(written for the [Fiction] Friday prompt on January 2, 2009: write about a New Year’s resolution that’s broken in the first 24 hours)
“I am so disappointed in you,” she said in her most disappointed voice and with That Look on her face.
Oh no, not That Look, Fred thought. I hate That Look. He shuffled his feet and looked away, then he said, “Oh, not That Look, Sara. You know how much I hate That Look.”
“I’ll give you whatever look I feel like giving you Fred,” she said. “You blew it, dude, not me.”
“I told you,” Fred said with a touch of pleading in his voice. “It was totally not what you think and not what it looked like. It’s not my fault, either.”
“So you’re just an innocent victim?” Sara asked, sarcastically and angrily, still staring at Fred with That Look. That Look consisted of a combination of a frown, piercing eyes that seemed like they were laser beams going right through the object of That Look’s soul and that not-quite-just-about-to-cry shimmer in her eyes. She stared at him for a few moments, half of her expecting and wanting him to say something in his own defense while the other half of her was waiting for him to dare to try to say anything at all. Finally she threw her hands up in the air and said, “Sometimes you are simply pathetic, you know? You promised, remember? It was just yesterday.” and she turned away from him.
“I –“ Fred started. “I –“ he tried again.
“You what?” she turned around, That Look now replaced with eyes of fire that burned right through him.
“I can explain,” he said quietly.
“Oh, I am sure that you can explain. There is always an explanation, isn’t there?” She roughly pulled out a chair and slammed herself into it. “I’m all ears.” She kicked out the chair opposite her and motioned to him to sit down. He did as commanded.
Fred took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “So, let me start by saying again that I am very, very sorry that I’ve let you down and… hurt you. You must know that I would never –“
“Yeah, yeah,” she said, waving her hand dismissively. “You’ve already said all that. Move on.”
Fred cleared his throat and adjusted the matching New Jersey Devils logoed salt and pepper shakers by the millimeter or two by which they were out of line on the table. “So,” he started, “the alarm went off at 4:13 this morning and I got up. I got dressed and spent the next 45 minutes getting my things together for work and then I got my bag together to go to the gym, just like I always do. I fed the dog and walked her and came back in and shaved and then I was ready to go. The dog had her gourmet beef flavored food this morning and –“
“C’mon Fred,” said Sara impatiently. “I don’t need to know all of the details of your grooming or how you took a leak or whatever this morning.”
“Sorry,” said Fred, tapping the table. “So, anyway, I went to the gym like usual and worked out. Steve was there, too, as usual and today is his birthday so we made fun of him for getting up and coming in to work out. But all he really did today was do a few laps in the hot tub, you know as he moved around to the various jets in the hot tub.” Fred shifted in his seat as Sara’s gaze began to be like fiery darts again.
“Anyway,” he continued hastily, “a few of us early morning folks decided to take Steve out for his birthday and so we went out to get him a slice of pumpkin bread or something, whatever he wanted really, I mean, since it was his birthday and – “
“And where did you go?” Sara asked.
“Oh, you know where we went,” said Fred.
“Oh, I know where you went,” repeated Sara, “but I want to hear you say it.”
“Fine,” said Fred. “We went to Perky Pete’s.”
“Perky Pete’s Coffee Grill,” corrected Sara. “The place with the scantily clad coffee servers. Was Jenny there?”
“Um,” said Fred. “I, um, don’t know if Jenny was there. You know that’s… that’s not why I was there or even why I’ve gone in the past.”
“No, you go there for the wings,” snorted Sara.
“Um, what?” said Fred. “Oh,” he said as he caught on. “No. And you’re a fine one to get bent out of shape about the serving staff there… I’ve seen how you look at – what’s his name? Sven? Yeah, Sven, when he’s on duty there. He says hello and happy new year, by the way. He was there this morning.”
“Whatever,” said Sara, blushing. “Get back to your excuse for breaking your promise.”
