Richard opened the refrigerator looking for a snack but since opening a publishing company, things had gotten a bit tight with extra funds. He was optimistic that he could create something with the wares he had on hand. While he stood in the kitchen wearing nothing but his undersized boxers and a Cheeto stained tee-shirt, he noticed there was nothing in the fridge but a half empty, and very questionable, jar of mayo, half a stick of butter, and an expired gallon of milk.
“Damn it. If Ashlee had not realized her and Sharon needed to get away from men for a while, I would have food.” Richard slammed the door shut. He rested his head against it for a moment and then turned around to the cupboards.
“Surely, I have something left,” he said as he walked over to the cabinet door, reached for the little brass knob and pulled the door open. The shelves were bare except a jar of peanut butter. “Finally. Something that I can enjoy.”
Richard grasped the jar of Skippy and set it on the counter before him. “This will be wicked good. I need a spoon.”
He opened the drawer to see if there was a clean spoon left. Since Ashlee left, he had let the housework go a bit. He knew she would be home on Sunday, so he had time since it was just Thursday morning. His buddy Brody would be by later to take him to Bojangles so he was not worried about food as he would just buy enough to fill the fridge with more for the next few days.
Richard couldn’t find a spoon in the drawer, so he walked over to the sink and started sifting though the pile of used cups, plates and bowls with dried food on them, and used pans.
“Knife, fork, fork, knife.” He dug a bit deeper. “SPOON!”
Richard held the spoon up as if he were He-man from the Masters of the Universe cartoon, which was far better when we were kids, and still better than the movie ever was. No disrespect to Dolph Lundgren. He did was he was told by the director; we are sure.
Richard looked at the spoon again and noticed there was something crusty on it. He sniffed it.
“Eww, what the hell is that?” he said as he winced in revolt. He decided he needed to wash this particular utensil in order to enjoy his peanut buttery snack. So he turned on the hot water and got the dish soap out of the cabinet below the sink. He ran the water over the spoon and then dripped some soap on the metal part that he could imagine the peanut butter all over in large globs. He rubbed the soap into the metal and charred gunk that was still attached to the spoon only to notice that it was not coming off easily enough. So, Richard, not to be deterred by some funky stuff that was refusing to budge, got the scouring pad out and ran the water on it, then got the Comet and scoured the hell out of the spoon so much the dulled luster of the metal was not polished and new looking. He rinsed the spoon off and then got a paper towel to dry it.
Richard got the jar and twisted the lid open to reveal the creamy goodness of the golden peanut butter inside. He scooped out a very large spoonful and plopped it into his mouth with a satisfying smack. He started to chew and was hit with a sensation of not pure bliss as he had imagined but one of regret. He was expecting creamy peanut butter but got extra crunchy of which he did not enjoy.
Richard tried to open his mouth, but the peanut butter was gluing his teeth together and created a vacuum effect between his tongue and soft palate. He forced his mouth open to say, “Damn it,” in a very mumbled tone. Richard hated crunchy peanut butter, and this was Ashlee’s peanut butter. He was not supposed to get into her food when she was gone.
If she found out he got into her food she would be more than just mad, she may kill him. Richard decided to chance it and take another bite as he was still hungry. He then put the lid back on the jar and put it back, then threw the used spoon back into the sink. It bounced out and landed on the floor. For a spilt second, he contemplated picking it up, but he needed to shower and record “Striking a Chord” with Mad Manda. So, off to the showers he went. Brody would be there in less than four hours, so he had some time.
After he showered, and recorded the show, Brody showed and Richard was on his way to his favorite place on earth, Bojangles to get tea and chicken and biscuits. Yes, we know there are far better places, but this is a novelty for Richard. As it is a new opening and only forty or so minutes away from him now whereas before he would have to cross state lines to get the one thing, he craved… Bo Rounds.
Brody drove as Richard talked about how much trouble he would be in if Ashlee saw that he was in her peanut butter and Brody thought it would be strange that she would care when the apartment looked like hell and he managed to go through all the food in just three days.
“Why would she be mad about that? I make messes all the time, and she takes care of it.” Richard looked at Brody as he drove into the parking lot of the Bojangles.
“Dude, she is not your mother, nor your maid… it’d be nice if she come home to a perfectly clean house and all she had to say was that you ate a bite of her peanut butter instead of all of the food, left a mess, and didn’t do anything other than lounge around in your pajamas all day.”
“Hey, these are my fancy pajamas and besides before you got there, I was just in my boxers.”
