by Michael Tuberdyke

     Stepping into the apartment David saw Mary sitting with her legs crossed in the center of the kitchen repotting her plants.
     “Is my sweet home?” Her voice was playful. Mary was genuinely glad David was home. She took the day off and everything that she did that morning and afternoon she did for herself. 
     “Yep.” David kept his response short. He did not mean for it to sound the way it did. He forcibly changed his demeanor and tried not to blame himself for the shift in the overall atmosphere of the room. “How’s my little bumbler?”
     “I’m fine.” There was a pause before she asked him about work.
     “It wasn’t anything.” David said this without understanding what he meant.
     “Would you like to elaborate?”
     David rested himself against the counter. He looked at Mary with something close to petty jealousy. He wanted to do what he liked with the day. He then thought about his car and hoped it would pass inspection. There was quite a bit of noise coming from underneath and for the life of him he could not figure it out.
     “No. I mean, I don’t know. What do you want me to say? It was boring.” David took a breath. He did not like to talk about work. Talking about work only placed him back in the office. He tried to be happy. He was home.
     Mary looked him in the eyes. “Why are you sad?”
     “I’m not sad.” David felt exhausted. He did not know how he would make it through the rest of the week.
     David started a conversation about something he read in the paper so that he could get his mind off work. The two began to talk and as Mary carried the topic further, David left the room. He continued to speak to Mary through the walls while changing.
     “I’ve got to make a call,” He shouted.
     Mary did not hear him. She continued speaking. David answered passively as he shut the door to their bedroom. He did not mean to be rude, but after receiving a message late last night he knew he would have to follow up. It was the last thing he wanted to do. Every time things were at a normal pace he would get a call from her. David did not know how to handle it. He wondered if she knew just how much a call from her affected him. 
     He dialed the number and waited.
     “So what do you want to talk—”
     “David, this is your mother. You have to do as I tell you. You’re aunt is going through chemo. What do you mean you aren’t sending her a card?”
This remark made him snap. “It’s been twenty years since I spoke to her. I don’t even know the person.”
“David. She’s your aunt. You know how that makes me look if you don’t send something?”
     Mary opened the door and saw David squatting in the center of the room with his shirt removed. He looked wild as he glanced over to Mary until he smiled and shook his head. David then extended his arm and with his hand he formed the mouth of a puppet and let the mouth run while making a ridicules face. 
     Mary ran up to David and kissed him on the cheek then apologized before she left the room.
     David wanted to tell Mary there was nothing to apologize for, but she was gone. On the phone his mother reminded him about her life and how difficult the divorce was on them both. He heard the same story for more than a decade. He tried to take it seriously, but when he walked over to the window he saw the neighbor’s dog running in a circle in the backyard. David tried not to laugh into the phone as he cut his mother off.
     “I don’t know what you want me to say.”
     “David, don’t be like your stupid father’s side. I didn’t raise you to be crazy like them. If you don’t send a card, I’ll never forgive you.”
     David turned away from the window as he held back what he was going to say. He knew it would only escalate everything. David picked something from out of his nose and sat on the edge of the bed.
     “You know your father is finally paying up. He just retired.”
     David took the phone away from his ear and stretched to the ceiling. He thought about dropping the phone out of his hand, but brought the phone back down to his ear.
     “At work, David, everyone tells me I’m wonderful. Aren’t I wonderful?”
     “I am wonderful,” His mother laughed then quickly added. “And a fantastic mother too. Don’t you forget it. I’ve got to run, call me soon and remember that card.”
     David said a farewell then hung up knowing inherently that months would pass before either one would try and connect with the other. Without thinking about anything else at all he threw his telephone aside and left the room.
     In the kitchen, Mary was finishing up her project. She looked at David walked toward the exact spot at the counter where he stood before. Mary knew something was on his mind. She wanted to help him, but she did not know how.
     “Was that your mom?” Mary asked knowing the answer.
     “Yeah.” David felt guilty. He couldn’t understand why. In an effort to explain it to himself he spoke out loud. “They just think cause we’re related to each other we owe each other something, ya know, and— I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter anymore.”
     “What are you talking about?” Mary was still busy. She brought the bag of topsoil back to their side room and stacked it along with her other gardening tools.
     “Nothing. I don’t know.” David watched Mary put her plants up on the shelf near the window, which brought in the most light. He could not believe the amount of time Mary spent on them. They were like her children.
     “You want to go for a walk?”
     “I don’t know. It’s a little cold.”
     “It’s Spring,” David said getting himself a glass of water.
     “I think I’m going to pop in the shower.” Mary looked over to David and saw the puzzlement in his face. She didn’t know what to say to him to make him feel any better. She gave him a hug and while they hung onto each other she agreed to go on a walk, but David lost interest in the idea.
     “No. You’re right. It’s cold.”
     The two spoke casually to one another. David started talking about work and how he spent his time throughout the morning. Mary then explained to David about how her day was and took him around the house showing him all the changes that had been made. 

Michael Tuberdyke is the author of The Pharaohs, The River May Run and Inside Out: Stories. He lives in the Finger Lakes Region of New York and is working on his third novel. His books are available at the Central Library, and you can find his author page at Amazon, here.