Wait, Love, Wait
By: S. Scott Bullock
Suzanne pressed the disconnect button on her ancient flip phone and looked at Martin. She put it down on the chipped, green and white tile kitchen counter, picked up a wet dish towel and walked over to the small kitchen table. She began wiping it down and Martin lifted his glass to accommodate her.
“They said they’re going to repossess it.” She said, wiping the table in small frantic sweeps.
“The table’s clean.” Martin said without emotion. “It won’t get any cleaner. Nothing’s gonna get any cleaner.”
“What’s next Marty?” She sat down across from her husband and folded the dish towel. “I’m so scared.” She unfolded the towel and folded it again.
Martin took it from her and held her hand.
“I’ll fix it.” He said. “I promise babe, I’ll fix it.”
“With that?” She said, pointing to Martin’s glass.
Martin downed the last of his vodka. He stood up and walked to the cupboard above the single chrome sink. He opened it and pulled out a nearly empty bottle of bottom shelf booze.
“No.” He said. “This is simply a band-aid to my deep-seated despair and ultimately will lead to my physical and mental collapse.” He filled his glass with the remaining vodka from the bottle. “Cheers.” He said and downed the small glassful.
“It’s no longer funny, Martin. You can’t joke our way out of this. We are in trouble.”
“I’ll fix it.”
“I’m HUNGRY mama!” A little chestnut-brown headed boy ran into the kitchen. “Kraff Macuncheez!” He said climbing up onto a chair at the table. “Kraff Macuncheez PLEEEZE!”
“What do you want?” Martin asked laughing.
“He wants Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.” Suzanne said to Martin, then turned toward their four year old son. “We don’t have any right now, angel. We’ll get some tomorrow. Would you like some raisins?”
“Raisins?!” Martin said laughing. “Instead of Mac and Cheese!?! Don’t take the plea deal, kid! Hold out for the cheese!”
Conner, their son, belly laughed and repeated his father’s words.
“Hole out for da cheeze!”
“Martin.” Suzanne chided. “We don’t have any. You’re gonna make it worse.”
“Hole out da cheeze!” Conner said raising his hands in the air. “Hole out da cheeze!”
Suzanne bent down so that she was face to face with her son.
“Conner.” She said in the tone that always got his attention. “Stop.”
“HOLE DA CHEEZE!” Conner shouted. “HOLE DA CHEEZE!”
“CONNER!” Martin shouted. “KNOCK IT OFF, NOW!”
“Don’t.” Suzanne barked at Martin. “You’ll make it worse.”
“HOLE DA CHEEZE!” Conner repeated over and over.
Suzanne took her husband’s hand. “Come with me NOW! NOW!” She led him out of the kitchen and into their bedroom. She closed the bedroom door behind them.
“What the hell are you doing?” Martin asked sitting on the bed. “He’s going crazy out there.”
“He’s melting down.” She said sitting down next to Martin on the bed. “It’s the only way to stop him. Just walking away. It’s the only way to stop him. You’d know that if you spent more time with him.”
“Spent more….” Martin stood up. “Are you shitting me, Suzanne? Really? Just when am I supposed to do that? Those long luxurious breaks I have between my two poverty-pay jobs? Or on the weekends when I’m busting my ass looking for a real job after cleaning out Ms. Cantor’s gutters for fifty freaking bucks? Is that when, Suzanne? Is that when?”
Suzanne lowered her head and began to weep.
“I’m sorry.” She said through her tears. “I’m just at the end of…”
The knob on their bedroom door turned and the door swung slowly open. Conner stepped into the room and walked over to his mother.
“May I have some raisins pleeze?” He asked climbing up on the bed next to his mom. “I’m hungry, mama.”
“I’ll get them.” Martin said walking toward the door. He stopped and turned toward his family sitting on the bed. “Where are they?” He asked.
“Kitchen drawer. Top left.” Suzanne sad pulling Conner onto her lap.
“You cryin’, mama?” Conner said looking up at his mother.
“Nope.” Suzanne said smiling down at her boy. “Nope. Mama’s got allergies and they make her eyes water.”
“Can I have some?” Conner asked leaning back against her. He raised his arm and put his hand into her long auburn hair. He began twirling it between his tiny fingers.
“Some what?” She asked.
“Alzerjeeze.” Conner said putting his thumb into his mouth.
“Al-er-geeze.” She said, over enunciating. “And no, you wouldn’t want them if you had them and take your thumb out of your mouth, you’re too old for that now.” She gently pulled Conner’s hand away from his face. “Let’s go into the kitchen and help Daddy find the raisins.”
