Fiction

Morning Breath

By: Sterling Warner

“Turn over, Jack.”

“What?”

“You’re snoring again!”

“I wasn’t!”

“You were—and I really need to get some rest before tomorrow.”

Dutifully, Jack rolled over on his left side, looked out the doorway, but couldn’t fall back asleep. In the meantime, Jessica drifted into a deep, dream filled slumber.

“Damnit anyway, Jack!” she shouted in her sleep.

“What did I do…?”

“Always about you, huh?” Jessica added, still lost in dreamland.

“You’ve already got half the bed, Jess.”

“Shut-up!” she screamed and awoke to find Jack staring at her perspiring body. “I thought we were back in Greece on our honeymoon when you could not stop staring at a woman who looked like a teenage version of your mother.”

“Sorry that comes back to haunt you.” She touched his forehead, closed her eyes, and soon started breathing rhythmically.

The alarm clock woke them up only six hours later, but both felt well rested; Jessica experienced no more nightmares, and Jack managed to sleep soundly on his left side.

Jessica sat up in bed and turned to kiss Jack but quickly moved her head back exclaiming, “Ugh! Morning breath!”

“Potty mouth to you too, dear,” Jack retorted as they both laughed and ran to get to the bathroom first, but the door slammed in his face.”

“Hold it another a minute, Jack….aah,” she sighed as she finished and flushed the toilet. “Come on in if you like while I’m taking a shower.”

Jack looked over at Jessica as she soaped her lithe, curvaceous body, paying little attention to the toilet bowel while he peed. “Mind if I join you, Jess?”

“Not at all Jack—but, first, wipe up the piss that you sprayed all over the floor!  Men!”

“So, what have you got lined up today at Westwood Real Estate, Jess?”

“The usual—and perhaps a sale. Tonight, I’ll be showing a house for the third time to a young couple who promised to formalize their property offer when we meet.”

“Cool,” Jack said approvingly. I’ll pick us up some fast food on the way home tonight and reheat it when you get there.”

“You’ve read my mind.”

Later, after eating some oatmeal and drinking some orange juice, they kissed and as Jessica walked out the door in her spring, sleeveless dress, he couldn’t help but notice her refined shoulders that seemed to have been sculpted by a master craftsman. “Good luck, Jess,” he added, though she couldn’t hear him. “Oh, she always does well,” he reflected. “I should be as fortunate.”

Jack seldom displayed a “devil may care” attitude towards anyone or anything, but what else could account for his presentation of an irreverent, yet amusing, direction to a conservative company attempting to rebrand itself? Simple. Desperation! Half way to work, Jack discovered he’d left his briefcase at home. Since Jack realized he’d never make it to Saratoga and back to Sausalito for a  meeting that had been postponed twice during the past month, he opted to use a few notes he’d transferred to his cell phone.

            Unfortunately, Jack’s notes only provided him with broad overview of his proposal, and, knowing Clark and McKinsey Footwear Inc., the primary players would want details. Therefore, he reconstructed what he could and made the rest up on the spot. “Your old slogan, Stay In Step With Clark and McKinley Shoes, doesn’t stir the modern imagination like it did in the past,” Jack explained. “I’ve a two-part slogan. The first part, Everyone Needs a Kick in the Butt Now and Then can be reduced to a single drawing of a shoe kicking someone’s big butt. The second part of the slogan will be the words: “C & M Footwear—for People Going Places!”

            “I get it,” Mr. Clark said while Mr. and Mrs. McKinley nodded their heads in agreement.

            Melinda Jenkins, the CEO for the corporation, suggested that the shoe Jack had drawn for visual effect be exchanged for a feminine looking boot with modest heels. “I’m of the opinion that all assholes out there are men, so instead of a man kicking a man, let’s have a male be on the receiving end of a woman’s foot for a change!”  Everyone laughed. Surprisingly, Clark and McKinsey Footwear Inc. agreed on the new branding ideas, and by lunch, they signed a contract with Jack, took him out to lunch, and gave him a reason to take the rest of the day off.

Most of his adult life, Jack had identified with the personae in Richard Farina’s novel, Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up to Me. Thus, he really didn’t know how to process or share his success. Jess would help him here, though. She would teach him without being demeaning. For once in a long, long time, tonight they’d both have something to celebrate after work!

