How to Deal made it to the short story finals in the 2017 Florida Writer’s Association Royal Palm Literary Award Competition. Because of its length, I will be posting it in “parts.”
LISA MORNINGSTAR angrily pushed the power button on her car radio, creating a deafening silence she wasn’t sure she liked. She tucked her long, black hair behind her ears and tightened her grip on the steering wheel. Every morning this week brought a new crisis in one of her regions, which meant she had to rise at six instead of seven to arrive at her destination by nine. An hour and fifteen minutes in the car each way. With nothing to do but listen to some radio station out of mid-Michigan air its daily “How to Deal” segment.
Monday’s piece on “How to Deal with Tobacco Withdrawal” was informative enough but to Lisa, a lifelong nonsmoker, it was as foreign as how to deal with Category 4 Hurricanes. Tuesday’s was no better: “How to Deal with Your Fallen Soufflé.” Since when did the average person make soufflés? Maybe trained chefs in New York City or Seattle. Certainly not Mrs. Jones with a full-time job and three kids who lives with her husband in a four-bedroom colonial halfway between Grand Rapids and Detroit.
Wednesday and Thursday offered slightly more useful information: “How to Deal with Obnoxious Bosses” and “How to Deal with Car Mechanics,” respectively.
Frank Holloway, her boss at Key Sight Systems based in Ann Arbor, could be obnoxious at times, but the oft-repeated advice to start any conversation with “I feel” just didn’t work with him. The one time Lisa attempted this approach, he politely listened and when she had finished laughed uproariously and bellowed: “Damn it, Lisa, just say that I’ve been a jerk lately and I should get my head out of my ass.” There’s always an exception to every rule.
The car mechanics bit was slightly more helpful, but it was only when the segment was over that Lisa realized that she should have listened more closely. Was she living in some sort of denial world or something?
When today’s “How to Deal” topic was announced, Lisa almost dropped her fast-food hamburger. “How to Deal with a Cheating Boyfriend,” the climax of a week’s worth of questionable advice, was certainly timely. But timeliness doesn’t guarantee helpfulness. And judging by the quality of hints hurled at the listening audience so far this week, Lisa held out little hope.
“Here’s what you’ve been waiting for, ladies. ‘Four Fakey Flim Flams Your Fickle Filanderer Finagles.’”
But after listening to all four “flim flams,” she had to admit each one fit her situation with Glen perfectly. She mentally noted several recent incidents, which analyzed individually might mean little, but when combined illuminated Lisa’s macro-habit of living with Glen by rote and keeping her head firmly planted in the sand.
Like when he started picking on her for not wearing nail polish.
Like when he suddenly became too busy to mow the lawn, a job he claimed from the moment he moved in.
Like when he came home with those two new shirts from the trendy new store at the mall (and had probably been with her at the time of purchase!).
Like when he became too tired to just cuddle.
Like when he accused her of eavesdropping on a phone conversation when she walked into the house at 2:00 on a Wednesday afternoon, failing to ask why she was there but instead ranting about lack of trust. Dizzy, she had fallen into bed with a 101-degree temperature and a headache so far-reaching her split ends throbbed.
Lisa realized she could ponder and muse Glen’s signs of infidelity at least the rest of the way to the office, and she suddenly became annoyed with the perky young woman reading the “How to Deal” segment. How dare that pubescent-sounding advice-giver include only four? Lisa frowned. Maybe because most women would have played the accuse and confess game early on – before blaming themselves incessantly for being so blind and stupid that it takes them light years to stop and pull their heads out of the sand and kick their boyfriends out of their lives.
And that’s exactly what Lisa did.
And that’s exactly what the “How to Deal” cheerful cherub recommended – with the deed implemented sooner, not later. Why go through protracted heartache if you don’t have to?
Still, she couldn’t forget her response when he confessed.
“Thank God we’re not married,” was her comment then.
Next up: Part 2
Feature image by Tumisu from Pixabay (typography added by kathleenjae.com)
Mechanic Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay (typography added by kathleenjae.com)
Broken heart image by Steve Watts from Pixabay (typography added by kathleenjae.com)
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