Understanding Arlin

Understanding Arlin (500Words, Round 3, Day 13, 2/28/18)
“Is Mercury in retrograde again?” Arlin threw up his hands as he asked.

“No.” Juniper didn’t look up from her book as she answered.

“Well, then why isn’t the toaster working?” Arlin’s hands fell to the arms of his chair with a defeated thwap.

Juniper looked at her father in law, working hard to get her patience to surpass frustration. “Does the toaster regularly communicate with you?”

“What? Why would you ask that?”

“Mercury governs communication, Arlin.” She regretted having mentioned the planetary divergence to him. “When it is in retrograde, things like emails and phones can go wonky. Toasters aren’t typically impacted.”

“Whatever. It’s all probably a bunch of bullshit anyway. All I want is my damn breakfast.”

With a small sigh, Juniper gave up her book and moved to the counter to finish what the old man had started. Helping him was easy. Waiting until he admitted the need for help was the hard part, and having to wade through his passive aggression was grating on her nerves. It had only been three weeks. It had to get better soon.

“Good morning, good MOORning!” Her husband sang his way into the room and did a little shuffle-step over to her. Juniper had to smile – she loved this man and his persistent joy.

“Turn up the volume, dear. I don’t think the Grettesons heard you at their end of the block.” Juniper laughed as she fell into AJ’s embrace.

“Yes, ma’am!” AJ sang again, louder this time. “WAKE UP, WAKE UP, YOU SLEEPY HEAD”

“Get up, get up, get out of bed,” Arlin joined in, though with less volume than his son.

AJ kissed Juniper on the top of the head and let go of her. “Well good morning, pops! I didn’t know you still had your singing chops. Not bad, old man!”

“Who, exactly, are you calling old? I’ve got plenty of life in me yet,” Arlin looked over at Juniper and added, “like it or not” to her back.

The room fell silent as Juniper slowly turned around, toast in hand, to face her father in law. “Why would you say that, Arlin?”

AJ broke the tension with more dancing, this time with jazz hands. “Hey hey HEY! I need to get back upstairs to take a call soon. Let’s all plan on doing something crazy after dinner tonight.”

“Crazy?” Juniper smiled. She knew he was just deflecting, and that was fine for now. She and Arlin would have to dig into things after AJ was tucked into his office. Getting anything out of him now wasn’t worth the attempt.

“Yeah, crazy! Like a card game or something. I’ll let you two decide and surprise me.” He gave Juniper a quick kiss before he grabbed the toast out of her hand and scampered away like a little kid who got away with something.

The two adults left in the room stared after him, silent. AJ was the light in the house. Without him, things got muted and heavy rather quickly. Juniper sat down in the chair across from Arlin and asked, “Ok, Arlin. What’s the real problem here?”




*This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons real or imagined is unintentional

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