Friday, July 15, 2016

The Nowhere Man

Place: third place in Creative Writing

By Miriam B. Medina (c)

Ernie wandered from the spare bedroom to the couch and plopped down, throwing his feet on the table carelessly. Lately, he had taken to calling the spare bedroom his bedroom. This was starting to irk Michelle. She poured a cup of coffee in her favorite to go cup and started thinking about the long, annoying drive to work.

“I’ll take a cup.” Ernie said, yawning. Michelle stared at him icily, but he didn’t notice, he was too busy flipping through the channels on the television, changing Michelle’s morning news program. Dave emerged from the bedroom, so she stared at him icily too, for good measure. Dave shrugged, and poured himself a cup of coffee and kissed Michelle on the head.

“I’ll take a cup if you’re coming this way.” Ernie said again. Dave poured another cup and wandered over to sit next to Ernie, who had settled on Sport Center on ESPN. “Da-dah-dah, dah-dah-dah… ” Ernie hummed, mimicking the short, quirky theme song of the sports show. “How ‘bout that game yesterday?” Ernie said, raising his hand in the air for a high five without moving his eyes from the television. Dave absent-mindedly slapped the hand after he sat down the two cups of coffee and sat next to Ernie.

“Was awesome,” Dave replied, “hope the Monday Night game is as good tonight.”

“Can’t wait,” Ernie replied. “You should bring home some beer tonight for that one. Looks like it’s going to be a good one.”

“Good idea. I’ll stop and pick some up on my way home from work.” Dave agreed,

“H-e-y,” Ernie moaned as he sipped his coffee, “you forgot the cream, man.”

Michelle’s head dropped and her shoulders sagged. “I’m going to work.” she said, and headed for the door.

- - - - - -

“GO-GO-GO-GO!” The voices boomed as Michelle was unlocking the front door to enter her house. It had been a L-O-N-G day at work and she just wanted to take a hot bath and go to bed. She recognized Ernie’s loud, obnoxious voice, but he was not alone. It sounded like a gaggle of Ernie’s. Michelle entered the room and saw a half a dozen of Dave’s old college friends, all laughing at Ernie as he did a touchdown dance in front of the television and spiked a mostly empty, crushed beer can into the new carpet.

Dave noticed Michelle and stood up. “Hey babe, there’s pizza on the counter. I got one with ham and pepperoni for you, just the way you like it.” Dave came over and kissed her, but she just stared at him blankly.

“Can I speak to you for a second?” she said quietly, then walked to the bedroom. Dave followed her.

“Oooooooh… ” Ernie crooned, “Davy’s in trouble, Davy’s in trouble.” The guys all snickered. Ernie always was the life of the party, Michelle believed he was the life of the Nazi party, but Dave loved his old friend.

Dave closed the door and turned to her. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Seriously? You’re asking me that? Ernie’s not enough; we have to have a frat party on a Monday night? I have to get up and go in early tomorrow, today was a nightmare, we almost lost the Kleinert account and I have to salvage it tomorrow, if that’s humanely possible.”

“They just came for the game, honey. I’m sorry. I’ll keep them quiet and get them out of here early, I promise. I’ll go draw you a hot bath and bring you pizza and some wine, and this will be it for a while. It’s REALLY a big game is all.”

Michelle massaged her temple and started taking her clothes off to get in the bath. She loved Dave, with all of her heart, but the situation was really starting to get to her.

“Listen,” Dave said from the bathroom over the noise from the water filling the bath, “I really appreciate how you’ve been handling this, and I’m going to show you how much. We’ll get away this weekend, and things will be back to normal soon enough.”

- - - - - -

The next morning, Michelle woke up and felt like she had a hangover, even though she only drank two glasses of wine and went to bed. Once in bed, she could not sleep, thanks to the noise and the ever boisterous Ernie, who celebrated every touchdown and made loud jokes about the women in every commercial. She ended up getting about 3 good hours of sleep.

Michelle needed a cup of coffee, desperately, but she had to hurry to work. She went to get her coffee cup that she took with her every morning. It was her salvation on her drive to work. The cup was not in the cupboard, and it was not in the dishwasher. After a frustrating search, she found it on the table next to the sofa, where Ernie had passed out. It smelled of liquor and had ashes in it. Michelle fumed as she washed the cup and decided the time had come.

- - - - - -

Michelle sat quietly in her chair. It was after 6:30. She had been home from work for over an hour. Dave sat beside her watching television. Ernie wandered out in a bathrobe, having obviously just awakened. He went to the refrigerator, rummaged around, and pulled out a bottle of wine. He uncorked it and took a long slug, straight from the bottle.

“Ahhh… ” He groaned, “Nothing like the hair of the dog.” He wandered over and plopped down on the sofa, next to Dave.

“I was saving that.” Michelle said, glaring at Ernie and her husband.

“Sorry,” Ernie shrugged, taking another slug, “it’s the only liquor in the house. I’ll replace it, promise.” Ernie offered Michelle the bottle, in case she wanted a drink, and she frowned. Dave accepted the bottle and took a drink.

“Speaking of replacing stuff,” Michelle started, “how goes the job hunt? It’s been two weeks since you lost yours. I thought you said it would only take a week or two to get back on your feet?”

“Been tough, the job market sucks right now, and I have to find under the table work. Need to stay off the grid. I hate taxes.”

“Well, I have a few leads I found in the paper on the counter over there. I circled them for you.”

Ernie polished off the rest of the bottle and rose to his feet, stretching. “Great,” he said, yawning, “and thanks a lot. I’ll follow them up tomorrow. Don’t feel so good today, so I’m going to bed. Get a nice and early start tomorrow.”

Ernie wandered back to the spare bed room and closed the door. Michelle glared at Dave, who simply sat there looking sheepish.

- - - - - -

Later that night, Ernie tossed and turned in his bed. He could hear Michelle and Dave argue through the thin walls. She wanted him to go, but Ernie knew Dave couldn’t kick him out; they went too far back, had been through too much together. Finally, the argument had ended when Dave bucked up and took Ernie’s side, putting Michelle in her place. Dave was not going to turn on his friend in such a time of need, and both Ernie and Michelle knew this. Things would be awkward between them momentarily, but Ernie knew it would pass. He rolled over and fluffed his pillow, relaxing.

‘As long as Dave has my back,’ Ernie thought to himself, ‘I’m not going nowhere, man.’