An Evening Out

Filed in National by on August 29, 2015

He lightly patted her ass. She looked so good tonight. She had on her Liz Claiborne dress. White down the back, covering the zipper. Cut just above the knees. Her simple black heels. Dark stockings that he’s pretty sure have lace at the top. He’ll wait to find out. The dress had no sleeves. Showing off her still stunning arms at 38. She still finds time to work out. It’s her security blanket. Her arms are freckled yes, the doctor said it’s nothing to worry about. Come back every six months. Her hair is still that auburn color. She doesn’t die it. Her eyes, bright, and yes of course blue. They shine when she is happy. Tonight she is happy. Simple and beautiful is his wife. My god how he loves her.

“Are you ready?” he asks. Grabbing the keys off the hook in the kitchen. He’ll take the Mercedes, and leave the SUV for the baby sitter in case of emergency. Through the mudroom he steps, dog food pieces here and there, some slobber from the little guy. Who get’s a puppy with an infant? He opens the door to the garage. Smacks the button, the bulb flickers. I should probably change that he thinks to himself as he dances around to the right side of the garage. Happy. He cautiously opens the door, spots yet another ding. He enjoys driving her though. Dings and all. He owns it. Door ajar now, he dumps himself into the seat, starts her up. The 6 cylinder is still a thing of beauty. A soft rumble. He swipes at the seat warmers; he knows she doesn’t like her tushy cold.
She gets in after a minute of him waiting, listening to the recent plight of his team.

“Torn ACL, out for the season.” He doesn’t care, tonight is going to be fun. They haven’t gotten out of their house in forever. They’ve been cooped up all winter. The baby has been unbearable. They have been at each other’s throats at 3 in the morning too many times to count. How do people do it with twins?

Working from home hasn’t been the best either. He tries to get into the office as much as he can but he’s needed at home. He makes his calls from the bedroom, the bathroom, the garage, at all times of the day and night. Ireland, Hong Kong, India, Texas, California. His laptop in one hand, held at the corner like a hotplate of food as he traverses the house towards a safe haven. The guys on the call don’t need to hear all the screaming and barking. At night it’s almost laughable seeing him in the Sequoia with the light of the laptop shining back at him, illuminating everything behind him.

He hears her sigh. This time he responds to it. Delicately and with compassion. “It’ll be fine. She knows what she’s doing.”

“I know, I know. We just haven’t left the house in 5 months. The seat is warm. Thank you”
He smiles while looking over his right shoulder. The red lights reflecting off the garage, the metal tracks of its door and out to the trees beyond it. The neighbor’s lights are on. God they really waste electricity. He’s half way out the garage and hits the breaks. “Shit, I forgot my coffee”. It’s 8pm on a Friday and there is no way he is making it till 11 without some caffeine. He pulls all the way out so he can open his door, and not ding it. Opens the door, passes the dog food and the dirty bibs,

“Hey Dianne”.

“Hey Mr. Thompson”

Holding his sleeping son.

“I forgot my coffee, we won’t be out late. If he fusses, he likes his back rubbed clockwise, and I like to pat him on his rump a little”

“Yea, your wife told me already”

“Oh, right of course. Ok, thank you so much”

“Sure it’s no big deal. Happy to do it”

The neighbor’s kid. Dianne, 8th grade. $10 an hour. Her parents are self-employed, he thinks. Guy is a financial planner. No doubt he’ll have to say he already has life insurance to Clark at some point.

He closes the kitchen door behind him. And the next one to the garage taking no notice of the disheveled state of the room this time. Coffee in hand, he walks past his aging mountain bike. Notices cobwebs riddled with dust.

“Sorry” he says as he slides back into the car. Pops out the cup holder and rests the Half Caf.
About ten minutes later they are there. It’s an unassuming place. Nothing palatial and is typical of the area. You wouldn’t stop to look at it if you passed by. You would see anything that stood out. Pretty much just like the rest of them. Nick, Steve and Alex have lived together for they don’t know how long. They don’t even know how they became friends. They seem to know everyone.

“I want to leave by 11 she says”

“I know but its New Year’s honey”

“I know but we can be home and in bed by 12”

So much for seat warmer chivalry he is thinking he should have gotten the car door too. Torn ACL ruined more than my fantasy season.

“HEYYYYYYY! Great to see you guys” Nick says shoving a hand into John’s. John fumbles with the bottle of wine he grabbed from his basement. A previous gift from his wife’s friend who thought they’d enjoy a South African Malbec. He doesn’t drink, and she fucking knows it.

“Oh you didn’t have to do that, we got so much booze already. Alex always buys too much.”
He delicately puts his free hand on the small of his wife’s back and says to Nick, “You remember Anne?”

“Of course I do. How is the boy? I hear you guys had some trouble the first few months?”

