Original short literary fiction, including satire, remains one of the writing genres I keep in my literary toolkit.
Reaching for the Jar of Peanut Butter
While Charlie drove down to the city to pick up tickets to the LazerStrike concert, Beth went grocery shopping. Reaching for a jar of peanut butter that was clearly out of reach for her, suddenly a hand appeared and retrieved the peanut butter for her. She turned with a start, and there was Sid, handing her the jar.
"Oh, my goodness. Thank you, Sid! I usually just climb the shelves hoping they won’t topple over with me," Beth babbled nervously.
"Well, you know, shelf climbing is dangerous. These shelves are probably not Beth-worthy," said Sid, flashing her a wink, while grabbing her shoulders, as if to prevent a fall that was not in the offing.
"Well, thanks for giving the old girl an assist," Beth replied, hoping she could just escape any further conversation with Sid.
"Hey, Beth, why don’t you and Charlie drive up the Bluff and have dinner with me and Cindy this evening? We have some new footage of our family trip to Lake Sapphire," said Sid.
"Well, I’ll ask Charlie," said Beth. "He went to get the concert tickets today, and he’ll probably do some shopping while he’s in the city."
Sid’s eyes glazed over as they usually did when Beth said more than two words to him. And then he leaned in close to her and said, "You know, I don’t really give a rat’s ass what Charlie is doing. I’m more interested in what Beth is doing, how she does it, and if she might be interested in doing it with me."
Beth had no response to this revelation, so she just said, "I’ll see if we can come to dinner, and I’ll call Cindy later to let her know." She hurried to check out with her shopping about half finished.
Charlie returned with the tickets. Beth told him about the invitation from Sid for dinner.
"You saw Sid today?" Charlie asked.
"Yes, in Kroger. He saved me from climbing the shelves to retrieve a jar of peanut butter, and then he suggested we come to dinner," said Beth.
"Well, do you want to go?" asked Charlie.
"Not especially, but if you want to visit your cousin, then I don’t mind," said Beth.
Charlie seemed conflicted. He had hoped for a quiet evening at home, nothing more than a simple dinner and few hours of mindless TV before hitting the hay early. He knew that Beth was always uncomfortable around his cousin and his wife.
Sid and Cindy would bicker constantly regardless of the topic, regardless of who was in the room. Beth hated any kind of confrontation and so did Charlie. Sid and Cindy would try to pull Beth and Charlie into their battles.
Beth and Charlie decided that if they did not accept that dinner invitation, they would have to face a severe upbraiding from Sid, and likely he would bring mothers and aunts into the fray and then all hell would break loose.
Dinner went smoothly enough. Then Sid brought out the drinks, scotch and more scotch for him. Cindy clung to her Darjeeling. Beth and Charlie each accepted a beer, nursing their beers while Sid gulped shot after shot.
Cindy excused herself as soon as the daylight disappeared; she had volleyball practice the next morning, and she needed her rest. Beth and Charlie took this as their cue to leave, but Sid piped up and declared: "Hey, no need to rush off. Cindy can sleep through the roar of a freight train. Stick around. We'll bring out the guitars and heat up a few tunes."
Beth was all for the music. She had just written a couple of new songs, and Charlie was enthusiastic to hear them over Sid’s new sound system.
Beth picked up a guitar and began to pick and sing her new song, "Somewhere with You." Charlie listened closely and then said,"Wow, you know we need to get you a guitar like that. That old thing you’ve been playing just doesn’t do you justice."
"Well, Charl, maybe it’s more than the guitar that don’t do her justice," piped up Sid.
Charlie looked own at his feet, and Beth said, "Charlie’s right. My old guitar doesn’t have the tonal quality of this one, Sid. Charlie, tomorrow, we should go shopping for a better guitar. After all, I’m going to be playing at my reunion in a few weeks, and a better guitar would make me sound so much better."
"Beth, you sound perfect! You can borrow that guitar until you get your new one," said Sid.
"Oh, I don’t know! Isn’t this your best guitar, Sid?" said Beth.
Carving Out a Space
"I have a whole room full of guitars. Come, pick out the one you’d like to use," Sid grabbed Beth’s hand, and he told Charlie to mix up some margaritas while he took Beth on a tour of his guitar room.
Charlie ambled to kitchen and started mixing up the margaritas.
Sid opened the door to his cherished music room, and it was pretty much filled with guitars.
"Beth, look at his one!" said Sid. It had signatures of Willy Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and George Strait.
"Are those real?" asked Beth. Sid moved close her and took her face in his hands and kissed her, with a passion she remembered only from her kiss with Carlie after they were declared "man and wife" at their wedding ceremony. And then Sid said, "They are as real as this kiss."
Beth tried to pull away, "What are you doing? Have you no shame? Let me out of here." She lurched for the door, but Sid stopped her. He pleaded, "Look, I have to talk to you. Don’t you realize how I feel about you? I’ve been in love with you for years, and I decided I had to act on it before it was too late. I don’t mean to hurt you, or Charlie, or Cindy. But I thought maybe you could understand. Maybe you felt that way too."
"Why would you think that?" asked Beth.
"Because we have so much in common. Our music. Out art. Our passion for living. Charlie and Cindy are great people. They are. But do they share our passion for creating art and music?"
"They appreciate art and music, and they have always supported us in our endeavors to live the creative life. But I don’t think they would understand us having a passion for each other. How can you think that would work?" asked Beth.
