Johnny America


Cig­a­rettes, Ba­con, and Plates


Ross sits on the toi­let smok­ing a joint. He can hear his girl­friend, Don­na, fry­ing ba­con out in the kitchen.

“Babe,” he calls out to her, “are you go­ing to get more cigarettes?”

“What?” she yells back to him.

“Cig­a­rettes,” he shouts.

He hears her walk­ing down the hall­way. She opens the bath­room door.

“I can’t hear you with the ba­con fry­ing,” she says.

“Are you go­ing to get cig­a­rettes?” he asks again, tak­ing an­oth­er hit off the joint be­fore pass­ing it to her.

Don­na takes it from him.

“Yeah,” she says. Then, “Christ, turn the fan on.” She leaves, clos­ing the bath­room door and tak­ing the joint with her.

When he goes out in­to the kitchen, she is al­ready sit­ting down eat­ing her breakfast.

“Do we have any bread?” he asks her.

“What do you think?” she says.

He looks at her plate and sees two pieces of toast on it.

“I didn’t know if you’d fin­ished it,” he says.

“Mm­mm,” she says, dismissively.

Ross takes two slices of bread from the open bag on the counter and then sops up the ba­con grease from the pan with them.

“That’s dis­gust­ing,” she says, look­ing up from her plate at him.

He ig­nores her and sits down with his plate, hap­pi­ly chomp­ing away on his ba­con sandwich.

They eat in si­lence un­til Don­na fin­ish­es her break­fast. She stands up and puts her plate in the sink. Lick­ing her fin­gers, she says, “gimme some mon­ey for the store.”

“It’s in my pants’ pock­et,” Ross says. “The ones on the floor in the bedroom.”

Don­na heads down the hallway.

“Take a twen­ty,” he calls out af­ter her.

A few min­utes lat­er, she is putting her shoes on in the kitchen.

“Ok,” she says, “I’m go­ing.” Glanc­ing at the sink she says, “can you do the dish­es while I’m out?”

He looks at her. “Yeah, ok,” he says.

“Please, Ross,” she says.

“I said OK,” he says.

He hears her car start in the dri­ve­way and he goes over to the front door. Open­ing it, but leav­ing the screen door closed, he yells, “If they don’t have reg­u­lars get me lights, not men­thols again.”

She waves to say that she has heard him. Then, open­ing her win­dow she yells, “and close the door. I can see your junk.”

Ross looks down and no­tices that he’s slight­ly ex­posed through his box­ers. He clos­es the door and walks back in­to the kitchen. He looks at the dish­es in the sink and groans. He hates wash­ing the dish­es, but he is bet­ter at it than Don­na, who al­ways leaves suds on them. He re­moves all of the dish­es from the sink and fills the basin with hot wa­ter and soap. Ross wash­es the dish­es the way his moth­er taught him: glass­es first, then plates and bowls, sil­ver­ware at the bot­tom, left to soak un­til the end.

Be­fore fin­ish­ing the sil­ver­ware, he takes out a new sponge, throw­ing the old one away. Then he re­mem­bers that Don­na is on a green kick and that the sponges are com­postable, so he fish­es it out of the garbage and toss­es it in the com­post pail. Ross some­times makes fun of her for smok­ing be­cause of her new­found en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism, but she just tells him to shut up. For a while, she switched to herbal cig­a­rettes un­til she read an ar­ti­cle say­ing that they were just as bad.

“I’ll do what I can,” she fi­nal­ly de­clared, “but I’m a smok­er. I like to smoke.”

“Imag­ine how bad the world would be if every­one act­ed like you,” Ross said jokingly.

“They do,” she said, ges­tur­ing around, as if their liv­ing room some­how helped to bol­ster her statement.

Af­ter Ross fin­ish­es the dish­es, he be­gins dry­ing them. His moth­er al­ways told him that let­ting them air dry was clean­er, but he can’t stand to see dish­es sit around af­ter they’ve been washed. The dish tow­el he us­es has straw­ber­ries on it and he can’t re­mem­ber ever hav­ing seen it be­fore. He looks around the kitchen, try­ing to fa­mil­iar­ize him­self with every ob­ject. Ross some­times thinks that if they were robbed, he wouldn’t re­al­ly be able to say what was miss­ing, un­less the T.V. or the couch or some­thing big like that was tak­en. He sup­pos­es that maybe there just aren’t a lot of things in the house that he re­al­ly cares about.