“Daddy can’t fine his ass wiff bowf hands.” Conner said nonchalantly.
“Conner!” Suzanne barked, trying to suppress a gut wrenching belly laugh. “Where did you hear that?”
“You say it, mama. To Daddy. You say it.” Conner took his mother’s hand and pulled her toward the door. “Mardin!” He shouted. “You can’t fine your ass wiff bowf hands.”
“WHAT?” Martin shouted back from the kitchen.
“Nothing!” Suzanne said still suppressing the laugh. “You don’t say that anymore, Buster-brown. Okay? Promise mama that you won’t say that anymore and I’ll promise you that I won’t say it anymore, either. Deal?”
“Deal or no deal.” Conner said pulling hard on this mother’s hand. “Deal or no deal…. it’s a DEAL!”
Suzanne, drug by Conner, stepped into the kitchen. Martin had the entire contents of a kitchen drawer emptied on the counter.
“There’s nothing in here but magazines and birthday candles.” Martin said looking up in despair. “No raisins.”
“Raise your right hand.” Suzanne said arching her eyebrow.
“What?” Martin asked.
“Raise your right hand.” Suzanne repeated.
Martin raised his left hand then quickly lowered it and raised his right.
“Hence your consternation.” She said walking across the kitchen to the cabinets. She opened the top left drawer and pulled out a small red box of raisins. She held up the box to Martin and wiggled it back and forth. “Your other left.” She said. She opened the box and handed it to Conner. He grabbed it and headed out of the kitchen to his bedroom.
“You can’t find your ass with both hands.” She whispered smiling.
“NO DEAL!” Conner shouted from the hallway.
“That’s why I’m such a good provider.” Martin said without an ounce of humor. “What does he mean, ‘no deal’?”
Suzanne walked to Martin and put her arms around his neck.
“Look at me.” She said to him. “Look at me. I love you. That will never change. I love you and we are in this together. The boat is sinking, but it hasn’t sunk totally yet. We’ve got to figure a way to bale out the water. And we’ll bale together.”
“Said Captain Smith.” Martin kissed her forehead.
“Now.” Suzanne said solemnly. “I need you to sit down.”
“Oh shit.” Martin said sitting at the kitchen table. “What now?”
Suzanne looked at him and a single tear fell from her emerald green eye and ran down her cheek.
“What?” He asked. “Babe. What?”
“We’re pregnant.” She said, just above a whisper.
Martin got up and walked to the cupboard above the sink. He stopped and lowered his head.
“There’s no more in there.” She said. “You drank the last of it.”
Martin turned and picked up one of the magazines he had pulled from the wrong drawer.
“Why do you keep all these?” He asked.
“Those have recipes and DIY ideas in them.” She said wiping at the tear.
“What are we paying for all of them?”
“Nothing now. I haven’t renewed any of them. And most of them I got for free. They were buy one, get one free subscriptions.”
Martin tossed the magazine back into the open drawer.
“More magazines in this house than cockroaches.”
“Martin?” She said. “Why are we talking about magazines?”
“I need a drink.” He said and walked out of the kitchen. She heard him open the coat closet. Heard him pulling on his coat, and the sound of him grabbing his car keys from the bowl by the door. She heard the door close and the car start and the unmistakable, excruciatingly empty, sound of him leaving her alone.
“MAMA!” Conner yelled from his bedroom. “I HAVE TO POOP!”
“Why didn’t you come home last night?” Suzanne said to her phone, more frightened than angry. “Where are you?”
“I’m coming home now, Babe. And I’m coming home now with some good news.”
“Where….” She started, but Martin was gone. She closed her phone and sat down on the ratty, brown and tan sofa. A hole had been worn into the arm straight through the fabric and padding down to the wooden frame. Conner ran into the living room.
“I did a fart so loud puss’da’boots ran out of my room, Mama.” He said jumping up on her lap.
“You take after your Daddy.” Suzanne said and kissed the top of Conner’s head.
“Daaaadeee. Daaaadee. Where is Mardin?” Conner sang to a tune of his own creation.
“He’s coming home in a little bit, Buster-brown.” She stroked his hair. “Where did puss’da’boots run to? Did she go out the kitty door?”
“Puss’da’boots is daaaadee’s kitty and puss’da’boots run’d away to the outside of the yard with the people that live there outside of the yard and don’t like when the T.V. comes on for Star Trek.” Conner sang to a brand new, made up, tune.
