The Kentucky Waterfall Windfall
I was on the verge of unemployment and financial dissolution. I was on the edge of divorce and the grim prospect of fucking forty-five year-olds peeled away from the herd congregating at the Grab-A-Granny Inn. Good news arrived in the form of a phone from a person not given to good news.
I answered the phone on the seventh ring. “What, god dammit, what is it?”
“Is that how you answer the phone?”
“What if it’d been Treena from my church group calling about tonight’s Good Samaritan meeting?”
“I’d be no where near as pleasant.” Which is a true fact. It’s been my experience church women don’t rock out to Iron Maiden and they don’t respond well to my sexual advances. So I got no use for them.
“Guess what I got today?” The wife continued.
Oh fuck! There was no telling. Herpes. Indigestion. A speeding ticket. A lustful stare from the retarded bagger at the Piggly Wiggly. “A Big Mac extra value meal?”
“I’m not talking about lunch. Why would I call you about lunch? I got my disability. Finally. I called the bank to see how much we had in checking. I thought it was a mistake at first, but nope. We got the back pay they owed me.”
“That’s great.” It’d been a long two years between applying for disability and her day in court. “Where you at?”
After a significant pause. “Wal-Mart.”
“What? We need some fabric softener. And I need some new bras.”
“All right. All right.” It was true, she needed new bras. She was understandably tired of holding her tits up with two loops of nylon tied around her neck. “Just… Just go easy on the money, ok? I’m not thinking I’m going to be employed very much longer. With the economy in the shitter and all.”
“I will. You know I hate coming to Wal-Mart.”
She said this with no trace of irony, despite the fact she’d been going to Wal-Mart twice a day, every day for six years.
During the next hour the wife managed to bestow a thousand dollars upon the Walton clan. She did so much fucking shopping, I didn’t even recognize the Wal-Mart shopping bag-laden vehicle she returned home in. I vaguely recalled the wife leaving in a Dodge Neon with the stupid ass PROTECTED BY ANGELS decal in the back window. Now she piloted what could only be described as a Dodge Caravan.
“I bought a minivan,” the wife said, lugging a bag teeming with toilet paper into the trailer.
“I see that.”
“Toilet paper was on sale so I bought seven hundred rolls.”
“Good to know.” No matter what happens from here on out, I’ll always have something to wipe my ass with in these trying economic times.
“My back hurts. Can you bring in the groceries?”
Fuck. During the next hour and a half, I carried in bag loads of shit we didn’t need in quantities that exceeded trailer capacity. I had to kick out a section of underpinning and stuff the thirty-eight cases of Dr Pepper beneath the single wide.
“What did you get a juicer for?”
“In case we get a taste for freshly squeezed orange juice.”
“You bought six fucking cartons of Tropicana.”
Muscle failure hit just as I carried the last three bags of bacon across the threshold. “I can’t believe you bought so much shit.”
“Quit your whining. I bought you a DVD.”
“Yeah… I’ve been dying to watch… Mamma Mia.”
“Don’t be such a tightwad. We’ve never had this much money before. Can’t we just enjoy it a little bit.”
“All right, god dammit, but we’ve gotta save some back, too.”
“I was hoping we’d get so me new furniture,” the wife said. “All we’ve ever had were other people’s hand-me-downs.”
“Ok. We can do that.”
“And a new bed. One of those nice adjustable ones that won’t hurt my back.”
“Yes,” I agreed, getting into the spirit. “And a new sink that won’t hurt your back when you wash dishes. And a new vaccuum that won’t hurt your back when you clean the carpet.”
“Now you’re just trying to be mean.”
The next week passed quickly, a flurry of random purchases capped by the expenditure of fifty-five hundred dollars on new furniture. It was a consumer victory the wife crowed about for days since she finagled the store owner into throwing in a small, plastic desk chair into the mix free of charge.