“So, we were there for pumpkin bread. Steve got an Earl Gray tea, Ted got a plain old coffee, whatever they had on draught for the day, I think. I got a bottle of water, though the waitress had already prepared my usual. Since it was already made and it was Steve’s birthday, she gave it to him for free rather than just throw it out. He tried to give it to me since he doesn’t usually drink the stuff, but I refused it and sipped on my bottle of water as I ate the pumpkin bread. The pumpkin bread was good, maybe a little dry, but good anyway. You know, Perky Pete’s is known for their pumpkin bread and that’s why we went there with Steve, since Steve loves the pumpkin bread. Did you know that they use real pumpkins in it, usually pumpkins grown by local families? I think that’s pretty awesome that they invest in the community like that. It’s—“
“Fred,” interrupted Sara, “it doesn’t matter to me right now if they use fresh, local pumpkins or canned pumpkins that they import from Antarctica.”
“Right,” said Fred. “Sorry. So, we were there for, I don’t know, a half hour or so, and we were wrapping up to get ready to go, since we all had to get to work. The waitress, Debbie was her name, I think, she dropped off the check. Steve went to grab it to pay for it but Ted and I weren’t going to let him do that on his birthday so we both hurried to reach for it. The effort to do this caused my water to spill toward Ted and it spilled onto his lap a little. He stood up abruptly and knocked the table some, spilling Steve’s tea. Steve hurried to pick up his napkin to dry up the spill and that caused the check to fall to the floor. So, I got off the chair and knelt down to pick up the check. I didn’t realize it but so did Ted and his head banged mine. It hurt, we hit each other pretty hard. So, I rolled over onto my back some to count the stars I was seeing. I was saying something like ‘Ow, ow, ow, ow’ or something like that. Maybe it was a few four-letter words. I can’t really remember exactly. Anyway, Ted rolled the other way, chanting something similar to what I was chanting. So we were both lying there on the floor under or right next to the table, writhing in pain and chanting our little… chants. Ted must have bumped the table leg or something because the table shook. I heard Steve say something but before I knew it there was some Earl Gray tea spilling onto my chest. It was hot, so my ‘ow, ow, ow, ow’ chant got a bit louder. I saw Steve grab the napkins from the next table to try to dry up the newest spill. I was still there holding my head and chanting and suddenly there was, well, there was… well, I really didn’t want it to happen. The waitress had, apparently, come over at that point, I assume to try to help. I opened my eyes and she was – there – she was standing over me and I looked up and saw… I mean, she was — it was clearly not my fault. It was –“
“You expect me to believe this?” demanded Sara. “You expect me to believe this… story… you’re telling me? That you were just lying there looking up and that’s when the waitress just happened to come over there and –“
“Yes,” interrupted Fred. “She came over and was helping to dry up the spilled Earl Gray tea and she was standing over me and I was looking up and then… she knocked over the large cup of coffee she had made for me and Steve hadn’t touched. The cup fell and the coffee spilled and I was lying there looking up and shouting ‘ow, ow, ow’ and suddenly the coffee was in my mouth and –“
“And you just stayed there staring at – Debbie – in her – outfit – and kept on drinking the coffee that was spilling?” Sara slammed her hand on the table.
“I hadn’t even consciously noticed that she was there,” protested Fred.
“Right,” said Sara. “Like I’d believe that. But whatever. What were you thinking? Why didn’t you get up? Why didn’t you close your mouth?”
“If I had moved or closed my mouth, the coffee would have gotten all over my shirt,” said Fred. “And besides, the waitress –“
“Debbie,” spat Sara.
“Debbie,” repeated Fred. “Debbie was stepping on my hand and –“
“I thought you said you hadn’t noticed her,” said Sara.
“—and I was trying to shout but my mouth was full of coffee and there was more spilling and… it all happened so fast. Look, it wasn’t like I was intending to be in that position.”