“That’s my favorite song, Buster-brown, now go color in your room.”
The sound of mail being dropped through the door slot stopped Conner mid-run.
“COUNTING GAME!” He shouted and ran to retrieve the mail.
“Counting game.” Suzanne repeated with a tone of surrendering sorrow.
“Here Mama!” Conner said and jumped up on the couch next to Suzanne. “One big pink elvelope.”
“Envelope.” Suzanne corrected him. “Okay. One big pink envelope.”
“One, two, three, four, long white elve…enel…
“Envelopes.” She said.
“Envelopes. Four long white ones.” Conner said handing them to Suzanne. “And one big magzine.”
“And one big.” She stopped and looked at the white envelopes. She knew them all too well. Second and third ‘late’ notices. She tossed them on the coffee table and looked at the pink envelope. “This looks like a card. Do you think somebody sent us a card, Buster-brown?”
“Open it, Mama.” Conner said clenching and unclenching his little hands over it.
“I think I will.” She said tearing it open. “Oh it’s pretty. Looky, flowers!”
“Pretty flowers, Mama.”
“Let’s see who…” She stopped and read. “Oh my fuh.” She stopped. “Oh my god.”
“Who sended it, Mama?”
“It’s from our landlady, sweetheart. It’s from Mrs. Cantor.”
“Is it a birthday?” Conner asked waving his hands.
“No angel, it’s an eviction threat. Sent in a beautiful card. Such class.” Suzanne closed the card and looked at the ceiling.
“VICTION THREAD VICTION THREAD!” Conner sang.
“Go color, angel. K?”
“K. Mama.” Conner ran to his room and Suzanne sat silently, holding the card. She didn’t move until the sound of a car broke through her reverie.
A key in the door. Then.
“Hey Babe!” Martin shouted bounding into the room. “Oh. You’re right here. Why are you sitting in the dark?”
Suzanne looked up. She raised the card to him.
Martin leaned down and turned on the table lamp. “Wait. I’ve got to tell you…” Martin began.
“Read it.” She said
Martin took the card from her and read it.
“That BITCH!” He said.
“SHHHH!” Conner can hear you.
“DADEEEEEEE” Conner shouted running into the room, arms in the air. “Fly me!”
Martin picked him up and spun him around in the air.
“Not too much, Martin, he’ll puke.” Suzanne chided.
“Nod too mush, Mardin!” Conner yelled, belly laughing.
“I’m going to get his dinner, Martin. Put him down now and come into the kitchen with me, please.” Suzanne stood up. “Go color in your room, Buster-brown, I’ll call you when dinner is ready.”
Martin put Conner down.
“ Kraff Macuncheez!” Conner yelled, running to his room.
Suzanne took a pot out of the cabinet under the sink and filled it with water. She put it on the two burner stove top and turned on the flame. She pulled a hot dog package out of the fridge.
“One left.” She said to Martin. “One fucking hot-dog left. And no money to get any groceries until next Tuesday.”
“Wait.” Martin said hurrying out of the kitchen.
Suzanne heard the front door open, then the car door open and close. He was back in the kitchen in seconds and he was carrying two bags of groceries.
“Where’d you…” Suzanne said, mouth agape.
“This one,” Martin began. “is full of only one thing.” He upended the bag and emptied it on the kitchen table. Thirty boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese tumbled onto the table top. “Kraff Macuncheeze!” He said smiling. “Every box in the damn store!”
“Where did you get the money?” Suzanne asked stunned at the booty on the kitchen table.
“That’s not all, my love.” Martin said picking up the other grocery bag.
“What?” Suzanne said laughing.
“Wait, love, wait.” He set the bag next to the bounty of boxes on the table and reached in. “Champagne.” He held the bottle out to her like a waiter in a fancy restaurant. “And NOT the cheap stuff. He reached back into the bag and pulled out a plastic container. “Pate. Duck and Cognac.” He reached back in. “And Fritos and squirt cheese and hot dogs and buns and peanut butter and rye bread and milk.” He crumpled the empty bag. “How’s that for a bag full of goodies?”
Suzanne walked over to the table and picked up a box of Mac and Cheese.
“Did you rob a bank?” She said, only half kidding.
“I got a job.” He said and grabbed her around the waist. He pulled her to him.
She pushed away. “Where were you all night?”
“Saving our home.” He said.
