All Stories, General Fiction

Paper-Lined Tables by Rachel Sievers

“Will you bring me something to drink from the kitchen?” She asks with her feet up on the couch. I swivel from my perch looking out the kitchen window. The open floor plan of the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house makes it easy to see the bottoms of her feet from where they lay on top of the armrest of our couch. Her neon pink socks have white writing that read: if you can read this bring me wine. I consider her socks and reach into the walnut cabinet and pull out a water glass, filling it directly from the sink. I bring her the full glass and hold it out to her. She doesn’t look up from her phone but grabs the water glass and brings it to her pale and chapped lips. She needs to drink more water.

“You work tonight?” I ask trying to draw her into me.

Her eyes flicker and threaten to leave her screen but in the end,  they stay firm, “nope, night off.”

I don’t say anything else because there isn’t anything to say. I sit down on the couch with the brown flowered cushions that she chose and pick up my phone. Instead of flipping to any of the multiple social media accounts I flip to Amazon and purchased the next thing on my wish list: chew toy.

“Panic attacks are quite common,” the Doctor told us as she sat on the paper-lined table and I stood on the tiled floor next to her. She kept her hand firmly in mine. I could feel her hand sweating but I kept holding tight, refusing to let her go.

“But it felt like a heart attack,” she said her voice quavering slightly.

“They often do. I have some suggestions to manage stress and some pharmaceutical options if that is the way you would like to proceed.” She looked at me. I know how she feels about taking any type of medication. She grew up on the outskirts of Seattle with a naturalist mom, who brewed superb herbal teas. She pulls her hand to her head taking my hand with it. Then she asks, “what are my options?”   

Opening the small Amazon box, I pulled out the red chew toy I had ordered four days prior, two-day shipping did not happen in small remote Idaho towns. She had promised me a dog as penance for moving to Idaho. Getting ready for a dog was as exciting as getting one, maybe more so.

The toy was perfect and I walked into our spare room we still hadn’t unpacked even though we had lived in this house for more than six months. We had purchased it in late summer after selling our loft in LA. We had ended up ahead and up a thousand square feet. Now in March, the novelty of the house had worn off as we spent most of our free time cleaning it. More money, more problems was a saying that we had changed to more house, more cleaning.

I placed the red chew toy next to the small pile I was accumulating. It was the last thing I needed before I was ready to get a dog. I was going to tell her tonight that I was ready to start looking for our new family addition.

The yoga studio four blocks from our flat was a godsend. We spent every Tuesday and Thursday there from five to six in the morning. I was happy to get deeper into my downward dog and it seemed to be helping her stress. It had been three weeks of our normal life, with a bit more stretching. Her birthday was on a Friday. There was a surprise party at our flat. All our friends dressed up in their best. We hid in various places and then when she entered we yelled, “surprise!” The bag she had in her hand dropped and she screamed. It was the second time in less than a month we ended up in the ER.

I waited for her to take her morning bathroom break from the endless meetings that controlled her day and broke the news, “I’m all ready.” I announced as if I had just found the cure to the mundanity of our new life. She should be pleased.

“What?” she asked tersely, not pausing on her way to our spare bathroom. I tried not to roll my eyes.

“I’m ready for the dog.” Her face crinkled in confusion and so I clarified, “the dog you promised we could get when we moved out of the city.”

“Oh,” was all she seemed to be able to muster and she went into the bathroom. I stood outside as the door shut in my face. I turned and walked to our calendar on the fridge. Next Saturday was our free day together. I had to work this Saturday at the brewery. I didn’t have to work the twentieth and neither did she. I wrote dog day on a stickie note and stuck it to the calendar.

“You need to make some big changes in your daily life if you are not open to medication,” the doctor said, “these panic attacks are not going to go away without an intervention of some sort, whether that is medication or lifestyle change.” She wasn’t holding my hand this time. She had her hands clasped in white balls in front of her. She nodded her head and chewed on her bottom lip.

The doctor gave us a prescription that we picked up on our way to the flat. She held the white bag with the blue writing as she looked out the window of the city passing by. She was silent on the drive home. When we stopped at a light she whispered, “I need out of the city.”   