“Right,” said Sara. “It sure didn’t look to me like you were all that upset about where you were, though.”
“I wasn’t exactly enjoying myself,” Fred said. “When you walked in on us, I was really just trying not to choke on the coffee. But really, truthfully, Sara, this is exactly what happened and that’s why I was drinking coffee this morning when you walked in. I wasn’t enjoying it at all! And I would never have broken our New Year’s resolution to stop drinking coffee, certainly not on the first day! You have to believe me on this.”
Sara snorted in an indecipherable way.
“What does that mean?” asked Fred. “And… wait a second. What were you doing at Perky Pete’s? You don’t drink tea, you don’t like the food. I think you were planning to break our resolution this morning, too.”
Now it was Sara’s turn to be back on her heels. “No, of course I wasn’t. I was… I figured that I would… um, try some tea. Sve—I mean the staff – had always been trying to get me to try one of their fancy teas so I was going to, um, get their recommendation for what to try.”
Fred coughed a cough of disbelief.
“No,” said Sara. “Really. I was going to get a cup of tea and…”
Sara pushed away from the table and stood up. “Let’s call a truce. We’ll start our resolution to stop drinking coffee tomorrow. Deal?”
“Deal,” said Fred. “I guess. I mean, why are we doing this? Why aren’t we doing something like breaking a vow to lose ten pounds or stop watching those crummy shows on TV? You know some kind of resolution that we might be able to actually keep.”
“You would lose the ten pounds in two weeks, Fred, and I’d probably find the pounds you lost,” said Sara. “That would be problematic as you can surely imagine. We don’t watch many of the same shows and I think you would agree that we simply cannot stop watching the ones we both like. Coffee is the one real vice we share, Fred,” said Sara. “We don’t drink, we don’t smoke… we –“
“We don’t do anything,” interrupted Fred, “except drink coffee and watch television. We can stop drinking coffee anytime we want.”
“Anytime,” agreed Sara.
They stared at each other for a few minutes in silence.
“I know,” said Fred. “Let’s resolve to not eat meat anymore.”
“Dude,” said Sara. “You mean like be some kind of freaky vegetarian?”
“Something like that,” said Fred. “I mean, we already don’t eat meat at home. And, you know, it’s better for the planet and all that.”
“Ooh,” said Sara. “That’s a good idea. And we can bring our own mugs to Perky Pete’s… instead of using the stupid paper cups. That’s better for the planet, too, right?”
“Right,” said Fred. “And we can always buy their special daily blend. You know,, the one where they donate a nickel to charity for each cup you purchase? If we go every day, we can make a big difference.”
“Yes, that’s a good plan,” said Sara. “So what do we do now?”
“Um,” said Fred. “I guess we need to officially resolve it.”
“I resolve to be a freak, I mean, vegetarian and to use my own travel mug to Perky Pete’s each day,” said Sara.
“Me too,” said Fred quickly. Then, hastily, “For the good of the planet.”
“For the good of the planet,” repeated Sara.
“And now we make it official by going to Perky Pete’s –“
“With our big travel mugs,” added Sara, grabbing them from the cabinet.
“And we get the biggest, best mugs of coffee they have,” said Fred.
“With soy milk, of course,” added Sara as she put her coat on.
“Of course,” said Fred, grabbing the car keys.
“Aren’t you ready yet?” demanded Sara from outside the door.
“I’m ready!” insisted Fred, closing the door behind him. “Oh, you know, they have salads there at Perky Pete’s too.”
“They do?” asked Sara. “I never noticed.”
“Well,” said Fred, “that’s not exactly what they’re famous for, is it?”
“Not exactly,” said Fred. “I think it is the coffee.”
“Or Sven,” said Sara. “Sven’s pretty famous.”
“Sven…” said Fred. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good resolution after all.”
“Shut up and get in the car,” laughed Sara.
They continued to laugh as they drove off to begin keeping their new resolutions.