“TMI man.” Brody parked the car and shut off the ignition. He turned and looked at him. “Look bro, you gotta show her that her leaving was not just to get away from men but to come home to the man she loves and know that he didn’t fall apart while she was gone, get me?”
“No, but I think you mean if I clean up the mess, she will be happy with me?”
“Did you get up in like 1991 today and become like an overgrown child?”
Richard stared blankly at Brody.
“Richard, look buddy. I’m gonna go in here with you, carry you home with like fifty biscuits and three dozen Bo Rounds, plus a five gallon bucket of tea just so you can get home and have food for the rest of the week… but… you have got to get your head out of your ass and clean that mess up. All of it. And for fuck’s sake dude, tell her you wanted to try her peanut butter but still don’t like it, so she doesn’t notice later and get pissed.”
Brody looked at Richard and noticed the light in his eyes finally show he understood.
“I need to help her more and not be so dependent on her all the time. I get it man. I need to show her that I want her to want to be with me, not just out of obligation but because she desires it.”
“You got it,” Brody clapped his hand on Richards shoulder.
“Can you help me?” Richard asked, earnestly.
“Now, I will. Before, I wouldn’t. We’ll make that place look like she never left.”
“What if it backfires,” Richard started to panic as he had another realization. “What if she feels that I don’t need her, and she wants to stay gone more?”
“She won’t. The one thing I know about women and trust me there is not much I do know but I know this… they do not want to come home from working all day to have to cook, clean, and take care of someone who is perfectly capable of doing it themselves. Trust me on this one.” Brody opened the car door and stood as did Richard.
“Yeah, I think she had said something like that before.”
Richard ate, heartedly, and took his extras to be eaten later. The trip was quiet with Richard contemplating the revelation he had earlier. When he walked in, he fed the animals and started to clean up the floor in the living room before he did anything else. Richard walked to the sink and picked up the spoon that he had left on the floor earlier. He started the water and once it got hot, he pulled all the dirty dishes out of one of the double sinks and let it fill with hot soapy water while he sorted the dishes to make them easier to wash.
Meanwhile, Brody went to the bathroom and when he came back, he picked up trash lying around in the couches and piled up clothes by the laundry room. With the dishes done, and stacked to dry, Richard started a load of wash, then took his previously dried clothes out of the dryer to be put away. He took many bags of trash out to the dumpster, cleaned the bathroom, and even scrubbed the bathtub out. When he finished cleaning the apartment it looked as though it were done professionally.
“I can’t thank you enough, Brody.” Richard handed him a glass of tea. “I didn’t realize I was being childish and that’s why Ashlee and Sharon had to go away. You think Sharon left Jesse and the boys for the same reasons?”
“No. They take care of their chores… it’s nice to see you can actually help her though isn’t it?”
“I’m beat but yeah. I think I need to go to bed.” Richard yawned.
“See ya later buddy.” Brody washed his glass out and placed it in the dish drying rack.
“Yeah, see ya.” Richard laid his head on the arm of the couch and as the door shut, so did his eyes.
When he woke the next morning, Ashlee was standing in front of him. He looked confused as she was also holding a jar of empty extra crunchy peanut butter with an exceptionally shiny spoon still in it.
“What?” he asked.
“You are impossible. All that food in the refrigerator and you ate my peanut butter? You don’t even like crunchy peanut butter.” Ashlee was fuming.
Richard looked around and then picked up his phone, it was the day she was supposed to leave. He shook his head in disbelief, and then he closed his eyes trying to remember what happened.
“I had one spoonful.” He started to remember the moment he remembered the taste and the unexpected crunch he did not want.
“One my rear. It was a new jar! But, why…? You have three jars in the pantry.”
“No, there’s no food here anymore. I think I must have eaten it all because I looked and found nothing.”
“Richard, there’s a full open cabinet over there. A full refrigerator, and icebox, all the cabinets are full. You haven’t eaten anything from what I can tell. Not one thing all day long. Have you been asleep all day?”
“No, I know I did. I remember it. I know I was at Bojangles yesterday too or the day before… with Brody.”
“Are you kidding me? I was just at work and came home. You are going there Saturday with me and him both. Are you okay? You look a bit confused. Sure it wasn’t a dream?”
“If it was, these new meds are really kicking my ass. I want to say this though before I forget. I appreciate you and all you do for us. I will replace your peanut butter. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. That is all I ever wanted you to say to me… well, that and maybe one more thing.”
What, oh… I love you.” Richard took hold of her hand and kissed it lightly.
Ashlee forgot all about the empty jar of peanut butter while she smiled.