The Lunch Break
Job E Takes The Boys For A Walk
From the Book of Job E.
By Gerry Merritt
Literature & Art
The Suburban - Model
It all started because Costco was closer that Fred Meyer. Had they been on the other side of town, none of this would have befallen poor Job E, and there would be no story to tell. Fortunately for us, Job E can’t say no and thus, we find ourselves joining up with Job E and the family at the entrance to Costco.
“Come along. Jobe, hurry up, I haven’t got all day to wait on you,” wife snarled at him. Job E was burdened with her purse, a pack sufficient for a trek up Mt. Everest, one child in hand, already whining about “when are we going home,” and the second child, arms wrapped so tightly around Job E’s neck that he thought he might pass out right there. Such a delightful vision enraptured Job E for a moment. He saw himself prostrate on the floor of the Costco, a large crowd gathering around, saying things like, “What the hell is this?” and “I’ve seen him in here before, drunk, again!” And then the EMTs would rush in, pronounce him alive, scoop him up onto a gurney, and whisk him away to a nice, peaceful stay at the local hospital.
“Jobe, Jobe, are you listening to me?” wife yelled in his good ear. Too much coffee, too much shopping, and now, he forgot the cloths soap. It was his fault, he knew it. It was his job to make sure that the proper soap was always available for the family washing rituals. And now he had failed. Why just last night, while in the toilet relieving him-self of her truly awful cooking, wife had demanded, “Jobe, Jobe, make sure that list is complete, not like last time, you hear? You’re always forgetting things, I swear, your mind is like a sieve.”
Driving to Costco, Job E had literally begged to go to Fred Meyer. “Please,” he said, “Let’s go to Freddie’s. We can get what you want without walking though this entire warehouse.”
“You know what’s wrong with you, don’t you, Jobe?” Wife looked at him, turned to the wind shield and spat through clenched teeth, “You don’t listen, that’s your damn problem. You always ignore me, and then you complain when I have to repeat myself.” Angrily, wife folded her arms over her chest and stared with beady, hate filled eyes at the newly minted spittle dripping from the inside of the windshield.
Now, most of us would not think twice about buying cloths soap at either Costco or Fred’s, why, I’m sure we all have done so and do not in any way regret of decision. In fact, we probably think quite highly of ourselves because we are wise and prudent people. Buying soap is a trivial matter, anyway, is it not?
Not for Job E. He has a problem that is frequently derided by wife as “over sensitivity,” and “your Mother babied you too much when you were a child, you never grew up, did you, Jobe, did you?” Poor Job E, he had to admit that his life seemed like one occasion after another to display to one and all, especially to wife, that he was essentially unfit to live here on Earth, just simply unequipped with the necessaries to maintain a proper condition, relative to everyone else’s condition.
So, he grabbed a large shopping cart and removed the child, who had the strangulation hold on him, into the child seat. Immediately, the older child who was not is said seat began a most robust protestation about how it is that he does not get to be wheeled around this gigantic warehouse, whereas his obviously undeserving brother gets to be chauffeured in style. Just as Job E was about to respond, wife walked up to him and said in her most wicked sotto voce, “If you don’t get the lead out of your butt, I’m going to kick you in the balls, right here, right now.”
It’s hard to take such a threat seriously, isn’t it? After all, this was a public place, there were plenty of witnesses around, and it seemed unlikely that wife would want to cause such a scene in Costco. However, Job E was aware that over the course of several years wife still called him Jobe, not Job E. In fact, Jobe was not Job E’s name. Wife knew this and it did not matter to her that she never called her husband, the father of her two living children, by his correct name. So you understand, right, that a swift kick to the sack was not totally out of the question, and Job E knew that as well.
For the sake of the longevity of his boys, and taking remonstrating child in hand, Job E pelted down the wide Costco isles chasing after wife, who was strutting a bee line to the far end of the warehouse, leaving a wake of scattered and cursing customers as she drove a single minded hole through the crowd of unwary shoppers. As he rounded a corner, he expected to see stacks, veritable unlimited amounts of the proper cloths soap, the type he had forgotten to put on that damned list.
Instead, there were empty pallets where the hypoallergenic cloths soap was supposed to be. Job E abruptly halted, startling the baby in the child seat, who began to cry. Job E wanted to cry as well, but, being a man, and knowing what wife’s reaction to this revolting development was going to be, he choked it down.
As he walked further into this vision of terror, he spotted one large plastic bottle with the correct white color on it, stuck off to the side and underneath a stack of hand wipes, like a lonely waif, estranged from his mates, all alone, but, nonetheless, there it was. His joy was tremendous, overwhelming. He reached out his trembling hand for his salvation, his life line. He latched onto that bottle as if it were a life buoy that was going to save a drowning man. He lifted up; it was way to light, and then he noticed that an oily oozing brackish substance was dripping out of the bottom. He set the bottle back down, defeated in ways that only Job E could be defeated. His life force, like the former contents of a plastic soap container, was alone, isolated, drying into a putrid crud on the cold hard concrete floor of the Costco warehouse.
And now, the coup de gras was approaching, as he saw wife thumping down the aisle ahead of him, carrying the large plastic container of the regular, non-hypoallergenic cloths soap, one plodding step and then another and it would be his entire fault, as wife would remind him every day of all the remaining days of his life. Job E believed strongly that people are born as they are; there is no reason to complain about it, or to become disagreeable with the intent of nature, or God, as you prefer. Wife had other, less submissive, ideas.
