Maybe I’ll Grow A Beard by James Bates

Rob peered out from behind the Sunday sports section. Across the room he observed his wife Shelia, doing some sort of handwork with tiny needles. Crocheting, maybe? He didn’t know. Had no clue. Didn’t care. She was dressed in a teal blue, floral print skirt and a white peasant blouse. Her auburn hair was pulled back in a pony-tail. Her full lips and high cheekbones, once so beguiling to him, were now anything but, just plain and unremarkable, nothing to write home about. He sighed and turned back to check on the baseball scores but only for a minute. He was having trouble concentrating. I wonder, he thought to himself, if today’s the day I tell her I’m thinking of leaving.

 Shelia worked at the local middle school as a teacher’s aide. She was a diligent employee at the school, and she was just as diligent at home where she was as handy with a power drill as she was in the kitchen. She’d single handedly painted all of the walls in all of the rooms of their small bungalow style home. She’d put up book shelves. She’d pulled up all the old carpeting and sanded and refinished the wooden floors. She kept the house neat and clean and tidy. She cooked fabulous, healthy meals. She’d even made the skirt she was wearing. 

 She’d also made the baby quilt laying on the floor between them. On it, seven-month old Emily lay rolling back and forth playing with a rattle. She’d recently learned how to turn herself over and now lay arching her back, attempting the feat yet again. Rob watched, disinterested, as his daughter made a move and finally rolled onto her stomach. Imperceptibly, he shook his head, big friggin’ deal.

 Shelia’s excited voice cut through the silence of the room, “Emmy, look at you. Good girl, sweetheart. You’re getting to be such a big girl.”

 God, how ridiculous, thought Rob. He set his paper aside. I’ve had enough.

  At that same moment, almost like it was orchestrated, Shelia set down the project she was working on, a crocheted cap for Emily, and got to her feet. She reached down, and in one swipe picked up her daughter and carried her into the kitchen. “I’m going to fix Emmy some cereal,” she told Rob, “What are your plans for the day?”

 Rob got up and followed behind. He worked as an IT specialist for a large company in Minneapolis, twenty-five miles west of their home in the small town of Long Lake. He’d been there for ten years now, four years longer than he and Shelia had been married. It was a moderately stressful job so Sunday mornings he usually went for a long run to have some time alone and unwind. Usually, but not today.

 “There’s something I need to talk to you about,” he said, looked at the back of her head, noticing strands of grey, wondering what he’d ever seen in her, “Something I want to tell  you.” 

 Shelia took a small pan out from a lower cupboard and filled it with water, “What?”

 Rob watched as she added dry cereal, put the pan on the burner and turned the stove on, all the while bouncing Emily on her hip. “I…” he paused. Did he really want to do this? Did he really want to give up this life? His wife? His daughter? Their home? Security? Give it all up for his freedom and the chance to do whatever he wanted to do? Asked and answered. You bet he did. He finished his thought, “I’m thinking of leaving. Moving out. Steve from work says I can live with him. He’s got an apartment near the office and some extra space. He says I can stay with him for a while.” 

 Before he started to ramble too much, he forced himself to stop. Was he nervous? Yeah, a little. But, truth be told, it felt good to get the words out and tell it like it was to Shelia. Who knew? Maybe she’d beg him stay. Maybe she’d break down and cry and plead with him not to go. Maybe she’d make good on her wedding vow to be a good wife to him and not take so much time with her precious Emmy. Maybe she’d promise to make an effort to treat him like he deserved to be treated. The breadwinner. The man of the house.

  He waited for her answer. 

“So you really want to leave?” Shelia asked.

 “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”

 Her answer surprised him. “Well, good,” she said, “Great. In fact, it’s about time. I’ll tell you what. I’m going to feed Emmy and get her changed. We’ve got a play date at ten this morning at Susie’s.” She made it a point of looking at the clock on the wall. “It’s nine-thirty right now. I’ll be home by noon. I want you out by then.”

 She turned her back on him and set Emily in her high chair. Then she turned off the burner and went about finishing fixing breakfast for their daughter.

 Hmm. Unperturbed and feeling rather liberated, Rob walked to the back of the house where their bedroom was. That was easy. He scratched his chin, noting the rough feel of his whiskers, and at that very moment had a thought. Maybe I’ll start growing a beard. That’d be fun. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. In fact, now that I can do anything I want to do, I think I will. I think I’ll grow a beard. 

He took down two travel bags out of the top shelf in the closet and began packing. Shelia had given him until noon to move out. Hell, he’d be gone way before then.

Back in the kitchen, Rob didn’t hear Shelia on the phone, “Hi, Susie, it’s me. Yeah, I’ll be there in a little bit, but I’ve got some good news for you. Exciting news, in fact. It’s about Rob. He’s finally leaving. Yeah. Seriously. No, I’m good. I told him it was about time. I think he was shocked, but so what? I’m sick of him and his idiotic attitudes. Yeah, but don’t worry, I’ll figure out something. We’ll talk more when I get there. Okay? Yeah. Bye.”

Shelia hung up and wiped some cereal from her daughter’s chin. She grinned at the cute little girl and fed her some more food, leaning close so they could rub noses. Emily giggled. “We’re going to be just fine, sweetheart,” she said, her grin turning into a big smile, “I promise, Emmy. It’ll be just the two of us now, and we’re going be just fine.”

Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared in CafeLit, The Writers’ Cafe Magazine, A Million Ways, Cabinet of Heed, Paragraph Planet, Mused Literary Review, Nailpolish Stories, Ariel Chart, Potato Soup Journal, Literary Yard, Spillwords and The Drabble.

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