“He wants them,” he muttered, jerking a thumb backwards as if in apology to the checkout girl.
And he blushed and shrugged and waved like a lamb. Stan was embarrassed.
The beeping and embarrassment was over. They sat in the car together, Stan driving of course. He couldn’t do the driving, they’d end up in like a McDonald’s drive through or something. Dinner was waiting at the house so there was no time for such shit.
“Sure you needed those cheese puffs?”
“Obviously I don’t need them, I just wanted them. I had a salad for lunch, so this is okay,” he said with a little defiance.
Stan sighed. “Alright, buddy.”
It was a boring drive through the parking lot and the intersection and the treed road home. Not much to maintain one’s interest besides music. And food. Being bored was bad for him, so he took out the cheese puffs and opened them — upside down, of course, to make sure the goodies at the bottom didn’t go to waste.
Stan thought, No way he’s going to…
And he did. Two cheese puffs to start. He wouldn’t lick his fingers, though. He‘d let the saliva work like a bumblebee, attracting all the little cheesy particles to his fingertips as if they were pollen, then lick it off in one glorious moment of saturated fat and ecstasy.
Two more puffs. Then two more.
For God’s sake, thought Stan.
It went on like this for the 1.3 miles homeward. A few more puffs, a few more shots of shame and embarrassment for Stan. Stan thought of creamy white clouds and a skyward view and pine trees, a time when he could live free from him. It was only a temporary relief, but it was enough to survive the 1.3 miles homeward.
Seated at the dinner table, Stan’s wife presented chicken, marinated and broiled and tasty. She liked to make dishes she knew Stan would appreciate for both their flavor and caloric economy. And Stan did! Here was a fine dish. Chicken, veg, a little rice but not too much. Stan tucked in and enjoyed his chicken, eating it slowly and deliberately, offering time for brain and stomach to communicate as a well-oiled and single unit. Last bite of fowl in mouth, he swallowed then realized he was still there. He‘d downed his chicken a full three minutes before and sat expectantly, waiting for desert or the like.
For God’s sake, thought Stan.
Good old Tina. She always knew how to defuse a situation.
“It’s alright,” she claimed. “I have desert.”
But it wasn’t desert. It was cantaloupe or honeydew; one of those loathsome melons that some claim to be breakfast and others hoist up to the grandstand of desert. He frowned. In his mind it was ice cream and chocolate, the only satisfactory means to achieve the end of desert.
“Just have some, alright?” said Stan.
He nodded and ate a little and frowned. It wasn’t ice cream, nor was it chocolate. His disappointment filled the room, drowning out light and sound and air, and Stan caved.
“Fine! There’s probably some ice cream in the freezer or something,” he muttered.
“Are you sure that’s okay? I mean, I feel like he’s gotten worse of late,” said Tina.
Stan sighed a heavy sigh. It was the kind of sigh one applies to situations in which all power is gone. “I don’t really care right now,” he said.
That night at bed it was awkward. He lay at the edge of the bed at least, leaving Stan and Tina to discuss the matter.
“He can’t stay here,” she said.
“I think I can just, you know, shove him to the edge. He’ll be alright. We’ll deal with it in the morning.”
“No,” said she.
Stan sighed again, the very same sigh he’d made at dinner time. “Wake up,” he hissed. “Just wake up, okay?”
There was a tap on the shoulder and he muttered something incoherent.
“Get out. Get out of bed. You can sleep on the couch.”
The muttering grew into coherence. “Stuck here. Stuck with you.”
Stan began to see red and shame washed over him. Why couldn’t he be rid of him? With all his compulsions and foolishness. Shame begat rage. Stan lifted his foot and pushed. He fell to floor with a jiggling thud. But, he just stayed there on the ground, snoring, an unwilling lump with no place else to go.
Stan and Tina went to sleep.
Upon sleeping, Stan dreamt of times unbound, when he wasn’t there to clutter and annoy his every waking moment. Those would be good times, salad days in a literal and figurative sense, when the pressure was simply to be and not fight with him constantly, or his obscenely fit cousin. Such times were lofty dreams, far away on the edge of thought and reality. That glimmering, hopeful horizon faded away into a chubby, scruffy face. Words were coming out of it.
“Come on, Stan. Wake up! Wake up! I think there are some donuts downstairs.”