Still, he thinks to him­self, a per­son should know what his salt shak­er looks like, shouldn’t he? Don­na would know. She can tell if you’ve moved a pen six inch­es. One time last sum­mer, they went away for a long week­end and asked a friend to pet sit for their cat, who was old and need­ed med­i­cine every day. When they got home, one of the first things Don­na did was re­arrange the items they keep on their kitchen ta­ble. She didn’t com­plain, but she switched the salt and pep­per shak­ers with the nap­kin hold­er and re-po­si­tioned the triv­et to be ex­act­ly in the cen­ter of the ta­ble. At the time, Ross had asked her, “why do the salt and pep­per shak­ers go on the left?”

“Be­cause that’s where we sit,” she said, not miss­ing a beat.

“Yeah,” he said, “but why not the napkins?”

“Be­cause I put them out when I set the ta­ble,” she said, impatiently.

“What about when I set the ta­ble?” he said.

“When do you set the ta­ble?” she responded.

Ross fin­ish­es dry­ing and putting away the dish­es. He scratch­es some food gunk off of a plate rather than re-wash it, and places it in the cab­i­net, atop a neat stack of clean plates. Ross likes the sym­met­ri­cal arrange­ment of dish­es that Don­na has cre­at­ed: stacked bowls, in rows and columns, arranged ac­cord­ing to size. Same thing with the plates. And the dish­es they use most of­ten are clos­est to the front. Ross opens up all of the cab­i­nets and mar­vels at the or­ga­ni­za­tion. He is stoned, he knows, but still, he finds it remarkable.

If Don­na was here and he tried to com­pli­ment her on her ar­rang­ing skills, she would call him a jack­ass or a ston­er, but he thinks she de­serves the com­pli­ment. He finds her stack­ing and sort­ing abil­i­ties artis­tic. Ross goes and gets his cam­era from the bed­room and he pho­tographs the in­te­ri­ors of each of the cab­i­nets. Af­ter he has tak­en a pic­ture of the in­side of each in­di­vid­ual cab­i­net, he sets the cam­era to panoram­ic and snaps a cou­ple of shots of the kitchen, cab­i­net doors wide open. He ad­mires the shots in the viewfind­er. He stops when he hears her car pulling in­to the dri­ve­way. Ross hur­ried­ly clos­es all of the cab­i­nets, and rush­es back in­to the bed­room to put his cam­era away. He feels like a thief, try­ing to cov­er his tracks. He hears Don­na open the front door.

“I’m back,” she calls out, “and you’re in luck: they had your cigarettes.”

Ross walks out of the bed­room, still on­ly in his box­er shorts. He kiss­es her. At first she is sur­prised by this, but then she re­lax­es in­to it.

“I washed and dried the dish­es,” he murmurs.

“Ex­cit­ing,” she says, pulling at the band of his box­er shorts. She steps back and toss­es him his cig­a­rettes, then heads in­to the kitchen.

“I think we should start smok­ing out­side,” she calls out. “You know, make it hard­er for ourselves.”

“What­ev­er you say,” he says, tak­ing a seat on the couch.

“What?” she says, com­ing back out with an ash­tray in her left hand. Sit­ting down next to him, she lights up a cigarette.

“I thought we were smok­ing out­side now,” he says.

She looks at him. “You don’t have any pants on,” she says.

He laughs. He goes in­to their bed­room and pulls on his jeans.

Re­turn­ing to the liv­ing room, he grabs her hand, hoist­ing her to her feet.

“Let’s go pol­lute the great out­doors,” he says.

Don­na grabs the ash­tray. “No more throw­ing the butts on the ground, ei­ther,” she says.

“Of course not,” he says, hold­ing the door open for her. Don­na sits down on the grass cross-legged. She looks up at him, squint­ing against the sun, which is be­hind him. He moves to block the sun from her eyes.

“Thank you,” she says, and lights him a cig­a­rette off of the end of hers be­fore hand­ing it to him.

Filed under Fiction on September 20th, 2013

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