I OPEN THE door and smell something that reminds me of lilacs. It’s that perfume she likes.
“Hi honey, home early?” I call into the kitchen.
No answer. I think I hear a tapping on the floor about then, but can’t be sure. The door from the garage enters the kitchen. A moment before, I’d bounded up the three narrow stairs onto the tiny landing the builder thought would suffice for incoming and outgoing traffic.
Too small! I remember having a devil of a time getting our queen-sized mattress up and over the railing that time when my wife decided she just couldn’t sleep another minute on the old thing in the bedroom. And the way our wonderful builder cobbled this little house together required I go through the kitchen
Look, you can’t turn anything at the front door; you know, wall on one side and like two feet of alcove into our minuscule living room. Oh, and the outer door opens opposite the inner door. Thoughtful design.
Recently the refrigerator quit. Can’t leave meat lying around to spoil, so I ordered another delivered right away. Some young kids with scruffy faces and big muscles, high school dropout written on their faces, got it up those stairs and into the kitchen. What a saga. I stand for a minute, remembering.
“Mr. Bengston, we can’t get the new unit up those stairs. You’ll have to take the railing down,” the curly-headed one says.
“Me? Do I look like a carpenter?” I say.
“It won’t fit. I don’t want to break nothin’.” The apparent leader of the two-man team had spoken.
“I can’t do that.”
“Then we’ll have to leave it here.”
Just then my wife comes out of the kitchen on a breath of lilac. “What’s the trouble?” she asks.
“They can’t get the new refrigerator in. They want to leave it right here.”
“That won’t work, fellows,” she says and smiles brightly at them.
My wife’s a knockout, blond, curved in all the right places and with attributes no real man could ever miss. I don’t miss them and I’d be stupid to believe I’m the only one. So here comes the halter-top and bright green shorts.
Suddenly the “boys” straighten up, puff out and flex a little. Maybe they could find a way to get that new fridge up the stairs and put it where the old one had been.
“Ah, Mr. Bengston, Chuck and I will give it another try, okay?”
“Sure. Be my guest.”
Tony and Chuck breath in the ‘oder de lilac’ and it seems to impart massive energy where only a dull flicker of vigor existed moments before. My wife continues to turn on the charm. She backs slowly into the kitchen
With grunts and under breath cursing, they get it done.
“Right in that spot, Mrs. Bengston?” She nods. I take note that they are now dealing with her and seem to have forgotten I’m in the same room.
With the pervasive lilac smell and a little help from good old sex appeal, the boys got the job done. When I thank them, I appear to exist again.
My thoughts return to today.
My greeting gets no answer. It’s my house. I walk in. Imagine my shock when I see my wife tied to a chair, and guess who, yeah, Chuck and Tony motion me in. Tony’s gun is aimed at my stomach.
I can be cool. In an instant I can see that my wife is okay, although with the gag in her mouth, her most mobile feature is currently shut down. Except for the company, her position in all of this is mildly exciting. Tied to a chair…oh my! How often I’d dreamed…well, never mind. Better say something by way of greeting.
“Ah…Tony, when I said, ‘Be my guest’, the other day, I really didn’t expect you to take me up on it. It’s something people say, you know? It’s not a blanket invitation.”
The lilac scent she loves wafts up my nostrils again. Rats! Couldn’t she like use Bergeron or something? I gave her a bottle of that a couple of years ago. Nope, always it’s the freaking lilacs!
“Pipe down, Bengston.” He grinned. “Your wife told us a couple minutes ago that you’d be home soon. We decided to wait for you.”
“What happened to the ‘Mr.’? How about a little respect?”
Tony’s face gets a little rosy. “This is a gun. Wadda you, stupid? You want I should shoot you.”
I could see I had him off balance. I knew what I was doing. My wife didn’t seem to, though. She started mouthing these sounds. Couldn’t make them out with the gag, but her expression said it all.
“No, don’t shoot me. That’s not what I had in mind.”
Chuck pipes up. He has a tenor voice and I believe that he isn’t exactly the dominant one of this duo. “Hey Tony, what you think I slap this guy up side of the head?”
Tony glances at him. I detect disdain. “Chucky, go right ahead. While you’re at it, I think I’ll take a little time with his missus. You don’t mind, do you, MR. Bengston?”
I feign fright. “Wait a minute! You wouldn’t! You couldn’t!”
An evil look comes across Tony’s face. “School didn’t do much for me, Bengston. Had trouble with ‘would’ and ‘could.’”
“Well then, Tony, look, I can help. Would means that you might or are willing to do something. Could means that you feel capable of it. Does that straighten it out? And how about a ‘Mr.’?”
I don’t know why it always bothers me, people who ruin the language, but I have to react. Then there’s the respect thing, but I guess that’s my problem.
Okay, so meantime, Chucky heads my way, intent, no doubt, on proving that he could slap me up side of the head and maybe that might impress Tony.
Party time! Boy, I don’t want to do this, but I feel forced into it. You gotta picture me, a hundred thirty pounds of skinny nerd in a cheap business suit, home from the office, wanting to greet my loving wife of fourteen years and being presented with this TV scenario, you know, the one where a couple of mad killers are about to do vile things to the girl while the guy watches helplessly, angry, but impotent.
Guess what? I’m not impotent. Green beret, yeah! Chucky reaches me and I feign terror. I back up. I egg him on. I know it’s not fair, but these are extreme circumstances, right? He raises his hand to deliver a satisfying blow and all of a sudden he’s between me and Tony and Tony, guess what, yeah, Tony can’t shoot because it never occurs to him that he’d be helping himself by killing Chucky, that I’d be vulnerable as soon as Chucky fell.
Criminals are so stupid. They always make a mistake. That’s why they’re criminals, I guess; can’t make it in the real world. Chucky’s in front of me; right in the line of fire. Guess where Chucky goes?
Yeah, in a maneuver I know but he doesn’t, I toss Chucky at Tony and the would-be murderer suddenly has a hundred and eighty pounds lying on him.
The gun goes off. Damn it! That makes me a little mad. Now I have to patch a hole in the ceiling.
It’s not fair, but life isn’t, either, so I drop on Chucky and Tony and provide the top slice of the sandwich. Chucky’s the meat. Tony’s the bottom slice. Kinda funny, but not for long. Tony still has the gun. I reach down and wrench it from him. He’s surprised and I don’t know if you know it, but surprised people lose hand control.
Item one: Victory!
Chucky turns over to get off his buddy and I nip him with the gun butt. Out he goes! Now it’s Tony’s turn. I grin—after all, I have to get something out of this—and slap him good. Tony finally realizes what a power pack I am and stares up at me.
“Who the hell are you?”
“Nobody you want to know,” I say.
Deflated and beaten, Tony finally relaxes.
“But I have to say,” I continue, “you really ought to take up Dominoes…or Phase Ten…or something that attempts to use your brain instead of…well, you know. I think I can arrange it.”
I get up; gun in hand. “Stay quiet, Tony. You definitely should have stuck with delivering refrigerators.”
I go over and free my wife. The lilacs are strong.
“Darling,” she says, “I never knew.”
“It’s not something I talk about. Call 911, will ya, hon?”