For Mothers' Day
What’s wrong now? “Yeah.”
“Elena? What about her?”
“She’s on the phone.”
“What does she want?”
"Ask her yourself.”
Yeah, she’s angry.
Hank picked up the phone. “Hi.”
“Did you call Mom?” Elena wasn’t one for small talk. Hank could imagine her in one of those gray business suits she seemed to always wear. She probably sleeps in one. He smirked to himself.
“Mom. Did you at least call her?”
“It’s Mother’s Day you moron,” she added.
“Mother’s Day.” Oh shit, I didn’t… What the hell am I gonna do? Judy will be soo pisssssed. Even in his own mind, Hank drew the words out.
“Yeah, Mother’s Day. You know a little consideration wouldn’t kill…”
“You’re right, Sis. You’re absolutely right. Sometimes I just forget. So busy … work … you know how it is.” He stammered out the rationalization knowing that his big sister didn’t buy a word of it; she never had.
Elena had always been the organized one; he was something else: Self-absorbed his friends said. Narcissistic was the word most other people used. Elena just called him inconsiderate. Judy’s term was “a selfish little prick.”
“Not so little,” he had tried to joke.
“Fine. A big prick.”
“I’ll call her now. Right now.”
Elena started to say something; he didn’t listen.
“What did she want?” Judy hollered from the bedroom. Hank could visualize her, still damp from the shower, long light brown hair hanging to her shoulders. Wrapped in her favorite towel, a big pink thing that was supposed to be for the beach. She had bought it in Florida to use on one of those aluminum and plastic chaises that stood in ranks around the pool. They had been visiting her dad. Hank hadn’t wanted to, but sometimes a guy just has to give in.
I wonder if she’d like a quickie?
Hank walked into the bedroom. Judy was sitting at her vanity. Yep, the towel. He walked over and started to massage her shoulders. She shrugged him off.
“Nothing much, just saying hello. You know, big sister crap.”
Judy didn’t know; she was an only child. But it sounded good.
“Did she tell you to call your mother?”
Shit, what is it with women? Do they have some kind of psychic hotline? “No. I called while you were in the shower.” Maybe I’ll call her later. Who cares? She won’t remember anyway. Besides, I’m her favorite. Always have been.
“You called Elena?”
“No, my mother. I called her before.”
“You did? Why?”
“Just because. Isn’t that good enough?” He could feel his irritation rising.
I better do something quick. If Judy figures out I forgot, I’m in deep shit. What…?
“I have to go out,” he said emphatically.
“Just… I’ve got a few errands I want to run.”
“It’s Sunday morning.”
“I know. Just a couple things. I’ll be back.”
Hank grabbed a shirt from the closet. It was his favorite Hawaiian, bright blue with orange and yellow flowers. Judy hated it. Gaudy was her word for it - gaudy and stupid.
“You’re going to wear that?”
“I’d think you’d be embarrassed.”
Not that song again.
“I’ll be back in an hour.” Shit, I hope that’s enough…
“Be sure you are.” Her voice echoed off his receding back.
The bell pinged. There was no one in the elevator. Hank rode down to the garage.
Beautiful day. He got in and opened the bright red convertible’s top.
Hank turned the key and the Porsche grumbled into life. Tune-up. Great another expense. The car belonged to the dealership, but as long as he used it, he had to pay the bills.
“You fuck it up, you’ve bought it.” That was how Bob had explained the rules. “Otherwise you get 800 miles a month. More, and we dump your ass out of here.”
Hank had nodded agreement.
“One more thing.”
“This is advertising. You tell people where it comes from. Anyone wants to buy it, you sell the damn thing. Understood?”
Hank had nodded again.
“Understood?” Bob had demanded.
“Yeah, Bob, I understand. You want me to sell cars.” He’d left the office with the Porsche’s keys and a wounded ego.
Hank pulled out of the garage and headed for the nearest strip mall. It wasn’t that he had a plan; there weren’t many options. I’d better come up with something or I’ll end up with war instead of pussy. He turned on the radio; it was always set to his favorite station. The volume way up and the bass thumping, his head bounced to his favorite rap.
Staples? Pet Smart? Hank checked out the stores that were open. I could get her a box of doggy treats; maybe she’d think it was funny. For a moment he thought about Judy’s possible reactions.
A horn sounded behind him. He’d stopped in front of the Pet Smart. The Porsche jumped as he pulled away. Nope. She’d just get steamed.
The Hallmark store was open. Hank parked and went in.
“Can I help you, Sir?” the innocent-looking teenager asked from behind the register. She needs a man. Hank smiled to himself. A real man.
“A Mother’s Day card for my girlfriend?” Hank responded.
“Does she have children or not?”
“Nah, no kids.”
“Then maybe just a simple I love you card might be better.”
At least she knows her business. He swallowed hard. “That might be a bit too much; you know too heavy. We’re not…” He let the words trail.
“How about something with a nice friendship sentiment?”
“Yeah, that’ll do it.”
