Talk, Tarantulas, Dinner, and the Day After
They speak of their self-involved lives. They speak of such things as their children, their jewelry, their husbands, their hair do's, their recipes, and their exercise schedule. They talk at one another rather than to one another; they do not respond to each other's comments so much as state their own circumstance and why it is better than the other's. For example, Rosie says, "Donald brought home a dozen red roses with a note that said, 'For my love cat,' and they were all in a glamorous vase." In response, Marsha looks around the kitchen but does not see any red roses. Then she says, "Stewart's always been Mr. Romance. Just last Saturday, he brought home a bite-sized nightie." Marsha grunts in satisfaction. And Rosie has nothing to say that tops this, so she moves on to talk of her boys that she calls her 'babies,' even though they are ten and twelve years of age.
Then Marsha has to use the bathroom. Without pause or any excuse, she slides off the stool as Rosie continues talking. Marsha walks down the long, carpeted hall, and she says, "I'm listening," even though she isn't.
Once inside the bathroom, Marsha turns on the light and recalls how much the tile decoration bothers her. Marsha tilts her head up to inspect the tiled ceiling, then her head levels to the tile walls. The areas of the bathroom that are not covered in small blue tile include the sink, the mirror, the toilet, the bathtub, and the shower curtain.
Finally, Marsha lowers her head to the tile floor and sees it, the mama tarantula. It does not scare her, as she has seen them before, outside of a cage. (She does live in the desert.) With one foot, she smashes it. There is a crunch. She wears black cowboy boots that will easily be washed of the guts. She reaches for some toilet paper to gather the dead spider's parts together, but as she gathers the parts, she witnesses hundreds of tiny, baby tarantulas scattering right, left, north and south. The mama was carrying a sack of babies. They are the size of ants, but they are rounder, obviously spiders. They are black and everywhere. Marsha begins hopping around from one foot to the next, killing the babies she can. Hopping, she throws the tissue with the dead mama into the toilet. Hopping, she flushes as a grand shiver runs through her body. She hops mostly because she does not want them to crawl on her shoes. Luckily, this is not her bathroom.
Marsha leaves the bathroom and closes the door behind her. Without even walking back to the kitchen, she heads for the front door, saying, "Rosie, I've got to run, there's a roast in my oven."
Rosie responds, "Well, me too. I have to make peanut butter cookies for the boys, all because they got straight A's last semester "
Marsha doesn't wait for Rosie's whole response. She leaves.
And Marsha makes dinner for her five young children. She has to force them to sit down at the table by promising them they can go outside and play after dinner. They are hyperactive. They have a short attention span, and two of them take pills for this reason. (Rosie doesn't know this.) Marsha eats dinner with her kids. They can hardly sit still.
Later, Marsha reheats dinner for Stewart. She sits at the kitchen table with him and eats again. Stewart falls asleep in the bedroom at nine. After their baths, the kids go to bed. Marsha watches the television until eleven. There is a special on about mothers who don't care about their children. Mothers who don't care about anything but themselves. They go and buy designer clothes when they don't have enough money to feed their kids. Marsha can't imagine. She falls asleep on the couch in the family room.
The next morning, through her kitchen window, Marsha sees an exterminator truck in front of Rosie's house. She's nearly forgotten. The memory sickens her, and she shakes her head: she has no plans to return to Rosie's house. Marsha doesn't care to talk to her. Rosie isn't that great and neither are her boys nor her husband. Marsha reminds herself that she's better.
(Courtney Garnaas is an MFA student at Sarah Lawrence. She lives in Mt. Vernon, New York.)