“Don’t play now, Martin.” She picked up the bottle of champagne. “Fifty-dollars?! Martin where the hell did you get this money?”
“When I left yesterday I went to O’Briens.”
“The bar?” Suzanne said. “You spent the night in a bar?”
“It’s a Pub, Suze.”
“Just because they have pickled eggs on the counter doesn’t make it a Pub, Martin. It’s a freakin’ bar. And you’re telling me you spent the whole night there?”
“I was there till they closed. Till two. Then we went to Denny’s to eat and talk.” Martin said, putting the boxes of Mac and Cheese into a cupboard.
“We?” Suzanne asked.
“Nick Delmarko and his friends and me.” Martin said keeping his back to Suzanne.
“Nick…” She stopped mid-sentence.
“Don’t Suzanne.” Martin said quickly. “He’s not the same as he was in High School.”
“He was a hoodlum and gang member and an asshole. What’s different now, Martin? What has he gotten you into?”
“He’s saved our asses, Suze.”
“Oh my god. What has he gotten you into?”
“STOP IT!” He shouted at her. “He’s good now. I’m gonna drive for him.”
“Drive what?” She asked sitting at the kitchen table.
“He’s got a pickup and delivery service. I’m gonna drive for him. He gave me a two-hundred dollar advance and I’ll be on salary and on call for him.”
“He wants to use me on the important jobs. He trusts me cause of all we went through together in school. Let’s open the champagne, Babe. Let’s open it and celebrate.”
“I have to make Conner’s dinner.” She said walking to the stove. “You did good with the Mac and Cheese. Thank you.”
“Then after, we can have champagne and pate and nookie?” He wiggled his eyebrows and grinned the grin that had made her fall in love with him.
“After his bath and he’s in bed. Yes. But you’ll be drinking alone.” Suzanne patted her stomach. She walked to him and kissed his cheek. “I love you. You better not have done something stupid.”
“I haven’t, Babe. I haven’t. My first job’s tomorrow morning. We’re in the money!”
The following afternoon there was a knock on the front door. Then a ring of the doorbell and another knock.
“Coming!” Suzanne shouted from the kitchen. “Hang on, please.”
Conner ran from his room to the door and peaked out the long skinny window that ran along side of it.
“The policemens is here Mama!” He yelled running toward the kitchen.
“The what?” Suzanne came out of the kitchen drying her hands on a dish towel.
“Policemens!” Conner said clenching and unclenching his tiny hands. “Policemens!”
Suzanne went to the door and looked out the long window. She saw two uniformed policemen and a man in a suit standing in front of them.
“The hell?” She said quietly and opened the door. “Hi.”
“Mrs. Suzanne Daniels?” The man in the suit said.
“Yes. What …?” Suzanne said.
“Is your husband Martin Edward Daniels?” Suit man said.
“Yes. Who are you and what is this about?” Suzanne said formally with mounting concern.
Suit man reached into his coat and pulled out a leather wallet. He opened it and showed Suzanne the badge inside.
“I’m Detective Mallon and this is Officer Evans and Officer Anderson.”
“Hi.” Suzanne nodded toward the officers. “What’s going on?”
Detective Mallon looked down at Conner who hugged his mother’s leg.
“Is that your son?” Mallon asked.
“Yes. Conner. His name’s Conner.”
“Officer Evans will walk him around to your backyard while I speak to you.”
Evans stepped forward and Suzanne pulled Conner back away from the door.
“No. Officer Evans will not.” Suzanne said and turned toward Conner. “Go in your room and color, Buster-brown, K?”
“Policemens.” Conner said pointing.
“Yes, Policemen. Now go color and I’ll make you rye-bread and peanut butter toast in a little bit, deal?”
“Earlandmarys!” Conner shouted. “Yeah! DEAL!”
Suzanne stepped out onto the porch closing the door of their duplex behind her.
“What?” She barked.
“Ma’am.” Detective Mallon began what sounded like a memorized speech. “I and these other officers have been dispatched to inform you that during the commission of a felony, your husband, Martin Edward Daniels, was shot and killed by police officers this morning at 09:30 hours.”
Suzanne stared at him. Silent. Emotionless.
“Do you understand what I have told you, ma’am?” Mallon asked
“He lied to me.” Suzanne said and turned toward the door.
“Ma’am.” Mallon said taking her arm. “We’re not finished here yet.”
Suzanne turned back toward him and tears were gushing from her eyes. They poured down her cheeks and wet the front of her neck and blouse. Her face still showed absolutely no emotion, but the tears came in river floods.