She led him to a rack of cards. “I suggest one of these, and do you want to buy her a gift, too?”
“Yeah, sure.” But he could already see that the plush toys and other cute gifts might take them to a territory he didn’t want to visit – not then and not with this girlfriend.
Hank grabbed a card with a picture of two elephants, their trunks entwined. “This’ll do. How much?”
Reluctantly he paid the three fifty. For a lousy card! Where do they get off…? And I still got to get her a present. And take her out for dinner. Shit.
Two doors over was a grocery store. I can get a couple of steaks, throw ‘em on the grill and call it her present. Like I planned it all along, that’s why I had to go out. So she wouldn’t see them in the fridge and I wanted to get them fresh. Great! That’ll work.
Near the front door of the Safeway was a glass case of flowers. Hank might not have noticed it if another guy wasn’t standing there with the door open trying to decide which of the remaining bunches he was going to buy. He looks like a wuss – wearing a suit and tie on a Sunday morning.
“Got to get something nice for the little lady,” the stranger commented to no one in particular. The comment got Hank’s attention. He, too, looked into the case.
There was one bunch of red roses left, but it looked beat-up and was marked twenty dollars. Those yellow things look cool, and they’re only eight bucks. He reached by the still deliberating stranger and grabbed the flowers.
“What?” Hank demanded in his get-in-your-face voice.
“Nothing.” Good, a wuss always backs down.
Hank threw the flowers into his basket and headed for the meat department. On the way he passed the wine. He grabbed a bottle of cheap Merlot. This will impress her. Nothing like knowing about wines.
He looked at the filets. Too much. Sirloins. No way. He grabbed a couple of flank steaks. Three quarters each. That’ll do. I can throw them on the grill. Yeah, wine, steak, flowers. Perfect. Maybe a salad and potatoes.
He stopped by the deli counter. Coleslaw and German potato salad.
Hank hated standing in line. He could feel the sweat soaking the armpits of his Hawaiian shirt. Shit it’s hot today.
He drummed his fingers on the cart’s handle as he waited for the checkout clerk to finish with a white-haired woman who was fussing about cat food; they were out of her usual brand. Hank wondered if she had a cat or just ate it herself. He cleared his throat a couple of times hoping the sound would hurry her along.
The woman turned back towards him. “Hello.”
She smiled sweetly. “I see you like mums. They’re my favorite flower.” Her voice sounded sweet and motherly like something from a radio show.
“Yeah.” Come on. I need to get out of here.
“Seven dollars and thirty-eight cents,” the clerk said.
“What?” she asked.
The pimple-faced young man repeated the amount.
She searched in her pocketbook for the correct change. “I only have two pennies.”
“That’s fine. I have an extra here.” The boy took a penny from his pocket and laid it on the shelf next to the woman’s money.
Jesus, let’s get going.
“Do you need help with your bag?”
“No. Thank you, young man.”
Where the hell am I – in the middle of Little House on the Prairie or what?
Hank dumped the bag of groceries in what passed for the back seat of the Porsche and threw the flowers onto the passenger seat. He saw the old woman wheeling a Safeway cart across the parking lot. Maybe I should hit her and put her out of my misery? He laughed to himself.
Hank, his head bouncing to the beat of his music, headed back to his apartment. He reached over to turn the already booming volume higher. A good steak and a better lay. Hey man, I got it made. He liked the rhyme, repeated it again and then again, this time out loud. “A good steak and a better lay. Hey man, I got it made.”
One of his neighbors was waiting for the elevator when Hank got to it. “How’s it going?” the man asked.
“Been out shopping, huh?”
“Yeah, gonna make dinner for my girlfriend. Mother’s Day. You know, you got to keep ‘em happy.”
“Yeah. You sure do.”
The other tenant got off at the floor below Hank’s.
“I’m home,” Hank announced as he opened the apartment door.
Judy was sitting grim-faced on the couch. “Where you been?” Before he could answer she continued. “Your mother called.”
“Your mother. She called.”
“Why the hell did…?”
“She didn’t want you worrying. She said your sister was taking her out and she didn’t want you worrying if you called her.”
He stared at her. What the hell are you doing talking with my mother?
“I told her you wished her a happy Mother’s Day.”
“It’s bad enough that she has to call you, that you didn’t call her; but you son-of-a-bitch, you lied to me. Why the fuck did you tell me you’d…?”
“I figured I’d call her when I got back. I wanted to pick up your present first.”
“My present?” she asked, but her voice held no warmth.
“Yeah, I got you these flowers.” He held up the bouquet of yellow mums. “And I figured I’d cook us dinner, something special. I got a couple of beautiful steaks.”
“Yeah, there’s nothing too good for my girl.” It was the way he spoke to customers, like he was their best friend, like he was only thinking of them.
“Steaks?” she repeated.
“Yeah, and a nice bottle of wine and stuff.”
“You prick, you stupid, dumb prick. How long have we been together? And you still don’t know I’m a vegetarian.”