“He’s fine she says. It was a long autumn and winter”

John swipes a look at his wife, a quick wince of her eyes.

They step into past the foyer. It looks bigger on the inside then the outside. They have tv’s and monitors it seems in every room. What could they be watching on all these? He’s swiveling his head slowly taking it all in. He’s trying to remember what it is they do. Gotta be something with computers. He’ll ask Steve.

He and Anne follow Nick to the kitchen area. Straight down the hall from the entrance. More electronics adorn the walls in here. It’s subtle in a way, but he just notices it because he hasn’t been out of his house in months. Christ, has technology moved this fast. He feels like he just re-did his kitchen…shit…10 years ago.

Work! He knows these guys from work? No. That’s not it. They were friends with out of town friends and they moved into the area? He doesn’t care how he knows them. They are inconspicuous, down-to-earth folks. He trusts them

“Hey man!” Steve shouts as he excuses himself non-verbally from another semi attractive couple. “Wow Dianne you look great!” he says almost quizzically. “Everything’s ok then?”

She looks puzzled. What is he talking about?

He catches that she isn’t catching on. “The job? I remember you had to go on FMLA after the baby”

“Oh, yes.” She says shaking her head clear. When did she tell him? Never minding it for more than a second she goes on to say “John and I were able to work it out that we could work from home. Our jobs are a lot of calls so”

He cut’s her off addressing both of them, gesturing with his hands, “Project Manager’s right? Didn’t you guys meet down in Lake Mary?”

John laughs, looking at Anne. God she was so hot that night. They both got in on a Sunday, same, flight, same hotel, same floor. Her hair set for travelling. A ball cap. Phillies of course. She didn’t know jack shit about the team, but god she looked good in those jeans. He helped her with her luggage. Got the door that time. Chivalry paid off that day.

“Yes, that’s right. God that seems like eons ago.”

“10 years right?”

“Omg yes! We just celebrated it”

“In DC?” Steve says like an old friend would

John jumps in, “Yes, but how the hell did you know that!” Like he had just guessed the final puzzle on Wheel of Fortune with no RSTLN or E.

Steve, swigging his whiskey looks directly at him and says, “Come on John, your calendar is public?”

Still not getting it

“Google John, You had it on your calendar”

I don’t think he even realized that sort of thing was ‘public’. Weird. Oh well. Steve pivoted away from the both of them, waving to another couple. It’s a good mix of people. Man these guys really know a lot of people. It’s not quite elbow to elbow, but moving in and around people reminded him a little like being at the Philly Art Museum on a Saturday in the Impressionist area. Shuffling sideways, avoiding a few out of towners that wanted to stare at the Rousseau and reading about his trips to Africa. Negros’s are so captivating. Only this party they aren’t looking at art. It’s monitor after monitor. World News. Still Photo’s. Burning Man Highlights. The inevitable Hitler standing at a podium with the denizens cheering. Room after room they were there, different images. Some sort of real time art nouveau display.

“JOHN!” A hand comes from behind on his left shoulder. He didn’t even notice him so close. John turns in the direction it came from. His wife on his right spins the opposite way. Dancer’s on a stage. In sync. Her look of surprised happiness beaming towards him. Old friends uniting.

“How long has it been?” Alex says releasing his grip from John and half stepping to his right acknowledging and kissing Anne’s right cheek, then her left, now un-embracing yet still holding her right hand in both of his. “Gosh, I feel like it’s been forever since we’ve seen each other”

She pauses, thinks to respond with a time they had been together. Nick, Steve and Alex all seem to be a part of their lives. Heavens, when did I see him last? Fawning, feigning, feeling for a date, time, conversation, place, but nothing comes to mind she shakes her head, eyes still wide, smiling her bright accepting smile, her cheek bones high and accented like the day they first met. She turns to John pleading him to search her mind for the answer that is there apparently, she just can’t unlock the room it’s obviously stored in. The place the Alex has so clearly been. Almost lives in, that he remembers like yesterday and has it stored for just this time when he knew he would see her again. He doesn’t even look perplexed. Alex standing there easing his hands away and sliding one into his pocket. Eyes still transfixed on the 4 of theirs. Johns grey sideburns showing some movement as he too searches the recesses of his own clouded memory.

When did he see Alex last? “You know Alex, I honestly don’t know how long it has been.” He tries to change the subject away from the awkwardness of not being as good a friend as Alex seemingly is. “I barely recognize half the people here tonight. It’s been a long time since we got out” Still puzzled and embarrassed he doesn’t remember seeing Alex as he evidently should, Alex picks up the awkwardness. Brushes it off like a baby that had dirtied his knees. Clasps it in his hands and manipulates into a simple off hand comment that he shouldn’t give a second thought to not knowing about.