When dog day came I woke her early like a kid at Christmas. I wanted her full of coffee so she wouldn’t be grouchy. If she was grouchy then the dog shelter volunteers might not let us have one of the dogs.

I shouldn’t have been worried. It seemed the only prerequisite for adopting a dog was having a pulse, which was good because she was grumpy and moody the whole time we were there. I ignored her, this was my day. This was my reward for moving with her to the middle of nowhere. 

There were not as many dogs as I hoped, it seemed people in Idaho kept their dogs chained up outside rather than send them away. I walked around and noticed all were big dogs. I had my heart set on a little dog, but I was informed that little dogs didn’t come in much another Idaho thing.

I looked back and she was on her phone this time talking to someone instead of texting. I ignored her and walked around the cemented room from cage to cage. Most dogs were a breed of Pitbull, something I wasn’t excited about either. I walked to the last cage with hope in my heart that I would connect in some way with this last dog. I looked in the cage at an empty spot. I took another deep breath and slowly blew it out and did two more rounds through the cages. We left three hours later with a black and white Pitbull-Lab mix that I named Daryl.

The television blared a rerun while we packed up our loft in southern California. She was all excitement. She talked constantly about what our life in the mountains was going to be like. The hiking and kayaking. All of the fresh air and space to move. I couldn’t share her enthusiasm. The state seemed like a backwoods redneck playground full of animals that would eat me and I told her as much.

She put her box down and came up behind me, wrapping her arms around my waist. “What if we got a dog?” She asked, “I know you’ve wanted one forever and now we will have space.”

Daryl was not used to his leash and pulled me around the subdivision. In late April I have to keep reminding myself that moving here was a good idea, I got a dog after all. I tell myself that small towns of less than a thousand have an allure to them. Friendly people and slow pace.

We round the snowbank towards home and Daryl pulls hard on his leash. He knows he gets a treat when we get home. I half walk, half run towards the three-bedroom, and try not to wince when Daryl scratches at the door before I open it.

She glares at Daryl and opens the door to the garage where his treats are kept. Once he is through she shuts the door and turns to me, “I can’t.” She says then her hands start moving and shaking as she starts talking faster. She tells me she hates it here and she can’t do this anymore. She says I’ve been distant and don’t seem to care about her anymore only about that dog. She says she is moving to Seattle with her mom. She misses the city. It wasn’t the city after all.

I look at her as she gets the words out and the only words that come from my mouth are, “what about Daryl?”

Rachel Sievers

Image by Anne Karakash from Pixabay 

3 thoughts on “Paper-Lined Tables by Rachel Sievers”

  1. Hi Rachel,
    Before I comment on your story I want to tell everyone reading this what a professional you are.
    You have worked very hard and allowed your writing to evolve. You’ve never given up and been willing to keep at this frustrating and very difficult discipline. Unlike so many others, you have never spat out the dummy!!
    It has been an absolute pleasure working with you. There are some tenacious writers on our site and you are up there with the best of them!
    Onto the story:
    I was a bit worried when I saw your original title – Zombies run me cold!!
    This was actually quite a clever piece of writing. There were consequences and reasons for what they did but I don’t think there was any heart in anything from the woman. The guy was all about getting a dog.
    You just got the feeling that they fell together and that they were going through the motions until she finally grew a pair and said as was.
    A well constructed and entertaining piece of story telling!!
    We wish you every success no matter what you do or where you publish. Any site will be a better place with writers like your good self!!!
    I’m delighted to see this today!!!
    Hugh

    PS – We should have a publication date for you regarding your second story over the next day or so.

    Like

  2. Rachel, I second what Hugh said.

    I’m extremely pleased to see this one. I also approve of Daryl for a dog’s name. It has dignity but isn’t something that will attract sneers from other dogs. Mental illnesses have a way of spreading in a house, like a virus. Especially anxiety. I root for these people, but yet to be fully trained Daryl may need a cat to help him settle their moods. Well done.

    Leila

    Like

  3. This story tiptoes around the real problem beautifully. The reader is kept guessing and also hoping that the solution to the problem is somewhere near. The concept of the dog from start to finish is an essential element. Without it, the questionable edge to this story would be lost. The writing is simple and wonderful, and the characters are so authentic and relatable.
    The last dialogue seems like something one would say when in shock. Awesome! 🙂

    Like

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