Morning Rituals

by Ken Teutsch
The mirror was fogged.  Angrily wiping it only smeared it, so he shaved blindly.  Irritation made him clumsy, so he cut himself.  Meanwhile, in the shower, the hot water began to run out just as she rubbed the shampoo into her hair.  She began frantically rinsing, racing against the waning warmth.  Chill bumps sprang up all over her like Braille obscenities.  It was a very small bathroom.  They had been married seven years.

"When do I ever get to shower first?"

"When you quit hitting the snooze button."

"Why is the heater unplugged?  Are you crazy?"

"I had to use the hair dryer, didn't I?"

Their electricity situation was precarious.  Television and window fan: OK.  Television, window fan and toaster: blown breaker.  Television and microwave: OK.  Television, microwave and computer: blown breaker.  Television and toaster OK unless the refrigerator compressor kicked on, then fifty/fifty chance of blown breaker.  Electric heater in bathroom OK alone, but one more volt drawn anywhere in the apartment and: blown breaker.

They were running late, as usual.

"What did you do with the toothpaste?"

"I brushed my teeth with it."

"Where is it?"

"Here.  Watch it!"

She was dripping.

She stabbed the toothbrush into her mouth and leaned on the sink.  Her icy, wet hair swung against his bare shoulder.  Jerking away, he bumped the clothes she had hung on the hook on the back of the door.  The hook, which had been accidentally pulled out a while back and twisted back into the hole, popped out again.  The clothes fell to the wet floor.

She squeezed past him, making angry mumbles around her toothbrush.  She bent to pick up the clothes.  Her wet buttocks pressed against his pants.

"Hey!"

At one point they had planned to have children.  Or at least had talked about it.  That had been a while ago.

She shook her wet dress at him and mumbled indignantly.  The foaming toothpaste and tangled hair made her look like a rabid Sasquatch, but he didn't laugh.  He wasn't looking at her.  He was frowning at the dark wetness on his pants leg.  She hung the clothes on the edge of the door and spat in the sink.  It was full of dirty water and floating icebergs of shaving cream.

"Ugh!  Will you wash that out?"  She wiped her mouth with her towel.

He slapped the metal lever between the water faucets and a bubble rose up from the drain with a "bloop."   The water level didn't move.  They had plumbing issues, too.

Also, most of the windows wouldn't open.  The back door stuck so badly that they no longer used it.  And there was a leak in the corner of the bedroom, though only when it rained while the wind was in the northeast.  It was one reason they waited to have kids; they really needed a better place.  This was just a starter kind of place.  They never planned to stay here long.

"I thought you fixed that!"

"I did."

"Oh!  Good!"

"Use the kitchen."

"It's full of dishes."

"Whose fault is that?"

"What?"

He pushed past her now, leaned over the toilet and retrieved the rubber plunger from the corner.  He shoved it into the sink with too much force, and the gray water sloshed out onto the front of his pants.   He recoiled and cursed, bumping into her.  She staggered into the shower, slipped and grabbed reflexively at the plastic shelf stuck with suction cups to the shower stall.  It came off and she fell, rapping the back of her head on the tile wall.  Soap, shampoo bottles, cream rinse bottles, body wash bottles, scrunchy skin scrubbers, razors, a wash cloth and a soap dish sprang into the air.  She shrieked.

He spun and tried to grab her.  The plunger in his hand swept a drugstore's worth of health and beauty products off the shelf behind the sink.  His bare foot speared the metal sink support and lightning shot up his leg all the way to his crotch.  He went down, his right cheekbone connecting with her left kneecap.  He howled.

They had met nine years earlier.  She was going home from college and had missed her flight.  She sat resignedly in the airport bar.  He walked in and sat down next to her.  What do you know?  He had missed his flight, too.

A happy accident.
Ken Teutsch is a writer, videographer and performer living in northern Arkansas.

© 2012, Ken Teutsch