“Don’t worry about it, I remember you two were having some troubles. Gosh, what a miracle John Jr. is. It’s so great you were able to go full term this time. Hey, listen I have to run. John, you still not drinking I believe? How about we wash that coffee out. I made sure to have some Diet Dr. Pib. Your favorite. You had it on a vacation you took with your mom to Jackson, Mississippi that one time you were on your way to Vicksburg.” And with that he two stepped to his right, on to another group of people.

John looked at Anne, both now thoroughly perplexed. The night only having just begun and they feel like they have both undressed in front of a stranger, they had been undressed with each conversation between Nick, Steve and Alex. They felt fine quickly after feeling awkward, but still they felt a resonance of discomfort. They didn’t feel unsafe. They just felt like maybe they had not been as private as they thought they had been about their lives. They stepped out of the kitchen to their right, towards a living room that opened up to a sunroom. The moon shone bright with the leafless tree branches reaching towards the darkness and away from the light of the home. A fire wasn’t burning in the fireplace, but candles in it were. People were chatting, staring at the monitors. His Dr. Pib cool in his hand. Man he remembers that first time he had it. It was great. It brought back a flood of memories.

As the night moved along, they caught pieces of conversation, held conversation with some folks they hadn’t seen in a while. Fleeting conversations about how they had been getting along with the baby. The challenges they’d had the first few months, but how they’d used each other for support. Man, they were so grateful for Dianne. Friends and acquaintances echoed their sentiments. They had been there too. It gets easier, they said. Nick, Steve and Alex all continued on, sharing their knowledge about their guests. How they remembered each; the details that they each knew about their guests lives. The intimacy they clearly shared with them. On and on and on they, all three went amongst the guests.

As it approached 11pm Dianne located John talking to the hosts again. She asked if it was ok to go. Nick, Steve and Alex both turned to Dianne and said, “Want to be in bed by midnight huh?” They all laughed. An inside joke. Dianne looked at John, upset that he had clearly shared that she was the party-pooper. The wet blanket. He looked back at her not knowing what he did or said.

“Good luck in Seattle!”, Steve said as John was exiting the door. The brass lion doorknocker just beyond Steve’s ear. His one arm grabbing hold of the paneled wooden door. The small panes of curtained windows on either side emanating shadows from the monitors throughout their home.

John too tired to care about how his life had become such an open book to these guys waved it off and said,

“Thanks, It’ll be tough to leave the house. It’ll be strange being alone, leaving Anne and John Jr.”

Nick, Steve and Alex all at the door now in sync said, “You’re safe John, we’ll make sure of it”

About the Author ()

hiding in the open

Comments (15)

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  1. SussexWatcher says:

    May I suggest Wattpad as an outlet for your fiction?

  2. Donviti says:

    You’re not the boss of me!

  3. Nuttingham says:

    Who knew that Nick Jonas, Alex Trebec and Steve Spurrier were all friends?

  4. Anonymous says:

    When’s the book come out?

  5. Donviti says:

    I honestly would love to write a book someday,b t man… No way. I’m exhausted after this stuff. I’m very critical of my writin. I don’t know if I could weave an entire book and keep the pieces together and not be a tangled mess of shit. I don’t honestly think the short stories are even that good after I reread them.

    You read Joseph Conrad, Kafka, Hemingway and then try to write something and I come up way short.

    And thank you I take the comment as a compliment

  6. pandora says:

    Do you really want an honest critique? I ask because I have several friends who are published authors and I read/edit for them. Every writer needs an editor.

    You aren’t a bad writer and your strength is tapping into very human emotions. However, you’re making some basic mistakes (and I’m not talking about grammar or punctuation) that are easily fixable.

    First, You have a lot of characters that you haven’t taken the time to develop. (Is Dianne the wife’s and babysitter’s name?) And it took me a while to figure out John is the main character. It made following along confusing. My advice: Cut some characters.

    Second, switching to Anne’s (Dianne?) POV when she can’t remember when she last saw Alex threw me. I wasn’t sure who was thinking what, and had to reread that paragraph several times. Stick with one point of view. If you want to switch POVs you’ll need to make that switch very, very clear to your readers.

    You have a lot of themes/points to this story. I would recommend cutting a few (Okay, most of them need to go). Is this a story about the loss of privacy due to technology? Is it about new parents’ concerns on their first night out? Is it about how hard it is to work at home with a baby and how tired it makes a person. Is it about reconnecting emotionally and/or sexually with his wife, as well as their relationship? Is it about John feeling the distance with his friends? About him getting old and not using things like his mountain bike? You have a bit of a “stream of consciousness” thing going on. I’m not sure what the story is about – what, and who, I’m supposed to focus on.

