Hunting for Duck (4)
It didn’t take long. When it was all in, we left Marlene to get herself straight and Sal went to freshen up and change.
“Jesus! ” she said, when she opened the bedroom door. She went straight to the window and threw it wide. It was the first time I’d noticed how thick the smoke was.
“Sorry. I put the table in here. I didn’t know where else to put it.”
“It stinks. I thought we’d agreed no smoking in here.”
She looked at the table – the typed sheets, the coffee mug, the full ashtray. I picked the mug and the ashtray up.
“Maybe it’ll go in the lounge,” I said. “I could shift the chairs around somehow. Move the TV along the wall.”
But she didn’t seem interested. She sat on the bed and kicked off her shoes.
“Leave it now. I think I just want to sleep for a while,” she said. “I’ve got a headache.”
“You sure you’re okay, hon?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Just let me sleep.” She looked up at me. I was still holding the mug and the ashtray, standing at the door. “Please.”
She swung her legs up onto the bed and put her head on the pillow.
“Call if you need anything,” I said. Then I went out.
I went and got another beer and sat in the kitchen, running everything through my head. Sal. The car. The accident. The thing with Marlene. The whole situation. Up until then, I'd been feeling like I was getting somewhere - doing what I wanted to do. Sal had given me so much hope. Was I up to it? If nothing happened soon - and it had to - what then?
I jerked up. Marlene was standing at the kitchen door, looking at me.
“Sorry… I was way off.”
She’d taken her jacket and boots off and was in her bare feet. She folded her arms and leaned against the door post.
“How is she?”
“She’s having a rest.”
“Good. She needs it.”
She stood there.
“There’s a beer in the fridge if you want one.”
She wrinkled her nose.
“I’m not supposed to. But I could use something.”
She went to the fridge. As she crouched down I saw the bruise. A fresh one, the size of tennis ball. Just above the hem of her skirt on her right thigh. She turned her face towards me suddenly and I looked up.
“That happen in the accident?”
She took a beer and stood up again.
“No,” she said. Then she came and sat across from me at the table. She opened the can and drank in silence for a moment.
“I’m sorry for all this, Ed. Sal’s saved my life here. You and Sal.”
Her eyes were wet, and she wiped them with her fingers.
“Yeah, it’s not okay, though. I know that. I just need a few days. Maybe a week or so.”
“Take as long as you need.”
She took another hit.
“I’ll go out tomorrow and look for a job. Then I can get a place.”
“You’ll need money up front for a place.”
She put the can down on the table.
“So, I’ll sort it. Don’t worry.”
I finished my beer. I sat there trying to think of something to say. She wiped her eyes again.
"Fuckin' bastard, he was. Why didn't I see it coming? You'd think I'd know by now."
I shrugged. "Well... I've done the same myself. Never really been a good judge."
She looked at me, wrinkling her forehead.
"Until I met your sister, that is," I added.
She grinned. "Yeah. Looks like you both got lucky, eh?"
I shrugged again. "Looks like."
She took a long pull on the can. "I can tell you... I could do with some of that luck. Maybe one day..."
"I hope so," I said. "We all deserve a break sometime."
We sat in silence then for a few moments, thinking our thoughts. I was thinking... well... I don't really know what I was thinking. My head was all over the place again. The beer. The things that had happened. The story was in there, too. Somewhere in there, swirling around in the currents.
Marlene emptied her can - she could sure put it back - and placed it on the table.
“Is it alright if I take a bath?”
“Sure it is. Do you need towels or anything?”
“I’ve got everything, thanks.” She got up and went to her room. In a few more moments, I heard her go through to the bath room and turn on the water. Then she closed the door and I could just hear the water running, like a stream in the distance.
That night in bed, both Sal and I laid awake. She was still shaken up and had taken a valium to settle herself. After we’d turned in, we’d both listened to Marlene moving around for a while, fixing her bed up and things. It was strange having someone else in the apartment – which was part of it, of course. We lay on our backs, staring at the wedge of light thrown across the ceiling from the street. Sal reached across and took my hand.
“I’m sorry about earlier.”
“Forget it. I’m the one should be sorry, anyway.”
I listened to the steady rise and fall of her breathing.
“We’ll fix the car. Don’t worry.”
She pulled herself closer and put her arm across my chest. She kissed my hair. I had a hard-on so big it hurt.
“What’s your story about?”
I thought about that again.
“I’m not sure yet. It needs some working.”
She nuzzled her head against mine.
“Okay. You can do it tomorrow.”
“I’ll put the table in the lounge.”
I turned my head to find her mouth, but she pulled back.
"Not tonight, Ed. I ache too much. And I have to work tomorrow."
I stroked her hair. She pulled her arm back and turned over - slowly, groaning quietly.
"'Night," she said.
In a few minutes, her breathing became heavier. I felt her body relax beside me. I listened to her sleeping at last.
The next day, I tried to get Sal to call in sick, but she said she felt fine and wanted to go. She said she’d see how it went.
After she’d left, I picked up the typewriter and carried it through to the kitchen table. I thought I’d work there for the time being, shift things later. It was nine o’clock by this time and there hadn’t been a sound from Marlene’s room. I went and listened at her door for a minute. Nothing. Not even a yawn.