Maya turned her key in the lock and stumbled through the door, tripping over a heavy object – backpack maybe? – that someone had placed in front of it. “Shit,” she hissed involuntarily.
“Is that you?” she heard a voice say from the bedroom.
“Sorry I woke you,” she whispered, trying to make herself sound as if she weren’t both drunk and high, which she was.
“Thanks a lot! You know I need to be up early for work! I’ll never get back to sleep,” said Jim, her husband.
“Sorry! Sorry. Can you keep it down –“
“I might as well read,” said Jim, turning on the light.
“Jim , are you crazy? It’s – it’s three in the morning!” Maya looked at her watch, surprised. She was starting to get a headache. Why had she let Shauna talk her into smoking a joint at 12:30am?
“I know what time it is. I assumed from your late arrival that you didn’t,” said Jim icily, picking up his copy of The Economist and flipping through it.
“I told you, we were celebrating Missy’s promotion. Besides, I wouldn’t have woke you up if I didn’t trip on whatever it is someone left by the front door.”
“Your kids’ backpacks!” snapped Jim. “Remember your kids? Peter and Connie? Remember them? Somebody’s gotta take care of them while you go off celebrating Missy’s big promotion.” He turned his back to her and started to read. “I’m going to be useless at work tomorrow thanks to you and your little corporate friends.”
“Sorry,” mumbled Maya. She couldn’t resist throwing in, “I think you’ll be able to rally for the hour. You can always come home and crash.”
“At least I’m helping people” Jim retorted. “How many lives has Stars of the Startups saved this month?” Stars of the Startups was the magazine where Maya served as Editor-In-Chief.
Just four that I care about, thought Maya. Yours. Mine. Peter’s. Connie’s.
“Exactly”, said Peter. “None, that’s how many.”
Maya’s alarm went off at six. Ignoring the throbbing of her head, she went into the kids’ bedroom – an office, really – to wake them up.
“Mama, I don’t feel good,” whined Connie. Maya put her hand to Connie’s forehead – it was warm.
“Crap,” she said.
“I don’t feel good either!” said Peter, who was seven years old to his sister’s five.
“You’re fine,” said Maya after briefly touching Peter’s forehead. What the heck was the school’s policy on fevers? It was bad to send a kid to school with a fever, wasn’t it?
“Go back to sleep, Connie.” Maya pushed the hair back on Connie’s forehead.
“Will you stay home with me, Mama?” murmured Connie.
“Mama’s taking me to school! Right, Mama? You’re taking me to school, right?” Peter jumped up and down on the bed.
“Let me talk to Daddy,” said Maya. She went into the tiny birth canal of a kitchen and took some eggs out of the fridge. “Jim?”
“What time is it?” Jim demanded from the bedroom.
“A little past six. Connie’s sick. Can you stay with her and I’ll take Peter to school?”
“Maya, you know I can’t miss work.” Jim rolled over onto his back. “You’re going to have to call in late.”
“Jim, I have a deadline.”
“Call in late. Aren’t you supposed to be the boss over there?” Jim got out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom.
Twenty minutes later, he came out, adjusting the strap of his crossing guard uniform. Maya put a plate of scrambled eggs and toast in front of Peter, and tried, as she did every morning, to pretend that her husband, with his PhD in Semantics, was gainfully employed in an occupation worthy of his potential. Potential has a shelf life. Maya had read that in a Margaret Atwood novel once. It rankled her still.
Michele Markarian’s plays have been produced across the United States and UK. Michele’s short stories have appeared in anthologies by WisingUp Press, Mom’s Literary Magazine, yesteryearfiction.com, The Journal of Microliterature, and the anthology inherplace.org. Her plays have been published by Dramatic Publishing, Heuer Publishing, Oxford University Press USA and Smith & Kraus. She has an anthology of plays, working title “The Unborn Children of America and Other Family Procedures” that will be published by Fomite Press this spring. Michele is a member of the Dramatists Guild.