    You’re a strong descriptive writer who pays attention to details. My advice would be to make sure the details you include are relevant. The Mercedes springs to mind as not necessary. Ask yourself how the details you’re including advances the story. If it doesn’t reinforce the theme/characters/plot of your story… cut it.

    If you’re serious about this, I’ll print it out in submission format and make notes for you. That means you’ll have to rewrite it for me, possibly several times. If you’re willing to do the work, I’m willing to read/edit. Your call.

  7. Dave says:

    My 2 cents.

    I felt I like was dumped into the middle of something and needed to pay attention because there is probably some key information being presented which supports the story as the plot thickens in the succeeding chapters. Oh it’s only a short story? Too bad! I got hooked on the first chapter. Is this a suspense novel? Is John more than he seems? How about those friends who seem to know them well, but Anne and John are less sure of how they even know these people. Are Nick and Alex really friends, or keepers? or something else?

    It obviously is a reference to social media where you put your life on display and then are surprised when people comment on your life as if they are intimates. But I did not take that as commentary on our times. Instead it felt like a plot element. I felt like this was the preface to the story and the party was a plot device that introduce (superficially) some key and diversionary characters and information.

    In short, I read your preface. I’m intrigued. Is this about sex? spies? pod people? White House down? or the impending zombie apocalypse? John and Anne are obviously main characters because it’s their POV, but are the others important? It’s too soon to tell.

    I thought it was well written, and left me with questions (i.e. why doesn’t John drink? what’s with all the monitors? etc.). I was left wondering where the story was going (since it was a short story, it apparently was going nowhere). The last sentence convinced me it may have been billed as a short story, but it isn’t really. There’s more. You wrote it that way, even if you did not intend to do so.

  8. pandora says:

    I could go with the sci-fi thing, Dave. John makes an interesting protagonist. Right now he’s a tragic figure – sad and pathetic, and obviously not happy with his life. He simply refuses to focus on anything of substance – other than his chivalry resulting in not getting laid (he mentions that a couple of times). That could be very interesting. Has life (not only tech) passed him by? Has something big happened while he was isolated in his home with a baby?

    His priorities are shallow (he thinks his wife, and her arms, are hot and he’s very impressed with his Mercedes, even with dings). Basically, his wife and Mercedes are interchangeable. He doesn’t seem to know his friends. Which makes you wonder why he is even at this party. Combine that with the fact that his wife, and John himself, seem to have forgotten how they know these people. I say this because while his wife is struggling to recall Alex, John doesn’t step in to fill in the blanks. What happened to make them forget apparently everything? Not a baby. That isn’t a good enough reason for complete memory loss of people who obviously matter to John

    Basically, DV should take this post and probably turn it into the first 3 chapters – taking the time to fill in the gaps and flesh it out. The sci-fi angle makes sense to the story. Could be really interesting.

  9. puck says:

    Re-read James Joyces “The Dead” to see how to handle a story while alluding to flashbacks.

  10. Donviti says:

    I really appreciate you all reading it. I appreciate the feedback.

    I clearly need to learn a few things that’s for sure. Wow… And ugh…

    I thought people would pick up on the fact on the names and first letters of Nick, Steve and Alex.

    I also attempted to give private details about their lives that only they would know. They hadn’t been out in months and intimate details of their lives they thought were private were not.

    Nick, Steve and Alex where the NSA. Spying on everyday lives.

    All such great feedback.

    Pandora, I definitely made errors and can’t edit my stuff once I’ve sent it. I would have changed a few things after rereading. Still, that is my fault and I should have done a better job editing. Good information on developing things. I was trying to keep it short, but maybe that isn’t thing. I’ll send another story over to you and let you take a crack at it.

    Dave, thank you for the feedback too. I worry about giving too much detail and making it boring and not leaving anything to the imagination of the reader. I certainly did drop folks in and then ended abruptly. By design… Sorta… Although yiur experience wasn’t intended.
    Great stuff. I’ll keep trying. I wanted to keep it short but apparently need to really get better at my writing.

  11. Donviti says:

    It really is amazing what people interpret. What a lesson.

  12. pandora says:

    I look forward to it. But… are you okay with the rewrites? I’m willing to invest the time as long as you are!

  13. Donviti says:

    I’ll work on something again this week and send it over. Before it gets here. In doing so, I’ll probably be even more diligent

  14. pandora says:

    FYI: I will only work on one story, so think long and hard about what you choose. Plot it out and focus on character development. You need to know where the story is heading before you write. Your readership doesn’t need to know, but you do.

    One more suggestion… Dialogue tells the reader more than 4 descriptive/ passive paragraphs. Use it to your advantage.

    Perhaps we should blog this experiment?

  15. Donviti says:

    Fine by me. I think it would be a fun exercise!