"I know. I know. But why do they have to know? It could be just something we have together. Don’t you think we are smart enough to carve out a space in which we could have each other without that special relationship interfering with them?" explained Sid.
"Oh, God! Do you think that is possible?" Beth found herself leaning into Sid, staring longingly into his eyes.
"Why not?" asked Sid.
Beth was beginning to let herself feel this heat between them. A heat she had denied for twenty-five years. In dreams she had envisioned herself and Sid dancing, singing together, making love. But she had always woken to a feeling of remorse.
Why should she feel such a strong attraction to her cousin-in-law? She loved her husband more than life, but she could not deny that she felt an attraction to Sid, and her only refuge was the thought that Sid did not feel the same way she did.
Now that she knew he returned her passion, how could she escape? Was his suggestion of their having an affair that they could control and keep secret even a possibility?
"We’ve got to get back. Charlie will wonder what’s taking so long," said Beth.
Pulling her close to him, Sid said, "Promise me you’ll think about what I said. I want to know you better. Is that so wrong? I think you must possess a treasure trove from a world I can only imagine. Promise me you’ll think about what I’ve said."
"I’ll think about it, I promise, now let’s go," said Beth.
Charlie had mixed a pitcher of margaritas and was standing at the front window looking out on the lake that offered a fantastic view from Sid and Cindy’s house. Stars were gleaming along with the moon on the water.
Hearing his wife and cousin return from the music room, Charlie stirs from his reverie.
"Hey, where’s the guitar?" asked Charlie.
"Oh, Charlie, Sid has so many guitars, I couldn't choose one," mumbled Beth. "I think you have the right idea. We’ll have to go shopping for me a new. Can we go tomorrow?"
"Sure, why not?" said Charlie, pouring the drinks.
"Let’s go sit out on the deck and talk to the stars," suggested Sid.
Around midnight, after the margaritas were consumed and conversation with the stars was completed, Charlie and Beth headed home.
For the next three weeks, Beth stayed home, trying to write some songs and just practicing her piano and getting used to her new guitar. She mused and stewed on what Sid had said to her that night in his music room. She had dreamed those passion filled dreams waking to feel even worse than before. Her guilt mounted that she would even consider the ludicrous suggestion Sid had made about their carving out a space for their illicit affair.
Beth knew there was no such space to be carved. She just wanted to forget that she had ever had those feelings. She believed that they came from a different lifetime, when she and Sid were perhaps lovers or even husband and wife. But that lifetime was gone, the only lifetime they had now was the here and now.
Still, she had to make a decision. She had tell Sid that she could not participate in such a carving out of space. She had to tell him. This infatuation has to end, but she knew that Sid was a strong willed character, and she dreaded his reaction to her decision.
It was Easter, and Sid and Cindy were throwing their yearly Easter bash with all their seven children and all their fifteen grandchildren coming together for food and fun. Beth had run through her mind every possible excuse for not attending this year’s bash. But nothing worked, and she knew that Charlie, even though he dreaded all the noise fostered by the reunion, would not consider missing the event.
What could possibly happen with Sid’s entire family present? Beth felt that perhaps all would be well.
Sid had the music stage ready. His three sons performed some Simon and Garfunkel and Everly Brothers tunes. Then his four daughters who had been performing as a quartet in the city did their rendition of several Dolly Parton tunes.
The grandchildren performed next. Every grandchild except Lester the youngest performed some music. Then Lester took the microphone and said he had an announcement.
"Family! I love you! I love you all! I just wanted to applaud all my illustrious siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins on their musical talent. I seem to be to only one to have been blessed with a lack of that talent. I did bring some of my paintings to put on display, and I appreciate the enthusiastic responses from Cousin Charlie and Beth and all the others who’ve given me nod.
"But it’s not my painting that I want to talk about. I just wanted to tell everything while you are all in one place that I will be transitioning from the gender as a male to the gender I feel I should have been assigned at birth. By this time next year I will be called "Lynette" not Lester, and I will look like the woman I wish to be.
"Now, dear family, I do hope you all will support me in this effort. I love you all and pray that we all achieve all of our worthy goals."
With that, Lester/Lynette left the stage. And the Easter bash. Most of the family seemed to be of the opinion that what they thought really did not matter. Lester had always been non-attached to the rest of the family, and they just saw this as one more issue of that non-attachment.
A Couple Playing Music
In Front of God and Everybody
After a brief lull in the party, Sid mounted the stage and announced that the music would continue. He picked up his guitar and then called for Beth to join him on stage. Beth questioningly glanced at Charlie, who motioned for her to go. She went.
Sid, pretending to adjust the microphone, whispered into Beth’s ear: "This is that space, dear Beth! Tonight we begin carving out that space right here in front of God and everybody. Get it?"
They sang. They flirted. They sang. They danced. They sipped the ambrosia of physical and spiritual wine. And they sang some more. Their performance enthralled the entire family. Even Lester/Lynette had returned and stood amazed that his grandpa and cousin Beth could sing and perform with such passion.
Beth and Charlie returned home and fell into bed tired but feeling good about the family reunion. Beth dreamed that night, but instead of the disgusting lust-filled dalliance, she dreamed of performing beautiful, original music with Sid. And she knew that if making music on stage before the entire family was the space Sid said they could carve out for their passion, she could live with that.
© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes