Markoff stopped at the grocery store on his way back to the office and tried to select a good card. He wasn’t very gifted in the art of expressing himself and he was even worse at finding words that were already written just to tell someone how he felt. Just as he had that day at Decoys and Deer, he felt completely lost.
The builder wanted to buy something for his wife. He wanted to show her that he loved her and he wanted get her something that would congratulate her on the sign that she’d designed. He mulled over several trying to decide between humor and heartfelt sentiment.
Greetings cards, Get Well cards, Graduation cards, Thank You cards.
There was a directness to this industry that the builder did not understand. They had a card for everything. Blank cards existed so you only had to chose a picture and write what you wanted to say behind it. What would he write to her to tell her how he felt?
His phone rang.
"Hello?" He asked.
"Well this day can’t get much more screwed up." Myrah shot back at him. "Clara’s been hit by a freaking bus!"
"Jesus." Markoff exclaimed.
"Was she in Houston?"
"No." His wife spat. "Washington D.C."
"Jesus." The builder repeated.
"That’s not all." She continued. "Your ex-wife sent a letter telling Justine that her and that shrimp billionaire that she’s married to are moving off to the Caribbean."
"That’s a good thing."
"From your perspective maybe." His wife answered. "I for one have now got to endure two crying women in my house. Jill’s lamenting the disintegration of her marriage while your daughter’s wailing about never getting to see her momma again."
The builder’s brows lowered. "She can see her momma again. It’ll just cost a little more for airfare."
"That’s not the way that the letter read."
"Jesus." Markoff coughed.
"Yeah." Myrah agreed. "She pretty much worded the damned missive to say ‘Have a nice life and take care of your father for me.’ That’s a fine God damned way for a mother to behave towards her child."
The builder shook his head. "I’ll talk to her when I get home tonight." He muttered. "She's barely seen the woman at all in the past five years. This shouldn’t be hard for her to get over."
He was in a section of gilded cards with embossed scripts that expressed sympathy for the receiver. They came in all sorts of motifs. There were flowers and elaborate sayings against white, blue and pink card stock. Markoff grabbed a yellow one that simply said ‘I’m sorry for your loss."
"Have you talked to Thom yet?" Myrah asked.
"No." He said angrily. "I’m working on it right now."
"You need to let him know that Jill’s living with us."
"And make him take that stupid gun away from his daddy." She added.
Markoff turned to face a row of anniversary cards. One said ‘Tender Bliss’. It had a picture of a dog chasing a butterfly on the front. "I’d rather just take care of my daughter." He said absently.
"You need to take care of Thom first." She ordered. "The last thing that we need is his daddy enacting revenge on his wife for leaving him. I don’t want to be gunned down by deer rifle through my window anytime soon."
The builder nodded. "Fine." He repeated.
"You also need to check on Dan."
"Why?" He asked annoyed.
"Because Clara’s worried about him."
"Well how come I have to do that?" He asked again. "Why can’t Wallace go over there and check on him?"
"That bastard is in Chicago right now giving some kind of a conference to a bunch of depressed insurance agents." Myrah growled. "Clara just called me and told me that he’s going to be gone through the end of the week and that her and Dan fired the nurse they had coming over to take care of him as soon as he got well enough to walk on his own. She can’t reach him because his cell phone won’t work in the safe room."
"What the hell was she doing in Washington anyway?"
"I don’t know." She sighed sounding exhausted. "She apparently went there for some day trip to try to sell something to some company or another. It was supposed to be less than twelve hours."
"And she got hit by a bus." He added.
"Yeah." Myrah replied. "Apparently there was some billboard for some funeral parlor that she got distracted with and she wandered right out in front of it."
"Are you trying to be cute?" His wife asked without a hint of amusement to her voice.
"I don’t know."
"My best friend just got clobbered by a freaking bus." She barked at him. "Show some tact."
"Fine." The builder said again.
"I’ll text you the security code to their house just in case you can’t get in."
They hung up.
In June both he and Myrah would have been married for eight years. He wondered if this was all a part of the notorious seven year itch. They seemed to exist on two separate levels of consciousness right now. When he was feeling tender she was being gruff. When he was feeling short she was left to right the injustices of his surliness.
Markoff wondered if things would return to ‘Tender Bliss’ once they entered year eight. He wondered if they would suddenly get back on the same page or if they would continue to drift apart. Things hadn’t gotten out of control yet but Myrah was unhappy. He could feel it.
He grabbed the card with the dog and butterfly on it as well as one that said ‘Congratulations!’ with pictures of shiny balloons and confetti on the side of it. He picked out one out that read ‘I’ll always love you’ and another that had a picture of a monkey sitting at a type-writer with the words ‘Here’s to all your hard work’ stretched across the top of it. He plucked two from the ‘Get well soon’ section and a blank one bearing an image of a flower on the front. He folded them all underneath his arm and headed back to buy some beer.
Micro-brews, wine-coolers, stouts, ales, lites, darks, domestic long-necks.
A man with a beard was browsing the wines. Next to him a pregnant woman stood. Their backs were turned away from the builder but Markoff could hear them talking.
"There is a snake in my body." The man said in a heavy English accent.
"You keep saying that." The woman replied. "But honestly, if you could remember how you were before you’d realize that you are a much better person now."
Markoff took the most popular brand from off the shelf and headed up front to make his purchases.