"Getting out of the Tub" by Laura Faeo

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2002

Editor's note: The following excerpt is from a piece by Laura Faeo. She will read the entire story at the Central Peninsula Writers Night Friday at 6 p.m. at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

(Ed) raises his can of beer for another swallow, and sweat trickles down from the broad bald dome of his head, through the remaining dark brown curls around his ears. The earth turns beneath him, and the long summer day mellows into evening. He sucks down the rest of the beer in one long gulp. And again, as on many other evenings like this one, he thinks of her.

She was of medium height, with an olive complexion, and long dark hair which she kept wound into a thick braid at the back of her neck. She wore a tight denim jacket and T-shirts with pictures of wolves or whales printed on them, and dangling earrings made of tiny glass beads. She always had a bright silk scarf tied around her head; she took it off once, showing him its colorful design, and told him she had painted it by hand.

He had known her for several years now, the wife of his neighbor on the other side of the North Road. She lived with the short, blond-haired neighbor man in an aging mobile home surrounded by an incongruous mixture of junk cars, lush flowerbeds, and a big vegetable garden barricaded within a tall fence to keep out the moose. The husband came over to visit Ed some nights and stayed late, talking about guns and hunting, and drinking beer, and she would call, wondering where he was. Ed would feel a tight, unspoken anger when the neighbor waved his hands and whispered, "Tell her I'm not here." And Ed would tell her the truth, and listen to the husband berating him as a worthless scumbag for doing it. If he had a woman like that, he tells himself, he wouldn't stay away, he would want to be home with her. He wouldn't ask someone else to lie to her about where he was.

Ed opens another beer and thinks some more about her. Any thought of her feels good, brings him a soft, pleasantly warm sensation in his lower parts. Her image in his mind is as soothing as the steam curling around his wide hair chest and beefy arms. He likes the way she dresses, the way she walks, her husky, earthy voice. He likes the delphiniums and sunflowers growing in front of her decrepit trailer, the glimpse of her bent over, weeding between the rows of cabbages and potatoes, when he drives by every evening on his way home. Sometimes he honks the horn at her, and she looks up and waves. He thinks of giving her a big hug, of pressing his nose into her hair to sniff her delicate female scent.

He knows her name, and he looked up her number in the phone book one time, and wrote it down on the yellow pad of scratch paper beside his phone. But he has never called her. For all his physical bulk and persuasive, confident manner, Ed is a shy person at heart, especially around women. If he isn't trying to sell a ring or a bracelet, he has trouble talking to them. And without the glittering jewels to draw their attention, what would they see in him anyway? Just a big, foolish, fat clown of a man, bald and over forty, with only a mediocre income.

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