my stomach is bothering me.
told you not to get artichoke hearts on the pizza.
gives me something to chew! he said in exasperation,
back on the good old days when he had been allowed to consume
meat and meat
I told you not to.
artichoke hearts have nothing to do with it. I really should
complain. Their pizza is so greasy these days. It didnt
used to be so
greasy. But I guess that was when that fellow was the manager
was his name? The one with the hat.
you remember to take your cheese pill? his wife asked
I took my cheese pill! I always take my cheese pill when we
dont I? he snapped back. Have we got any
dear, she replied. And I have no idea who you
mean about the fellow
with the hat. They all wear hats. For that matter, they all
wear the same
hat. And its not, she added meditatively, wondering
whether to superglue
the crack in her thumbnail now or just before bed, as
if they were
attractive hats. I mean, what on earth are they thinking when
those hats? How to make everyone look ridiculous? I always
say that it doesn
t have to be expensive to have style, and those hats
have no style at all.
In fact, the entire uniform is really revolting. Thats
why I couldnt
possibly take a job working for one of those places. Can you
imagine me in
one of those hats? ME? I think not. Well, I just said to the
girl at the
last place, I dont know about you but Id
rather eat dirt and wash with
Clorox than work in one of those places. Of course,
it isnt that different
from what working in one of those places is like really, is
it? I mean
eating dirt and washing with Clorox.
happened? he asked, ignoring everything shed said.
It was Virginia
who made sure there was always mineral water.
happened when I told her that? Well, she got a little huffy
but then its so hard to tell with the girls Sarahs
age you know. Are they
being huffy or are they just being businesslike? Im
sure I dont know.
Anyway, what she said was Suit yourself, or something
like that. I told
her I was looking for clerical work but apparently if you
anything about computers or telephone systems you cant
do that sort of work
anymore. What, by the way, is a telephone system?
what happened to the mineral water?
Mercedes, she said, deciding to do her nail now. She
reached in her
purse for her superglue.
unanswerable, in view of the couscous incident earlier in
evening. Unless he aspired to truly ruin his digestion and
his entire night
s sleep, Carl knew very well he should not follow up on this
However, it went into the bin with all the other things shed
said over the
last 30 years that he would show her about some day.
was a pause. Virginia knew she had gone too far. When Mr.
stomach was bothering him, he required soothing, lots of soothing.
you take your gall bladder pill? she asked.
He hated the gall bladder pills, because as soon as the capsule
dissolved, they left him belching wormwood all evening and
he was truly
aware that wormwood was indeed as bitter as the Biblical passage
could make you a glass of lemon-water, she offered,
if that would
.he muttered, knowing it would be without any
sort of sugar
whatsoever. A fervor of saliva flooded his mouth at the mere
There was nothing for it. He would have to go to the kitchen
and take one of
the gall bladder pills. It wouldnt do a thing. He knew
it wouldnt do a
office, he was generally regarded as the fellow who took charge.
was a man among men, a vice-president to be reckoned with,
and a center of
power. His days were awash in dignity and grace. Once home,
however, he was
but a martyr to Virginias dietary regime, which had
all the restraint of
asceticism and half the flavor. In the kitchen, washing down
the pill with
tap water, he felt himself writhing helplessly under the yoke,
as a poor ox
fed on last years straw. Damn the woman! He had half
a mind to go out for a
steak, if he could be sure he wouldnt be sick in public.
Pizza! Whatever had possessed him? Hed be in the bathroom
half the night
and a mere shell of himself come morning. And the woman just
knowing it and doing nothing.
back into the living room and turned on the television. An
advertisement for a steak house assailed him, and he rapidly
channels. Virginia didnt even like to hear references
to animals being
eaten. He suspected her of believing that they had souls,
which he thought
you take your pill? she asked, poking at him through
the cage bars so
he said shortly, but I know it wont do any good.
you are supposed to take it before you eat, you know.
know. Neither his stomach, nor his mood, were improving.
off the television, too bothered to watch. Theres
Spanish on television. Its not right. This is America.
if you wait around long enough, America will be Spanish,
Although I dont see why you should care. After
all, Tubbers, its not like
your family came over on the Mayflower or anything.
the magic use of his pet name, Tubbers, Mr. Hibbert knew he
receiving an overture of truce for the evening. He was forgiven
yet one more time. How long it would last no one knew. However,
certainly going to sell the BMW. That was a lost cause.
was telling Tom at work about what a martyr you are to your
dear. I said Tubbers is just a complete wreck whenever
he eats anything a
little out of the ordinary, and he recommended that
you try some enzymatic
digestive aids, so when its payday at the store Ill
get you some, and you
can try that.
called me Tubbers to your boss? he asked faintly.
course, thats your name isnt it?
been married for 30 years. If you dont know by now that
my name is
Carl I simply dont know where to begin. Really, Virginia.
well, Im sure he didnt mind. Besides, he must
have heard it before.
You remember when he and David were in high school together.
He was around
here quite a bit in those days, and he must have heard me
call you that. And
why he should care one way or the other I dont know.
All he cares about is
getting the right product to help you, although, if youre
going to eat
pizza its possible that nothing will help. I mean, pizza
is not meant for
your digestion my dear, is it?
but you might have been talking about the cat!
course not, he knows the cats name is Smidgen. Dont
anyway, who made certain we had to order pizza for dinner?
true, I did. Im sorry. She passed behind his chair
and kissed him
lightly on the top of his shiny bald head. Ill
make you some green tea.
That will help.
tastes like stale grass, he said, thinking of the ox
it is good for your tummy, now, isnt it?
he admitted huffily.
she was making conciliatory green tea, Carl had a quick nip
Sambuca, which was said to be an aid to digestion. If things
got any worse
he was going to go and get into his secret bottle of Grappa
in his study.
Probably nothing would make any difference to his digestion
now, but at
least he wouldnt have to hear everything so clearly.
He would need reading
matter for the bathroom too.
returned bearing his tea, he drew himself up to his most impressive
height in his chair, and prepared to take a stand for any
shreds of dignity
he might be able to retain.
cant have this go on, you know. If you insist upon working,
I must at
least specify that you do not make our personal lives the
conversation. I do not want every Tom, Dick, and Harry knowing
dear, but Ive known them all so long, you see! Ive
been shopping there
since before Tom was in high school and it is just a little
store in a strip
mall and it isnt like anybody there is ever going to
know you or even know
anybody you know, so I dont see why I cant ask
a simple question like I
did about digestive aids, and after all, dear, I did it for
fine, but nothing about our personal business, do you hear
at him with a gimlet eye. But I already told them about
the blasted Mercedes!!! he shouted, spilling hot tea
on his leg. Now
look what youve made me do. My head is swimming. Im
just going to go and
Tubbers, she replied meekly.
stuff: Please do not print, copy or distribute this without
permission from the author. All rights reserved. Copyright
© 2001 Alexandra R.
Nyfors. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly