Friday, 23 October 2020

Rules of Engagement

    Rubbing his eyes, not having been out of bed for more than a mere 45 seconds, Louis stumbled into the ensuite bathroom to take his morning shower. He opened the shower door allowing steam to escape, shocked to find someone inside. He always took the first shower of the day. Louis was irritated. 

     “What are you doing here?” Louis asked. 

     “Knitting a sweater,” Ethel replied, scrubbing Louis’ loofa all over her body with purpose. Soapsuds flew onto the glass; some went into Louis’ eye. “What do you think I’m doing?” 

     Louis squinted from the sting. “But, this is when I take my shower.” 

     “Well, it’s my shower, too” Ethel replied. 

     “But, you never take a shower this early!” 

     “We are living through a pandemic. Thought I’d change things up is that going to be a problem?” 
    Louis shook his head. The steam continued to flee, lowering the temperature of Ethel’s warm morning start. 

     “Are you in or out?” Ethel asked as she scrubbed her face. Distracted by Louis’ whining, face wash suds (not the teardrop-free kind!), which had been sitting on her face, dripped into her right eye causing her eye to burn. “MOTHERFUCKER!’ 

     “You talking to me?” Louis was not entirely sure if she was directing her vitriol at him or at the irritant invading her ocular cavity. 

     “Who else am I talking to? Robert DeNiro? Stop acting like a territorial asshole and just get in. You’re letting all the heat out!” 

     Louis sighed. He squeezed his corpulent embodiment of a once fiddly-fit male specimen past the shower bench to reach the free flowing spring of water emerging from the rain shower above. 

     “Do you think I can get in there?” He pointed at the showerhead, holding the soap in his other hand. Then, he gave a once over of what remained of Ethel’s thrice-child birthed heaving belly. 

     “There’s enough room for two.” 

     Maybe 25 years ago, he thought. Louis realized he almost spoke his mind – a dangerous idea considering that the worst accidents befall those in the bathroom, especially those brought on as a result of a self-inflicted verbal gunshot wound to the brain. However, with 30 years of marriage under her birthday suit belt, Ethel instinctively knew what Louis was thinking. They’d met as kids, but reconnected as adults, giving them ample time to learn for themselves what they did and didn’t want in a united love life. Ethel was bold, vivacious and enjoyed a vigorous debate. She didn’t shy away from confrontation and knew she needed a partner who could match her sharp volleys with killer returns. Louis, a more mild-mannered man, generally, lived equally for verbal sparring as a great meal, and knew that with marriage his appetite for both would grow. When they found each other again having finished post-secondary matriculation, it was kismet – a match between ticked off checkboxes of two sometimes ticked off people. 

     “Do you know what it feels like to be sucker-punched in the gut?” she asked innocently.   Louis nodded his head tentatively, afraid of the repercussions caused by any answer he’d give her. “Well, that’s exactly what being married to you for 30 years feels like. Just when I think it’s safe to go in the water, you attack. Now, pass me the soap.” 

     A direct hit! Louis, a kind man albeit with a wry sense of humour, was more capable of dishing out the zingers versus taking them. Defeated, Louis relinquished the soap to her custody. Placing it gently into Ethel’s hand, with the tenderness that only decades of rollercoaster matrimony can bring, he locked eyes with his bride. 

     “I’ve never meant to hurt you.” He cradled her hand lovingly. This gave Ethel pause. She never knew if Louis would follow up a kind word with an attempt at his Borscht Belt comedic styling, which 50 percent of the time fell flat with his audience, with her being his audience 100 percent of the time. Or, whether his seemingly insulting barb was really a compliment. Not wanting to give him an opening, like the Mossad, Ethel went in for a pre-emptive strike. 

     “No? Well, tell that to your farts. 30 years of silent-but-deadly Dutch-oven bombs under the covers that you think that’s a form of foreplay have burnt out my olfactory bulbs.” 

     Louis’ head shot up. The water continued to beat down on Ethel’s head from the rain showerhead above, with Louis benefitting from droplets of spray that were deflected from Ethel’s shower cap. She only washed her hair twice a week, and today was not one of those days. 

     “My dear, what a portrait of loveliness you are to behold. Let me tell you how attractive you are, my darling.” Louis sang these words. His eyes burned with fire. Ethel knew this meant war. “While I adore your Don King-meets-Trolls hairdo hat greets me at daybreak, and it’s quite the turn on I might add, nothing is more appealing than watching you get out of bed, your nightgown hiked above your ample bare buttocks, to see you stroll into the bathroom where you leave the door wide open allowing me to watch your morning routine. I really love the enticing invitation to observe you in your natural habitat taking a dump upon rising and then wiping your ass with wild abandon. Nothing says lets have morning sex than that!” 

     Ethel threw down the loofa. This means war, she thought. The shower glass walls were all steamed up from the hostility rising from the hot water Louis now found himself in. 

     “You think your ass shits roses? Last time I checked, there wasn’t a room spray strong enough to mask the aftermath scent from your Hiroshima turd explosions you leave each time you spend 30 minutes on the can! The only thing that kills that smell is bleach. Fuck nuclear warheads, you should patent your asshole and sell weapons of mass destruction to the highest bidder!”  