Folks with tenuous family ties called, asking after the wife’s well-being. Lovella, next door, called seven times a day asking the wife if she’d be interested in accompanying her to her Baptist church where, for a small tithe, professional christ mongers were prepared to exorcise the demons bedeviling her spine.
Two weeks later we were down to our last thousand bucks. And the economy wasn’t looking any better.
“What do you mean we’re down to our last thousand bucks? How did we spend so much in so little time without the aid of cocaine and whores?”
“Money don’t last. And don’t give me that look. You got a new computer.”
“That we financed! That we’ll be making payments on until the technology’s obsolete.”
“Well… I guess we didn’t need new furniture.”
Oh, for fuck sakes. The guilt trip. “Look, we got a thousand bucks,” I said. “That’s more than we’ve ever had in the bank. Hopefully I can hold on to my job and we’ll be all right. And we’ll have a little put back so we’re not going paycheck to paycheck.”
“I gotta go to Parkview Mall today. I gotta get a hair straightener I’ve been needing.”
What I thought was: I’ll straighten your hair out with a fucking sledgehammer. What I said was: ok. After all, Parkview boasted both a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor and a remainder book store. While I wasn’t too keen on forking out five bucks for two scoops of Chunky Monkey in these difficult economic times, I could always use cheap books, despite the twenty or so novels I had piled up waiting to be read.
I probably should have stayed close to the wife’s purse, but the siren song of discount books proved too alluring to resist. In the amount of time it took to peruse the fiction aisle and wolf down a cup of Cherry Garcia, the wife could have blown through the ten bens and put me in the hole another two grand, besides. These thoughts were weighing heavily on me as I stalked the mall searching for her.
In Kay Jewelers I saw a woman wearing a shirt identical to the one the wife wore. My heart seized up in my chest as this woman dallied over the diamonds. But this woman had hair half way down her back. Thank god. My wife favored shoulder length hair feathered back in Farrah Fawcettian proportions. Damn, I was really… wait a minute…
What the hell was my wife doing with a circa 1991 Billy Ray Cyrus mullet attached to her head?
I came at her from the side. Sure enough, it was my wife; hair short at the front and sides, but with a gigantic god dam mullet streaming out the back of her head like a Kentucky waterfall.
“What the hell?”
“I’m looking at a new engagement ring/wedding ring set,” the wife said by way of explanation.
“What happened to the one I bought you twelve years ago?”
“The diamonds rubbed off of it. You can’t tell it by the naked eye.”
“Ah, Christ. And what’s that… that marmint pelt hanging off your skull?”
“Oh you like this?” She sashayed her hair across her shoulders as though she were doing an impromptu shampoo commercial. “They made me a good deal on it where I bought my hair straightening iron.”
“It’s the silliest thing I’ve ever fucking seen. And I’ve seen some silly shit!”
Her face clouded over. “I like it.”
“It looks like Billy Ray Cyrus’s long lost mullet.”
“Well you like Billy Ray Cyrus, don’t you?”
“Fuck no! I hate him and his preening little bitch of a daughter.”
“Don’t have an aneurysm. It only cost a hundred bucks.”
“A hundred bucks! Holy Christ! For a hundred bucks I coulda got me a serviceable toupee.”
I looked at the rock hustler behind the counter. She stared at me in glittering abject horror.
“Well, it’s only held in with bobby pins,” the wife said. “You can use it, too. Wear it beneath a hat when you get on the webcam you don’t think I know about.”
I dropped my head, hung my shoulders. Defeated. Again. Broke. Again.
“Now what do you think about this ring?” The wife asked. “It’s real cubic zarconia. And about a hundred times bigger than the last diamond you bought me. And probably more expensive, too.”
Twelve years ago, Karl Koweski left Chicago for the mountains of Northern Alabama to escape the snow, crime and culture. No matter how far he goes, however, he can’t outrun his Cubbies obsession. His first full-length collection of stories, Blood and Greasepaint, will be available late summer from www.epicrites.org.