A-Part in Compartmentalization
Author's note: This is a story I wrote a while back. Forgot to upload it. I like it, and I hope you do too.
Virgil went to quit his cigarette habit. He took it to Uncle Elias’ U-Store-It Self-Storage. His Chevy hit the county line of Cooley at a quarter to seven.
His wife Clementine bid him. Talked turkey. She herself had recently forewent a serious shopping addiction and, unable to unload said dependency anywhere within Tocimah County’s limit, opened a depositbox at Uncle Elias’.
Virgil chainsmoked as he drove.
His wife glared out the window.
Looks to be gloomy out, dudn’t it? He asked.
She snarled then rolled down her automatic window in bursts. Talk radio was on. Reverend Greg pastored off 103.8 am, sermoning a passage from the Good Blue Book of Belief.
Virgil tried to mention an alligator that terrorized the Bouchet’s nextdoor and what should be done BY GOD but she said Reck now what Rev’rend Greg’s got ta sooth Virg. Aint no alligators in heaven noway. You pay ‘tention.
How you know there aint no gators in heaven? Guardin the pearly gate, I’d wager. Prolly a big ol moat surroundin.
She shook her head then blindly turned the Reverend up.
For from within, –read Reverend Greg— out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulturies, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye...
What’s an evil eye? Virgil interjected.
Shhhsh, said Clementine.
...blasphemy, pride, and foolishness.
She eyed her husband circumspect on all accounts.
All these evils come from within, and defile man.
‘E dont say much to woman, do he? Virgil flicked the lit cigarette out the window unto a roadside swale.
That’s jus da way da Good Book talk. Man applies ta boph. Men and women. Women and men. Dont mattah.
All sin is equal in the eyes of God –continued the radio Reverend. Each must be uprooted and banished from our Garden, otherwise the entirety of oneself is poisoned. So I say unto you, go visit an Uncle Elias today. Sow your seeds of sin where they mayn’t flourish, and walk away renewed, ready to reap a better life. We’ll take a quick break folks, good morning and god bless.
Virgil plugged a pinkie in his ear and extracted an amber rope of wax then smeared it on his coverall’s pantleg.
Clementine watched. I gotta feelin you aint gonna quit.
Course I am, he said. What else’d I come out ere fer? He turned into Uncle Elias’ parkinglot and they got out not yet finished with their discussion.
You eard the Rev say all sins’re same.
Yahep. I eard im. But they dont all cost the same.
She crossed her breast, eyes to the shrouded sky. Lord, you saw fit to bless me with a dumbass.
Think that’s a big howdy do do you? Well Mr. Chuckles, ya dont know how much a nicotine addiction costs. They may even give ya a two fer one deal.
Two fer one?
She patted her belly with a caustic yawn.
I aint that fat Clemmy.
Well I can think of another.
Another what? Aint there sumpthin in the Blue Book say y’aint supposta look fer a pine nettle in my eye when you gotsa big ol cypress log in yer own. He spread his eyelids with thumbs and forefingers.
She smoothed her shirt.
S’what I thought. ‘Sides smokin aint a sin. It’s just a nasty habit. He took the pack from the frontpocket of his coveralls and punched the last smoke onto his lower lip. I got willpower, hun. You jus dont see it. Virgil lit his last cigarette and showed five fingers then countdown to four and three and two and one and tossed the smoke aside as she stared askance then he stomped it underfoot mashing it into the concrete. See? He held his hands supine.
You done provin yer point?
Yahep. He spat then smiled like a crooked boxnail.
Try ta be ‘spectful in thur. O K? Virg?
I’ll be purty as a plum. He smacked his stomach paunch.
She rolled her eyes and pouted her lips.
They crossed the parkinglot and the recording monitors atop the twentyfoot walls of the inner complex followed the movements. Capturing each twitch, each itch, each satisfied stare at the other. They felt they’d won and the other lost.
The bell above the door knelled thrice at the entrance. A sallowfaced woman in her midfifties did not attempt any gestures of welcome, but sucked on a cigarette lipsticked red. She smoldered.
Bon day, again, said Clementine.
The woman gave no indication of any past acquaintances.
How’re you, asked Virgil.
What have you brought us? Asked the woman behind the frontdesk. She seemed to stand yet at a height so small she had to prop herself on her elbows and balance on tiptoes to clear the counter.
My husband wants ta store his cigarette addiction.
Does he now? The woman, whose name placard said Gloria but could’ve been anyone, asked.
