The Problem With Larry by Sidney Archer

She often daydreamed of being a widow.

She especially thought of it whenever she stood at the kitchen sink and looked out at the backyard. The view from that window set her teeth on edge: a rusted-out 1973 Mercury Comet swallowed by weeds since 1995, the motor which Larry promised nine years ago would go into the Comet “one day soon”, three non-running lawn-mowers, a length of sun-rotted green garden hose, and eight 33-gallon lidless garbage cans that overflowed with miscellaneous essential junk. And that was just the far corner. The rest of the yard was worse.

“Why can’t you put that stuff in the shed?” she’d asked him at least a thousand times.

“Because the shed’s full.”

“Then why don’t you clean it out?”

“I’ll get to it soon.”

Soon. First thing in the morning. Before next weekend. By Christmas. She’d heard it all, and none of it meant a thing because he never got around to any of it. But there had always been time to bring more junk and pile it up for use “someday”.

She sighed and turned from the window. At least the kitchen was clean, counters scrubbed and stovetop shining. She opened the refrigerator. Was she the only one who understood little bits and dabs of food should be kept in small containers, not put away in their serving bowls? She removed the dishes, consolidated the leftovers, then washed the bowls and put them away. When she was finished, she looked around the kitchen once more, satisfied it was clean and neat as she could have hoped. It wasn’t like that very often.

Inside the unusual silence of her home, she listened to the rhythmic click of her shoes against the hard floor as she walked to the living room. She’d been on her feet most of the day and her bunions throbbed. She kicked off the black pumps and rubbed aching soles as she settled onto the sofa. Why hadn’t she taken off those tight shoes before now?

Sighing, she leaned her head against the sofa back and closed her eyes. A nap seemed like a good idea, but a moment later she opened her eyes again, weary but too keyed up to sleep. She picked up the remote and turned on the television. HGTV would provide something to help her relax. In those dreams of widowhood, the voices from that channel filled her home instead of raucous noise of sports or wailing from the country music videos Larry couldn’t seem to live without.

The program at that moment showed a lovely, newly renovated and decorated home. The bedroom had been done French country, with sunny walls, cream-colored furniture and lovely floral shades of blue and splashes of soft yellow in the bedding and curtains. She sighed, turned off the television and padded her way into her bedroom. Tan curtains hung in the windows, with a block of paler tan midway where sun had bleached them. They depressed her.

As she unzipped her black dress, her glance fell on the bed. The dark green bedspread was at least fifteen years old and seemed to grow rattier and more frayed every week, but she long ago had given up trying to have anything nice with a bedskirt and pillow shams. Larry would just sit on it in his dirty clothes when he took off his work boots then likely as not stretch out for a nap. A new comforter would look old and dingy within a week.

She slipped off the dress and hung it in her side of the closet. Too many clothes in that tiny space. For years, she’d yearned for a closet that held only her clothes and her shoes. Not that Larry ever left his footwear anywhere but where he pulled them off. If she wanted them out of the kitchen or the living room or the middle of the bedroom floor, she did it. Looking at his shoes right then, she noted how neatly they were lined up on his side of the closet.

She shut the closet door and leaned her forehead against it for a moment, feeling woozy. She blinked hard, bit her lip, swallowed. This was going to be harder than she expected. Finally, she turned and approached the bed. Neatly made, it looked as if it hadn’t been slept in, and in fact, it hadn’t been lately. For the last three nights, she’d bunked in the living room, but the sofa cushions were broken down and made her back ache. She knew she’d have to return to this bed, and it might as well be today.

She peeled off her dark hose and started to fold them. Instead, she let them fall in a delicate heap on the floor, and she sank weakly to the edge of the bed. She sat without moving as memories darted helter-skelter through her mind. She didn’t want to think or remember or have this sick feeling, but her willpower dwindled moment by moment.

If only she could sleep …

Feeling as though she were made of lead, she pulled back the bedcovers, and slipped between the sheets to lie stiffly on her side of the bed. She detected the familiar scent of her husband. The bed linens hadn’t been changed yet this week, but when she washed them, that odor would go away. The sheets would feel fresh and cool, and they would smell of detergent and fabric softener.

“Widow” (image via Flickr user zoe J)

Without conscious thought, she rolled over, facing the emptiness of Larry’s side of the bed. His pillow, thin with use, still lay concealed beneath the fold of the bedspread. She reached, pulled the pillow to her, then with deliberate slowness, wrapped her arms around it, tucking its length against her body. It smelled of Old Spice, the same stuff he’d used for nearly forty years while ignoring all those bottles of newer, fresh fragrances she’d bought for him. He said wearing Old Spice always made him think of their courtship days. He had wanted her to keep wearing Love’s Baby Soft, but she preferred White Diamonds.

She squeezed her eyes shut, buried her face in his pillow; she breathed in his smell. The tightness in her throat did not go away no matter how many times she tried to shove it down. Long-fought tears forced their way between her eyelids and leaked onto the pillowcase. Her heart beat thick and slow, and she thought grief might swallow her whole.

For an hour she lay, silently weeping, thinking of piles of junk in every available space outside, his careless ways inside their home, his gentle smile, his sweet kisses, the love he had given her unconditionally.

She had often daydreamed of being a widow.

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Sidney Archer looks into the darker side of life, seeking redemptive qualities found in the shadows. She harbors passion for a well-crafted story, a unique plot twist, or a colorful phrase.  Her books guide readers along narrow paths fraught with obstacles and illusion until light shines fully on what was hidden.