    Ethel stood hands-on-hips, ready for Louis’ comeback. There was always a comeback. Yet, this time he stayed silent, clearly planning his next strike. In the mood for a fight, and not wanting to wait for his return, she preemptively goaded him. 

     “And, if your bowel Olympics weren’t enough of a turn off, do you think that your ivy-like back hair trellis that’s climbed so high like Jack’s magic beanstalk, now intertwining with your unwieldy ear hair, screams foreplay? Ha! Ever hear of clippers?” 

     Louis shook his head in fury. Now, she’d done it. Talking about his gas was one thing, but going after his genetically blessed, out of his control, manly body hair, and limited manscaping thereof, was another. 

     “Listen up, Baby Beluga, if you want me to trim my natural manliness, how about you do something about that situation.” He pointed mercilessly at Ethel’s lower abdominal area, which sagged over an invisible panty line. “It’s quite the pooch.” 

     Ethel was furious. The accouchement of three babies in five years has a way of turning a woman into a kangaroo. 

     “You try squeezing three babies out your dickhole who you carried around in your body hotel to grow them and then you still don’t have a right to body shame me, motherfucker!” 

     Louis hung his head. “You’re right. That was a low blow.” 

     Ethel raised an eyebrow. 

     “Speaking of blowing, we are in the shower together for the first time in years. I was thinking…” 

    “That I’d get on my knees?” Ethel cackled. “Yeah right! You just mocked my body that birthed your babies. My body is a temple! What’s your excuse? Your gut hangs out so far over your pants, that your belly needs its own zip code. Sir Mix-A-Lot called and told me you’ve inspired him to write a new rap called Daddy Got Fat!” 

     Louis rubbed his belly, slightly injured then looked at Ethel’s so-called place of worship. 

     “Whatchya rubbing there, Captain Underpants? Last night’s four beers and pizza?” 

     “Well, don’t get me wrong, but didn’t some of those Victoria Secret supermodels have multiple pregnancies, too? I don’t recall see them strutting down the runway sporting an ass in the front, while wearing wings on their backs. Just sayin’.” 

     “What’s your point, Jabba the Hut?”  

    “If it didn’t chafe so much when we engaged in sexy time…” 

     “So, you’re saying that if I looked like a Victoria Secret supermodel, we’d be having sex?” 

     “It wouldn’t hurt.” 

     “So, you’re saying I’m fat? I wasn’t’ too fat for a blowjob 30 seconds ago.” Now, she had him backed into the shower corner. She knew he hated being asked that dreaded question. The billowing, collecting steam appeared to be waving around like a white flag in front of Louis’ face. 

     “I never called you fat. I never used the word fat. I don’t think you’re fat. Don’t put words in my mouth like you put donuts in yours.” 

     Louis didn’t recognize the expression spreading across Ethel’s face. 

     “WE ARE LIVING DURING A PANDEMIC! And, you brought the donuts home!” 

     Louis got down on one knee, an act of contrition, hoping to redeem himself before she could insult him again. 

     “What are you doing down there? Proposing again?” Louis gazed up at her with puppy dog eyes. Ethel, not having any of it, was ready to cut him down. “Cuz’ I know I you ain’t down on your knees to give pleasure me that way. We both know you don’t do that.” 

     Louis sprang back up as fast as his knee replacements would allow, doing his best not to slip in the shower for he would undo the good work done by his orthopedic surgeon. 

     “Listen, don’t blame me for our lack of sex life,” Louis cried defensively. 

     “That’s not what our therapist said. He said it is your fault.” 

     “Um, that’s not how I remember it. The bottom line is that couples who engage in coitus together, stay together. That’s what he said. You don’t engage, so whose fault is that.” 

     “I think you have early onset Alzheimer’s. Or, maybe it’s Covid. Memory loss may be a symptom. Let me jog your memory.“ 

     “My memory is just fine.” “Oh, really. Do you recall why we don’t have sex?” Louis shrugged his shoulders. 

     “What do you do to signal you’re in the mood?” 

     “I lovingly caress your arm.” 

     “You don’t lovingly do shit. You tickle me! My name is not Tickle-Me Elmo.” 

     “Tickling is a form of foreplay.” 

     “Not, when you’re a fifty-something year old woman, whose pelvic floor is less stable than the San Andreas Fault. Unless you want our 400-thread count Egyptian cotton white sheets to have the River Nile running through it, you’ll stop tickling me and just start by fucking me!” 

     Louis was fed up. He didn’t want to argue anymore. All he wanted to do was simply take his morning shower, as he did every morning before, and he’d barely even be able to wash half his body thanks to Ethel. He swung open the shower door and stepped out. He reached out for his towel and covered himself. He idled over to the bathroom door, and stopped. With righteous indignation, he whipped around to face the firing squad one last time. 

     “Start fucking you? Ha! I’ll tell you one thing I am going to start doing.”  

    “Oh yeah? What’s that tough guy?” 

     “Showering when you’re not home.” 

     “I guess you’re not showering until 2025 then!” 

     “Why’s that?” 

     “Because that’s probably when the pandemic will be over and I’ll finally be able to leave the house,” Ethel spat, slamming the shower door in Louis’ face, the steam finally able to caress her body once more. 

 © 2020. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.