Have And Not Hemingway

published April 15, 2013

It was early morning and she rubbed her feet together at the bottom of the bed.

The tip of Harry’s nose was cold. His old Black Lab slept on the floor next to him, its tail tapping against the wall as it dreamed. Harry was still awake from when he first lay down hours ago. His eyes were closed. She knew he wasn’t sleeping. She’d been awake since he climbed into bed.

“We could just get up,” she said.

He didn’t answer or open his eyes.

“There’s nothing you can do about it now baby,” she tried again.

Harry sighed heavily and opened his eyes saying,

“I’m not sorry.”

“You shouldn’t be.”

“I’m not.”

She turned on her side and nestled closer to him. He kept his eyes on the ceiling but moved his left arm and she cradled her head into it, kissing his shoulder. He lit a cigarette and didn’t look at her.

“I told him how things would be.”

“I know.”

The Lab growled in its sleep and the movement of its tail stopped.

Harry reached down and rubbed its stomach. The tail resumed. He gave up on his cigarette and snubbed it out in an ashtray before standing. She sighed and then smiled up at the back of his head as he left her in bed.

“Do you want eggs?” He asked her without turning.

“Alright.”

“Coffee?”

“I’ll make the coffee baby.”

She sat up in bed and watched him walk to the kitchen and light another cigarette on the stove. He leaned over and got a frying pan from a cupboard and grabbed his back with a grimace.

“Does it hurt today baby?”

“Yeah. Guess it’s gonna rain.”

“Do you think he’ll bring her?”

“I don’t even know if he’s coming.”

“But if he does come, will he bring her?”

She climbed out of bed and into her robe. Harry cracked eggs into the frying pan and dragged on his cigarette, blowing thick clouds of smoke out of his nostrils as he scrambled the eggs in the pan.

“He might not.”

“He knows I don’t like her?”

“He knows. She knows too.”

“Oh, she does? Just as well. I won’t come back tonight then.”

“You can. They’ll both expect you here- if they come.”

She walked over to the kitchen and the Lab woke, barked once before padding over to Harry. He put his cigarette down on a dirty saucer and rubbed its head as the eggs popped in the butter. She spooned coffee into his percolator and hummed to herself before turning on the radio. Harry winced again as the music came on and it startled the Lab. She put her hands on his back and then brought them around to his stomach and kissed his back where it met her. The Lab barked at her.

“Oh shush.”

Harry told the dog to be quiet.

“She doesn’t trust me. Never has, has she?”

“Can you put some toast in?”

“Alright.”

She let go of him and turned to the toaster and radio. She reached first for the bread but stopped herself. She turned the radio off before sliding two slices in the toaster. Harry set the frying pan full of eggs on a plate in the middle of the table and the coffee began to perk loudly.

“Ketchup baby?”

“No thanks.”

“How did you break it to him Harry?”

“I told him I didn’t need a fifth man anymore.”

“Was he mad?”

“I don’t know. He knew how things would be.”

“You shouldn’t be sorry. You couldn’t let any of the others go. They’ve all been with you forever.”

“I told you already I’m not sorry. I never wanted to hire him in the first place.”

“Well he was in a spot.”

“I know.”

“I suppose she’s not so bad.”

“She hates you.”

“She doesn’t.”

“Maybe. He probably won’t come anyway.”

“Maybe, there’s no hard feelings.”

“There’s always hard feelings.”

Harry stared just above her head and siphoned the last life out of his cigarette. He reached behind him and put it out on the dirty plate, giving the Lab another pat that sent its tail wailing. The percolator became its most vocal before dissolving into a whimper and final wheeze. Steam rose off the eggs in the center of the table and Harry stood to get coffee. She dished eggs out to both plates and looked down at her own before saying,

“Can’t you even look at me today?”

His head dropped a little with his back to her and he took in half the cup of coffee with one gulp, wincing again as pain shot through this lower back.

“It was a long time ago Harry, before I knew you.”

“I know. It’s none of my business.”

“It is, in a way. If you want to know.”

He turned and looked at her for the first time just as her eyes were leaving his to inspect the plate and will herself to eat a little something. The Lab’s tail slapped against the metal leg of the kitchen table and a slight rattle came to the windows as a breeze skittered through unaccompanied by anymore wind. He held his gaze until she looked up.

“What is it baby?”