“Do you need to go in and sit, Mrs. Daniels?” Mallon asked, genuinely concerned.
“Suzanne.” She said. “I’m Suzanne.”
“Can I come in, Suzanne. Sit with you for minute? Mallon took her arm and led her into the house. He moved her to the couch. She stared at it not knowing what to do. The tears still poured from her eyes. “Sit, Suzanne. Sit down, ma’am.”
Suzanne sat down and looked around the room.
“It’s messy in here. I’m sorry it’s messy.” She said. “I have a little boy and it gets messy so fast. It’s hard to keep up. I’m sorry it’s messy.”
“Suzanne, do you have someone we can call for you? Someone to come here and be with you? Family or friends?”
“He told me he was delivering things.” She said, the tears flowing torrents. “Driving for Nick.”
“Nicolas Delmarko is responsible for seventeen armored car robberies, Mrs. Daniels.”
“He’s all good now.” She said not hearing the detective. Not hearing anything but her own disjointed thoughts. “He’s not a hoodlum anymore.”
“Ma’am. Is there someone we can call?”
“The rent is due tomorrow and we have the cellphone bill and the water and power and Conner’s special education aid and the car payment. They’re gonna repossess the…” She trailed off and a sound began deep inside her. A low guttural sound, like the beginning of an angry lion’s roar. It was the sound of unspeakable grief. It exploded from her and she fell forward off the couch and on to her knees. She wasn’t crying so much as whaling. She rocked back and forth. Detective Mallon dropped to his knees and held her. Then all was blackness. Blessed blackness.
Suzanne woke up in her bed. She was in her nightgown and soft morning light was filtering in through the worn draperies.
“You’re awake!” A very familiar voice said as her bedroom door opened. “Good.”
Mrs. Cantor, her landlady came into the room.
“You ready to see Conner?” She asked Suzanne. “He’s very worried about you.”
“Where’s Martin?” Suzanne said. Then. “Oh no, no, no, no.”
“No time for tears.” Mrs. Cantor said opening the drapes. “You have a frightened child and responsibilities. I’ve called your sister in Canada and she’ll be here day after tomorrow.”
“What day is it?” Suzanne managed.
“It’s Wednesday. I’ll get you some coffee. You slept straight through the night. That’s good. You had the shock of your life yesterday. Poor Martin. Your rent is due today, but we’re going to give you a pass this month considering the circumstances.”
Conner bounded into the bedroom.
“Mama!” He shouted and jumped onto the bed. “You were cryin’ soooooo loud. You were cryin’ like a cryin’ crybaby!”
“That cop said that since you’ve been officially notified, Martin’s name is going to be released and once it’s released the news people are going to want to talk to you. Maybe even Channel Four. Maybe that wonderful Morgan Sterns will show up. You need to get up and get dressed. I’ll get your coffee.” Mrs. Cantor walked out of the bedroom.
“Why were you cryin’ so much, Mama?” Conner said leaning back against her and putting his hand into her hair. “Like a cryin’, crybaby.”
Suzanne gently pulled his hand from her hair.
“Mama’s gotta get up now.” She said to him. “Mama’s got to…. I’ve got to….”
A hard pounding knock came at the front door. Conner leapt off the bed and ran to it. Mrs. Cantor came running into the room.
“A van is outside!” She said, excited. “I saw a man with a big camera on his shoulder and another one with a microphone! It isn’t Morgan Sterns though. Put on your robe, Suzanne. Put on your robe and come talk to them!”
Suzanne zombie walked to the front door, not feeling or thinking, just obeying. Conner was peaking out the window.
“Camera Mama!!!! He squealed with excitement. “Camera with a big light!”
“Open the door, Suzanne.” Mrs. Cantor said, hiding in the kitchen doorway.
Suzanne opened the door. A man with a microphone and a man with a video camera on his shoulder stood on her porch. Several other people stood by them and more on her lawn. And there was one man who, inexplicable, had a huge bunch of helium balloons.
“Suzanne Daniels?” The microphone man said to her.
“Yes.” She answered. And the man with the camera flipped on the flood light attached to it.
“Suzanne Daniels of Farmwood, New York! You are the winner of the Ten Million Dollar Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes!”
One of the men on the porch handed her a giant rectangular piece of cardboard with writing on it. The balloon man handed her the balloons.
Suzanne began to laugh then. Humorless, low and terrifying. Suzanne fell to her knees and just laughed and laughed and laughed.