A Strong Woman - Cover

A Strong Woman

Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay

Chapter 10

The next morning was Tuesday, and we began bright and early – bright and early for me, anyway, since unless I'm on a case which requires it I get up whenever I get up, and though my old night owl habits are mostly gone, I still like to sleep later than Cecelia does. Knowing that we'd be going all day, Cecelia had done her stuff early. I knew she'd been out in the weight shed because when I came out of the bedroom her hair – as I found when I planted a kiss on top of her head – was still wet from her shower.

She looked up at me from where she sat on the sofa, twisting her head to see me where I stood behind the sofa. "I can prepare something, you can prepare your own, or you can do without a morning snack, as you choose. I am ready to set out when you are."

I grunted. Kissing my wife first thing in the morning is one thing. Conversing with her is another. Whoever invented mornings deserves the worst tortures the Inquisition ever devised.

Cecelia knows me by now, and didn't fire back at me. I went on into the kitchen and got a glass out of the cabinet – one of the painted aluminum glasses that I'd drank from when I was a kid, and which Tony and Anna left me when they died, knowing how much I loved them. There are red, blue, green, and bronze, all in metallic shades, though the paint is worn thin now, and indeed is all but gone where hands have been holding the glasses for decades.

I set the glass – this one blue – on the counter, got the pitcher of Cecelia's orange juice out of the refrigerator, and poured the glass full. I drank half of it at a gulp, relishing the pulp which makes up half the fun of orange juice. I want the pulp – orange juice without it is so much Kool-Aid. My brother Memphis' wife, Miss Kim, is Korean, and she's turned me on to a Korean drink called Sac Sac. It's orange juice in tiny little cans, almost solid with pulp – "sacks," as the ingredient list puts it. She periodically sends us a case, and Cecelia will sometimes go out and buy a case herself, though she speaks Korean almost as well as I speak Martian.

I refilled the glass, put the pitcher back in the refrigerator, and grabbed the bag of chips from the top of the refrigerator. I'd eaten about half the bag the night before, but I wouldn't go through so much this morning. I took my chips and juice to the table, went into the living room to pick up my book – just then a volume of a new annotated edition of the Sherlock Holmes stories – and sat down. I munched and drank and read, and after a bit I was finally fit for human company.

I put my glass in the sink, the chips back where I'd gotten 'em, and the book back on the coffee table. "I'm gonna get ready," I said, "and then we'll go."

Cecelia acted as though I hadn't growled at her 20 minutes before. "That is a workable plan," she said. "I presume our first stop will be the artist?"

"Yeah. We'll get him workin' on that, an' then we'll go to work."

"Very well. I have packed us a lunch, and put it in the ice chest already, along with sufficient ice for the day."

"Coolness," I said, and went down the hall to our bedroom, and through to the bathroom. I'm sure there's a good reason for them, but I've never liked the terms "master" bedroom or bathroom. And I'd be just as happy with a bathroom in the hall, like Darlia has – I grew up with an outhouse, that we moved every year or two so that we could fill in the pit and let the contents slowly turn to a richer soil than the desert's used to.

I brushed my teeth. In the mirror I saw the same middling face I've been looking at for 43 years. My hair is a nondescript brown, with just a slight wave in it. My eyes are likewise brown. I've got a heavy tan, which extends from about halfway up my forehead down to my neck, the upper limit being where my hat rests and the lower where my shirt covers me. And there's my mustache, the one I began growing the day I graduated from high school back in 1982 and have never shaved off. It's walrus style, heavy in spite of my Indian blood, and actually extends an inch or so below my jaw. It's my one vanity – the rest of me I'm not much concerned with, but I like my mustache. I can't think of anyone I currently know, aside from Memphis, who's ever seen me without it – certainly Cecelia and Darlia know my mustache as well as they know the rest of me.

With my teeth brushed, I went in the bedroom and grabbed the first shirt in the closet, and the first socks in the drawer. I shrugged into the shirt, tucked the socks under my arm, and walked out to the living room while fastening snaps. I dropped the socks into a boot, where the pair sat by the door, and carried the whole deal over to the sofa. I tucked in my shirt, made sure my belt was buckled snugly enough but not too snug, and sat down to put my boots on. I can get out of bed and be out the door in 10 minutes if I have to, but I usually take longer, as I was doing today.

When I had everything on, I looked over at Cecelia and said, "Let's rock."

She giggled and said, "You may be Al Bundy, but I am not Peg."

"No, I don't guess so. Of all the red-headed black women in the world, you ain't one of 'em."

She shook her head, and put down her magazine – actually, I realized as I saw the title, one of the literary journals she subscribes to. "Were I to attempt an analysis of that sentence, I would require reams of paper and several years, and I still would probably not exhaust the possibilities for criticism. I shall, therefore, disdain the effort and content myself with saying that you uttered a true marvel of mutilated English."

"Yep. You ready?"

"Yes, I am," she said, standing up. "And I am quite aware that you have changed the subject."

"Dirty job, but someone's gotta do it," I said as we went out the door.

"I'll leave the dirty jobs to you," she said serenely. "I prefer a more elevated tone, and shall adopt it henceforth."

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