The following day was one of the ones that John hated because he only had to go in to the grocery store for three hours in the evening which meant he had nearly twelve hours to kill from the moment he woke up in the recliner. He snuck back to their room and was in the middle of retrieving his pants, keys, and wallet when his phone buzzed on the floor waking Brandi.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Nothing, just go back to bed.”
“I’m hungry. And I can’t get out of bed right now.”
He looked at his phone. It was Dennis.
“Would you make some toast?”
“Uh, yeah sure,” he said. “What kinds of jellies do you want?”
She stretched and yawned then told him to surprise her.
“The last time I did that you didn’t like it.”
“I have to make all the decisions. Just use some strawberry and some grape, no wait use the apple butter your aunt made.”
“See,” he said.
“I don’t want to hear it. I just woke up.”
“Sorry, I’ll get the toast.” He headed out to the kitchen where he opened his phone and called Dennis as he set about making toast. They had decided to exchange numbers after their shift together. Dennis was a likable guy, middle-class, but likable. On the fifth ring Dennis answered.
“Oh hey,” John said.
“Hey, I figured since we both have some time off I thought you might want to do something else besides party and shoot guns. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Just thought, you know, after yesterday.”
“Yeah, that sounds fine. What did you have in mind?”
“I didn’t know exactly,” Dennis said. “Do you want to come over and just see what happens? I’m actually planning on working out this morning. Maybe go for a run.”
“I haven’t exercised since I was on the junior high wrestling team and running track.”
“We could do something else,” Dennis said.
“No, that sounds like fun. Let me make some breakfast for my wife and make sure she is situated before I leave. It could be an hour or so. Is that cool?”
“See you then,” Dennis said.
John hung up the phone then waited for the toast against the counter with his hands on either side, a butter knife in his right hand. He felt a familiar pain so he went to the bathroom cupboard where he took out a pill for his headache and another for caffeine and swallowed them dry as he heard the toaster pop up. As he went back to the kitchen and lit a cigarette before he smeared jelly on the toast. He was almost satisfied when he heard her call for an additional two pieces so he set about making them. Once he had four pieces of toast covered in two different types of spread he headed back to the room where he offered her the plate.
“Hey listen, someone called and they want me to go out for a little bit this morning. Someone from work.”
“No, not a woman, his name is Dennis. He works at Subway with me.”
“Well, I don’t know. I am not feeling very good today.”
“You always want to be out but what do I get?”
“You get to spend all of our money from the comfort of bed.”
“It’s not a life of luxury. It’s your bedroom. There are holes in the wall.”
“They’re not very big,” he said.
“My feet are sore, massage them.”
John moved to the foot of the bed where he took her left foot in hand and began to massage it with his thumbs.
“You get a foot massage whenever you want,” he said.
“No, just when you’re around.”
“I’m working,” he said.
“And now your boss wants to cut your hours. You need to quit that job and get a new one.”
“I can’t just quit. We finally have money in the savings account,” he said.
She picked up a piece of toast and touched it to her lips then pulled it away and set it on the plate and let out a moan of disgust.
“I haven’t even had breakfast yet and I need to go pee again. Help me up.” John took the plate and set it aside before taking her arm and helping her from the bed. He walked with her to the bathroom where he helped her maneuver to the toilet. As soon as she sat there was a stream of urine. John looked away.
“Does this bother you?” she asked.
“No, not really, I mean you’re my wife.”
“Wives pee,” she said.
“I know they do.”
“Alright help me back up,” she said and he took her arm. She wiped herself quickly then walked with him back to the bed. “I’m not going to be in a good mood most of the day and as long as your mother is around to help me then you can go. But don’t be out all day and have your phone with you. Be back by 12:30 at the latest.”
John looked at the clock. His life measured out in hours. But he could accept the deal so he nodded then followed all of her orders to get her comfortable including dragging a dresser to the foot of the bed and setting up the old black and white television on it. Finally on her word he was free to go.
He arrived twenty-minutes later at Dennis’s house. It wasn’t small. It was big and on the proper side of town. He parked in the empty driveway then made his way to the front door by way of a cement footpath. He rang the doorbell and Dennis answered and invited him inside. He was shirtless and wore a pair of workout pants with white stripes down the sides. John noticed a slight sheen of sweat and light, barely visible body hair. He was lean but defined. He could smell Dennis’s sweat but it wasn’t an unpleasant odor. It was musky.
“I was just working out,” Dennis said holding up his hands to show his gloves. “You look like you are ready to work out. Come down and spot me.” He hopped down the steps into the basement easily. John followed after him into what he was surprised to find was a finished basement. “I just started working out last year and I’m not able to get very big but it really helps to be strong you know. I mean you look in shape.”
“I used to be on the wrestling team,” John said. “I do pushups or jog when I feel flabby but that doesn’t happen much anymore.”
“How much do you bench?” Dennis asked laying out on the flat bench. “I can’t do much myself.”
John assumed the position behind the rack to spot. He had never taken lifting seriously, at least not the way other guys did. He didn’t keep track of weight but he didn’t want to sound like a loser so he decided to change the subject.
“You do this alone?”
“Just light weights, nothing I can’t handle.”
“Huh,” John said placing his hands in his pockets.
“Don’t put your hands in your pockets,” Dennis said between reps. “You need to be able to catch it. That’s the point of spotting.”
“Yeah of course,” John said. He took his hands from his pockets.
“It’s more difficult for skinny guys like us,” Dennis said.
“I never really thought about it,” John said. “I guess I got busy.”
Dennis set the weight on the rack.
“Do you want to give it a try?”
“No, I’m good,” John said.
Dennis sat up and turned back to John.
“Did you really want to do this?”
“Not really,” John said.
“Let’s get some breakfast then,” Dennis said.
Dennis turned away from the bench and walked back to the stairs. John followed. In the kitchen everything was clean and put away. That was true for every part of the house John could see. He suspected they had a maid who came in once or twice a week to help clean.
“This is nice,” John said.
“Yeah, my mom is kind of OCD about this stuff. I can make you a really good omelette.”
“Uh, yeah, I guess,” John said.
“Take a seat there,” Dennis said pointing to some stools under the kitchen island.
“You work out a lot then?”
“Yeah, I have to stay fit. I was a chubby kid.”
“Yeah, I guess I don’t really think about it.”
“It’s different for you,” Dennis said. “You’re a handsome guy. I mean you not only have a girlfriend but you have a wife.”
“It’s no great reward. Trust me.”