This is my first piece of published fiction. It’s appeared in Orchard Press Mysteries and Short Attention Span Mysteries.
Jan put the car in Park as she muttered to herself. “This is crazy, who buys a DVD when they don’t own a DVD player?” The question was not rhetorical. Eddie would, but she had closed their joint checking account. He couldn’t hold on to enough for a pack of gum, so where had he gotten the money to buy a thirty-dollar Director’s Cut DVD of Black Hawk Down?
Jan got out of the blue roller-skate, otherwise known as a 1989 GEO Metro and walked to her front door. Sure enough, she could hear automatic weapons through the walls of the mobile home.
Eddie had called her at work earlier to announce his new purchase. She had not believed him, but it appeared he’d told the truth.
Jan entered their home and stopped in the doorway. “Where did you get that?” she demanded.
“Hi hon. How was your day?” Eddie answered with a grin, as he paused the movie and looked up.
“Eddie, where did you get that and how did you pay for it?”
“Oh babe, you sound like you had a tough day. Come sit and watch a movie with me.”
“Yes, I had a tough day, but where did you get that player, how did you pay for it and how did you buy the DVD that’s in it?”
“Geez, you’re full of questions. I took a bus downtown and it was on sale at Snow’s Appliances. Zero down, zero interest and zero payments for a year! You’ve been working so hard since I got hurt and I wanted to do something nice for you.”
“If you wanted to do something nice for me, why did you buy Black Hawk Down? Why not You’ve Got Mail or something I would enjoy? And what makes you think we’ll be able to afford this in a year, if we can’t afford it now? By then, the prices will have come down, and this won’t be worth any more than a Beta player was after a couple years of VHS. We’ll still owe the full amount on it, you still won’t be working, I’ll still be waiting tables and trying to save my tips from the bus boys. So, how are we gonna pay for it?” Jan’s voice rose on the final words.
“You worry too much. It’ll work out, you’ll see.”
Jan walked into the kitchen and sat at the plastic table with her head in her hands. After a moment she returned to the living room. “Eddie, I’m taking it back.”
“Don’t you want a DVD player?”
“It’s not that I don’t want it, it’s that we can’t afford it! I’m tired of being the bad guy all the time. I’m tired of working all day and now I’ll be working while you’re watching movies. I’m tired of worrying about groceries and if there’s enough money for gas, so I can drive to work instead of walking.”
“Jan, I promise you, everything will work out. I’m feeling better every day. I didn’t tell you, ‘cause I didn’t want to get your hopes up, but the doc says I’m ready to start walking around the mobile home park here. He says I can start with one lap three times a week. Isn’t that great? We’re going to be fine, I’m getting better and soon I’ll be able to go back to work.”
“Eddie, you just don’t get it. You were hurt three years ago. I think you like that I take care of everything. And I’m tired.”
“Sure babe, I understand. Go ahead and take it back, I wasn’t thinking of how you would feel about me watching movies, I was just thinking about giving you a little treat.”
Jan walked over to their “entertainment center,” two 2 x 4’s on cement blocks, and unplugged the unit from the wall, then from the television. She gathered up the cords and cables and walked out the door. Outside, she saw the empty carton labeled “DVD Player” sitting on the trash can so she grabbed it too and put the player back into the box, trying to make package it like new again.
Thirty minutes later, tears of despair and frustration welled as the crunchy-haired teenager at Snow’s Appliances told her the player was non-returnable once it left the store. That was part of the special incentive with no interest and no payments. And no returns.
“But please; you don’t understand, my husband isn’t working, we can’t afford this. You have to take it back.”
“I’m sorry ma’am, but it was spelled out to everyone who bought one. No returns. And you know, you do have a whole year before you have to pay. Just start saving a little every week.”
Jan stared at the twit before walking away with the carton in her arms. That was why Eddie had given in so easily when she insisted on returning it. He knew they wouldn’t take it back and his toy was safe.
Rage clenched her jaw as she considered this latest indignity. On the drive home an idea occurred to her. It was immoral, in poor taste, and probably illegal, but she was going to do it.
Jan steered the car into a strip mall, made a few purchases at the hardware store and even bought some vanilla ice cream at the mini market, using that precious tip money instead of saving it for the Damned Vacuous Dreamer.
A short time later she stopped in the alley behind the coffee shop where she worked 60 hours a week. She spread out a layer of the thick construction grade plastic she had just bought, then took the DVD player out of its box and set it in front of her little car. Getting back in the vehicle, she shifted into “D” and proceeded to angle the tires a bit as she inched forward. Jan spent a very enjoyable few minutes driving up and down the alley. The bumps of the car got smaller with each pass over the mound. Finally she stopped and took her brand new four-pound sledgehammer from the trunk.
Later the Geo stopped with a lurch as Jan drove into their little carport. Her walk had a bounce and the plastic bundle gave a satisfactory crunch as she set it on the kitchen counter.
“Hon, is that you? How’d it go at Snow’s? Did they take it back okay?” From the tone of his voice, Jan knew Eddie had expected her to walk in with the thing.
“Yep, no problem.”
“Oh…Really? You’re sure?”
“I’m sure. We no longer own a DVD player. I’m sorry Eddie, it just wasn’t a good idea.”
“I know you’re right, I wasn’t thinking.”
“Eddie, I’m sorry I was so snappish earlier. Can I fix you some dinner? I was thinking some soup, maybe a sandwich? I stopped at the market and got some ice cream so I could make you a real milk shake for dessert. How does ‘Cookies and Cream’ sound? A nice thick shake made with real ice-cream and bits of dark crunchy goodies in it?”
“Great,” answered Eddie. “Sounds delicious!”