Virgil nodded dejectedly.
We’ve got lotsa smokers here.
Virgil cut forward to financial figures and past his wife holding her handbag open like a venus flytrap about to snap vicious around her face. Clementine was searching for a form of her identity in the deepest folds of her reticule, mentioning she had it somewhere. Somewheres, she said.
How much is it?
It aint cheap. But’s cheaper than smokin, Gloria said through a plume. How much you smoke now?
That change the cost? Virgil asked, turning practical.
Gloria reached across the counter like a child trying to point out that which it would never witness. Say’s right thur. We gotsa right to know the extent of what yer puttin in here fer reasons of secur’ty.
Virgil read the miniscule font.
Uncle Elias’ U-Store-It Self-Storage reserves a right to acquire for full detail concerning the contents of that which will be deposited. Failure to comply will...
What about some damn privacy?
I’ve got it! Clementine said, holding up a translucent laminated card, with a barcode pressed between the bindings.
Gloria blinked like a lizard, batting her maquillaged-blue lashes with methodical languidness. Once it’s inside it’s private. If you dont like it there’s always Captain Schnell’s Self-Security but they’ll only make matters worse.
There’s a sign on the glass, added Clementine. That says a two-fer-one special.
That’s correct, mayam.
Virgil aboutfaced. I aint gonna stand here and be redicooled into divulgin a thang about me.
He smokea a pack a day, Clementine disclosed in his stead. Some of the times two. When e’s baen drankin.
Gloria nodded. So the two fer one special?
Now Clemmy, I aint given up drankin and smokin all in the same day. My drankin aint bad and if it was I’d give it up gradyal like erry other sane person under a full moon.
The estimate for two packs a day is four-fifty a month fer the first six months, then two-twenty-five the followin.
I dont smoke two packs a day, though.
With the two-fer-one special that preliminary charge is reduced to three-hundred flat as you sawed on the winder. A savin’s of nine-hundred dollars.
Speakin of doll hairs.
Shut up Virg.
Why dont you store all them dolls instead of my beers?
Gloria stated that they did not store physical objects.
Well what about one a yer other things?
What one other things, asked Clementine.
You want I should make you a laundry list, said Virgil.
I’ll give y’all a moment to mull things over, said Gloria, receding under the desk to godknowswhere.
They discussed the issue circularly, placing blame where blame belonged long ago that justifiably needed to be unsurfaced. They decided that Clementine could negotiate to quit chewing her nails for six months so long as she could continue her shopping habit subsequent to that trial period.
They shook and kissed and returned to the counter.
Decided? Gloria asked, gophering up.
They explained. Gloria gave her best smile throughout the proceedings then forewarned them that there may come a day when their vices might come in handy. If they’d made up their minds to stay together, that was well with her, but just so they knew, she winked, they did offer a divorce box.
How’s that work? Virgil asked.
Clementine kicked him.
I’se just askin, he affirmed rubbing his ankle.
Well... Gloria elucidated the procedure dourly.
...Payhap y’all’ll want ta forget the other person even existed. That you even exist.
Mr and Mrs Matherne crossed glances and held hands.
I aint sayin y’all will, but ya might. If it comes to bloodspilt, all I’ll say is we gotta great service whereby whoever’s the one got left, can come in and take somebody’s.
Somebody’s what? Asked Virgil, supremely confused.
Think of it like this, Gloria clarified: If you got a headache, you have somebody punch ya in da rib. Shore it’ll hurt like hell fer an hour, but one pain for another as dey say, she said.
Clementine slid her card across the counter. I’m in 8, I think 8-B3. Is it possible to put my husband in with me?
Wait a second, Virgil said.
If we’re sharin a box, does that mean we’re sharin the vice? He abstracted a tiny box with his thick-greased hands.
I spose you c’n think of it like that, Gloria answered.
I just dont like the sound of it.
Fer better er worse, Clementine reminded him.
Yahe, Virgil conceded.
Listen y’all, Gloria said, a slight twinkle in her veiny eyes, neither of you the worst case we got. Hell we got murderers stored the memory of their victims. Just last week a crossdresser come inquirin if he could do a one week on one week off sorta deal. One man’s got his wife in here. A woman’s got her husband. Prolly the same couple. Point is, yer problems’re petty compared to most. I aint sposta say that but I just cant bear another sad soul on my conscience.
The couple agreed upon Gloria’s advice to store their concerns. It was worth the additional cost.