“Phenomenal,” Daddy Sheriff leapt to his feet and pumped his fist in the air. “Didja see that pass, Lilly Jean?”Lilly Jean smiled up at her husband. “That was a pretty…”
He waved his hand at her. “Hush yourself, now.” He leaned towards the television, hands seemingly folded in prayer. As the ball headed downfield, Daddy Sheriff leaned to the left so far, that eventually he was left standing on one leg, reminding Howard of a pelican.
“Watch that drink on my new shag rug, Daddy Sheriff,” Lilly Jean said. “Can’t get pop stain out of rug no matter how hard you scrub at it.”
“I said hush up, woman.” Daddy Sheriff didn’t bother turning around.
Lilly Jean glanced at Howard before returning her attention to the rug she’d had installed two weeks after moving in. For six weeks straight, Lilly Jean worked to make the place hers. She scrubbed the ring from the bathtub; installed a new toilet paper holder. She sewed curtains and painted walls and painstakingly scraped old wallpaper from the living room. Lilly Jean had thought she could make this place her home.
“Touchdown!” Daddy Sheriff snatched the Terrible Towel from the top of the television set and began swinging it around his head.
“Trying to lasso up all that happiness and bring it on through the television set, Daddy Sheriff?” Lilly Jean winked at Howard.
Howard knew the house couldn’t contain that much euphoria.
The kicker made the extra point and the game switched to a commercial break. Daddy Sheriff arranged the Terrible Towel back on the television, smoothing it carefully and scooting it just back enough so that the edge just hung over the top of the screen.
“I got to see a man about a horse,” Daddy Sheriff said.
“Mind my figurines.” Lilly Jean said.
But Daddy Sheriff paid no mind to anyone but himself. On his way out of the room his boot caught one and sent it skittering across the carpet. She picked it up and held it close to her face, examining it carefully. She held it out to him and shook her head. “It’s my very best one and he’s gone and chipped its nose clean off. Got it offa’ eBay two years ago when they was going cheap.”
There was a flush and the door opened. “Man can’t even bother to put the lid down, let alone wash his hands when he’s done in there, I guess he can’t be expected to take care of other people’s fine decoratives.”
Daddy Sheriff took up his place again on the couch. He grabbed a nacho and drove it around on the plate of Lilly Jean’s dip: picking up some lettuce here, some olives there, some ground beef over there. He lifted it to his mouth. A replay of the touchdown pass played on the television screen. The television announcers, fickle men with their pretty white teeth and their perfect hair and their memories of glory days resurrected once a week during football season, suddenly set their sights on a Steelers win.
“That coulda’ been you, Howard.” Daddy Sheriff spoke with his mouth full. Specks of nachos flew from his mouth as he spoke. “Instead of watching these guys, I could have been watching my son.” He shook his head. “But you’re not phenomenal, are you. Hell, you’re not even average. No wonder your mother left me.”
“Ain’t nothing wrong with Howard, Daddy Sheriff.”
“Oh, so you’re a doctor now, too?”
“Don’t take no medical degree to tell that Howard’s mind’s just fine. Least he recollects to put down the toilet seat when he’s finished the job. I’d reckon he washes his hands when he’s through, too.”
“No more than you, Theodore.”
Daddy Sheriff started. His eyes grew wide. “How did you…?”
“Don’t take a medical degree to figure out that one, neither.” Lilly Jean giggled. “Big bad Daddy Sheriff. You think them cowboy boots you stomp about in constitutionalize manhood? I seen you strap on that gun and stand sideways to admire yourself in the mirror. But you ain’t no daddy, not in the real sense, anyway. A real father wouldn’t mock his own flesh and blood the way you do Howard”
Daddy Sheriff pointed to the front door. “Get out of my house.”
On the television screen, the Steelers scored another touchdown.
“Oh no you don’t. This here’s my house too. And Howard’s.” Lilly Jean walked up to the television and switched it off before yanking the Terrible Towel from the top. She threw it on her orange shag rug and ground it beneath her heel. “You took your own dreams and tried to install them into your son when it didn’t work out for you.”
“I’m telling you to leave, Lilly Jean…”
“I ain’t going nowhere,Theodore.” Lilly Jean picked up her figurines from the floor and set them back on her television set. “I don’t care if you is the sheriff, you can’t just make me disappear.”
Oh, but he can, Howard wanted to say, but as usual, his mouth refused to form the words.
For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, Kensho G challenged me with "starting with the word 'phenomenal,' write whatever comes into your head without stopping. I challenged Carrie with "they sat beside the ocean boiling water upon the beach hoping for a bit of salt to take home to their children."
Labels: Fiction Indie Ink