The oldest child was quicker to react than even Job E, taking cover behind his Dad, and waiting for the worst to be over before he would show himself again. He hung onto Job E’s jacket and clung tightly. The flashing red and black flecks in wife’s eyes were visible to Job E from about four feet away. He cowered a little, and then straightened up. When wife was really ticked off, she emanated a distinctive odor, something like burnt toast. Job E could smell that malign fragrance now, even as it sent tendrils of corruption into his olfactory organ that then, in rapid succession, caused his mind to become mortally confused. He just had time enough to think and place the shopping cart in front of him, creating protection for his boys and presenting a barrier to the swift kick that was previously promised.
“Well, I hope you’re satisfied now, you idiot, look at this, I said look, look at this, damn it, how could you be so stupid as to forget this one thing, how is it that you can even breath with that brain of yours?” Wife said all of this in one continuous insult stream, her eyes looking back around the cart, seeking ways to get in, seeing the oldest child hiding, and the youngest one now wailing outright, a full throated howl. She dropped the soap jug into the cart and stalked off; muttering incantations that Job E was sure signaled his imminent doom.
Job E felt an immediate sense of calming relief wash over him. It was a splash of elation, an injection of hope, his eyes refocused, the oldest child came out of hiding, the youngest one stopped in mid yowl, and it seemed, to one and all, that the worst was over. All that was left was a ride home in icy silence, which he preferred to any other kind of silence.
Of course this was a great example of total denial, complete detachment from reality. Reality will arrive soon enough and there will be hell to pay. And, then, sad to say, the happy family would not be going to Fred Meyer’s after all, where all the good children receive free cookies and fruit, where the lanes where wide and open, filled with handsome folks, not leaning into despair, but enjoying the experience, where the proper soap was always in stock, overflowing in great abundance, even though, it was the Kroger brand, a small, but important datum, because wife hated Kroger, I mean as much as anyone could hate a brand name, she hated that one with a fiery passion. Job E knew that as well.
Back at home, and a few days later, the expected events began. Job E’s skin, simultaneously soft and rigid, took on the color and texture of a ripe peach. He was ready to pop. His face, a puffy pink pupation, looked as if it had been baked in a hot oven, then beaten with the ugly stick. His hands, arms, legs were swollen and distended into grotesque shapes, reminiscent of grade B sci-fi movie costuming. But, that wasn’t the worst of it, no not by far.
Now, to be fair, his doctors had warned him and wife about this kind of reaction, they were cautioned about how to use cleaning products and how to avoid the consequences Job E was currently experiencing. However, wife had always insisted that all clothing be washed every day and that all persons in the house wore only the cloths thus washed. So, do you see the dilemma that Job E was facing? I’m sure you do. And do you feel sorry for Job E? Good, I’m glad someone does.
Today, wife and kids were leaving for a few days to visit Mother. Job E’s duty was to pack up two thirds of the house hold goods and stuff it into wife’s car. He had been up since early this morning and was now exhausted.
As he was walking out with another load, wife commented, “Jobe, you look especially deathly today. Maybe you should go out with the kids to the park before we leave for Mother’s.”
The thought of direct sunlight on his exposed skin made Job E retch, ever so slightly. He disguised it with a cough. Vomit was one of those things that wife could not tolerate. If she saw puke on him, she would cancel the trip to Mother’s. The only sound that he could get out of his mouth was an unintelligible croak, something like the creaking sound of a loose floor board under the pressure of wife’s foot fall directly on a weak spot.
Starting with a low guttural growl and advancing to a banshee screech, wife demanded, “Why are you so weak today, Jobe? Just when I need you to help me, why I think you planned this, didn’t you? Go on, admit it. And, why are you just standing there, say something, you moron?” She was close to a rage induced psychotic event, Job E felt powerless to intervene.
The oldest child was observing this from the kitchen table, where he was playing with his younger brother, distracting both of them in whatever way possible. He got up from his chair, picked up the baby and walked into the living room, standing between the parents, and said, “I’ll help.” His glance at Job E and wife was a thing of pity and anger, rolled up in to one expression, as he stepped over the toys and books scattered pointlessly on the floor, and walked towards the gloom of the back room.
Wife’s car got packed, the children dressed in their proper Mother meeting cloths. Finally, we find Job E standing outside, waving goodbye to his family.
Leaning out the open car window, wife shouted over the engine noise, “We’ll be gone an entire week, Jobe. Clean up your messes. I don’t want a dirty house when I get back, I know how little you care for how clean the house is; you’re such a ….” While backing the car out, wife continued to complain about Job E and as the car turned to drive away, he saw her mouth continuing to move endlessly up and down, up and down, his eyes tearing up in a desperate effort not to laugh out loud, as he followed the car into the dismal distance until it disappeared from view. Then, Job E relaxed.
He was so relaxed that he got all of his cloths out of the closets and drawers. He took them to the garage and ran them through the wash, rinse and dry cycles, not using any soap, none, nary a drop. When he was done, he folded each item tenderly, smelling each garment, rubbing them gently on his face and praising them.
Sauntering playfully through the house, he closed all the blinds, drew all the curtains, and shut out the outside altogether. Retrieving his hypoallergenic hand soap, shampoo and rinse from their secret hiding place, he showered, and, following his doctor’s advice, Job E strode out of the bathroom and into the wonderfully silent and empty house. Hands over his head, he clasped them together and shook them in victory, Jobe E walked a free man, delivered from the confining ways of wife, family and cloths.
His doctor had said that allowing the body to be exposed to drying air was the best cure for the terribly painful effects of his soap allergy, especially on those parts he wished to protect the most. Now, Job E would obey that prescription by taking the boys for a walk.