***

Jessica’s promising day, on the other hand, ended in a flurry of letdowns. First, the up calls for new potential clients never materialized. Second, two referrals where she’d been promised 25% of the seller’s commission—$1,5000. and $2,700. respectively— fell through. Third, she waited an hour for her young clients to arrive for a final walk-through and a bid on their dream house, but they never came.

Concerned that something may have happened to the couple, she called them. After ten rings, a male voice answered. “Hello, Norman Larcens, here.”

“You both okay?” Jessica asked. “You never showed for our final walkthrough and bid—I’ve been worried.”

“Sorry, Jessica, but my wife’s sister just got her real estate license on Monday, so we figured that it’d be nice to throw her our business.”

 “Oh?”

“Yes—I supposed we should have told you that might happen—but knowing my sister-in-law, I never expected she’d pass the real estate license exam….”

            “It would be nice to have relatives throw me some business as a lister, buyer, or both,” Jessica replied, letting go a false laugh to lighten the situation.

            “After all the work you’d done for us, I didn’t feel comfortable facing you in person.”

            “No worries. Enjoy your new home,” Jessica said before concluding her phone call.

            As Jessica walked out of the home, she noticed the young couple sitting in a white Toyota Corolla along with an unfamiliar female in the driver’s seat. As soon as the couple noticed Jessica, they ducked down below the dashboard. “Assholes!” Jessica muttered as she opened her car door and tried to start the car. Dead—her battery was dead! AAA arrived in less than 15 minutes and gave her car a jump.  In the meantime, she’d glance at the white Toyota, noticing how the young couple still hadn’t left the vehicle to walk through their future home.

By the time Jessica got on the freeway, it was almost 7:30, and she expected the worst from everyone. She hit the horn at the sight all bicyclists, fearing they hadn’t seen her.  Then, she flipped on the windshield wipers to clear away some dirt and couldn’t turn them off. Oddly, even though she had right of way on the road, she’d completely halt each time she came to an intersection.

Later, when she passed by a patrol car, she imagined the officer had turned on his flashing lights and started his siren. Thus, she pulled over, accordingly, only to have his car pass her and take the off ramp to Seventh Street. Once Jessica rolled into her driveway, she sat for a couple of minutes composing herself  

Happy and excited, Jack cheerfully greeted her at the door.  “You’ll never believe what happened to me today, Jess!”

“Nothing you’ll bother to write your mom about, I’ll wager!”

“Er…actually—”

“Actually—I was being an ass, Jack; sorry, but I’m in a bad mood—the culmination of my day’s event. Let’s get a bite to eat and talk later.”

“Why don’t you go change into some comfort clothes, Jess, while I heat up the KFC that I picked up on my way home?”

“Sounds like a great plan, Jack.”

Jessica and Jack ate dinner in utter silence; the faraway gaze in her eye informed him that something was wrong, but after twelve years of marriage, he knew full well she’d speak to him about anything—but only when good and ready. “Let’s watch some TV and simply chill,” he suggested.

“If you want.”

They drank an entire bottle of wine while watching the Season 8, Episode 6—the final episode of Game of Thrones which they had taped the night before. When it concluded, they smoked a couple joints and discussed their deep disappointment in the way the show’s writers tried to tie up loose ends, paying more attention to efficient filming than effective, believable story telling. Jack concluded their analysis noting that, “Too many contrived plot elements, and individual story arcs seemed out of character.”

“This has been a shitty day, lacking fulfillment,” Jessica assessed.

“My day wasn’t all bad, Jess. I…”

“My mind’s fried, Jack.”

“Don’t you want to hear about my presentation?”

“Sure—in the morning; I’d go crazy thinking right now.” She laughed and kissed him. Like Scarlett O’Hara said, “I’ll be a better listener tomorrow.”

“Well, she did say tomorrow….”

“The sheets are cool,” she smiled as she rolled under the covers.

“Jess—can I do anything else for you before crawling into bed?”

“Not before….”

“Oh? “When? What?” he inquired somewhat surprised.

“Please sleep on your right side facing me for a change.”

“But my snoring….”

“No worries, Jack.”

“For real?”

“Yeah. Tonight I want something familiar, comforting, and reliable—even if it’s annoying—to help me sleep off my bad day.”

“I’m your huckleberry!” Jack warmly replied in a southern drawl.

Categories: Fiction

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