital or worse if they bit you. She learned to give snakes a wide berth, she didn't want to be anywhere near them, and didn't want them anywhere near her or her house, Animal Planet notwithstanding. She realized this was a black snake, and was not dangerous to humans, but still. She had to do something, else he might bring his snake buddies to drink snake beers and eat mice and have snake sex in her living room, or worse yet, under her house or in her walls or in her attic. Deanna had a bad horror movie vision of a house overrun by little baby black snakes, coming through the light fixtures and dropping on top of her while she slept. She had to do something. She had to get rid of it. She had children to protect.

Deanna left Bob barking at the door jam, and walked through the family room and opened the door leading to the garage. She looked down before she stepped -- would she ever casually open a door again? She turned the light on, looked around some more and decided it was ok. She pressed the button to open the garage door, and walked out, grabbing a shovel as she went. She walked around to the front of the house and stood in front of the porch, looking around for more snakes, holding the shovel at a 45 degree angle across her body like she was ready to attack or defend, and realized that she probably should have put some shoes on. The snake had not moved an inch, and Deanna wondered why it was there. Was it for the warmth? Or did the snake enjoy the cool air conditioned air that was seeping under her door? What could possibly have motivated this snake to take up residence in front of her door? It didn't matter.

Deanna moved slowly up the three steps to her porch, holding her shovel out in front of her, her heart pounding, and ready to fly if the snake so much as moved. It didn't, it was a predator, and predators are very good at being still. Through the door came the sounds of an agitated dog. Deanna was on the edge of the porch now, a few feet away from the snake, as close as she dared to get, when she struck awkwardly with the shovel, hitting the snake right about in the shoulders, if a snake had shoulders. Deanna was surprised at how tough the snake was, she had hit it with all her might, with enough force, she thought, to cut through it, but not only was it not cut in half, there wasn't even any blood. The snake had obviously been caught by surprise, and it kind of jumped and slithered toward the steps, and Deanna gasped and jumped to her left, then realized the snake was between her and the steps, and her front door. She hit the snake again, a couple of feet lower. Still not even a drop of blood. The snake was on the edge of the porch now, near the steps making seemingly random movements. Deanna knew that this meant the snake was most likely mortally wounded, if not dead, but she couldn't be sure. She stood as far away from the snake as possible, and used the end of her shovel to flip it out into the yard. She watched it for a few seconds, it continued to move, but not with any intent, so she walked down the steps, and used the shovel to flip the snake further away. She continued this exercise until the snake was in a small ditch between the yard and the road. The snake was still moving, and Deanna wasn't sure if it was dead or not. And she didn't really like it there anyway.

Deanna walked back to her garage, leaned the shovel against the wall and began scrounging around all the portable grill paraphernalia. She finally found what she was looking for, lighter fluid, and the little wand like thing that Thad used to light the charcoal. She walked out of the garage, grabbing the shovel as she went. She walked up to the ditch, the snake was still there moving around. Deanna squirted some lighter fluid on to the snake, and the snake gave no reaction, other than to continue its random movements. Deanna squirted lighter fluid all over the snake and the grass around it, flipped the switch of her wand to cause a flame, and touched it to part of the snake furthest from its head, and instantly snake and grass were in flames. Deanna turned around and walked back to the garage. The grass was heavy with dew, the air heavy with humidity, the fire would burn itself out. She watched from her garage door until she saw no more flames and was finally satisfied that the snake was dead. She put everything back in their proper place, pushed the button to close the garage door, and went back into the house. When Thad got back she'd get him to get rid of any remains, until then she was just going to avoid it.

Deanna dumped the coffee out of her cup and poured herself another. She took a sip and looked up at the clock. She still had ten minutes to herself, before she had to shower and begin her day. She sighed, and was lost in thought.

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