Charlene awoke to a pounding behind her eyelids. She tasted blood on her lip, white Zinfandel on her teeth, and smelled something animal from under her arms. She pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes until she saw stars, and still the pounding did not cease. Charlene! she heard a voice call and opened her eyes when she realized the voice was coming from the same place as the pounding. Not from inside her head, but from the front door.
She was sitting on the kitchen floor, propped up against the cabinet, her bare legs splayed out in front of her. She was still wearing just a bra and the Spanx, now rolled halfway down her belly. Fuck, she tried to say aloud, but her mouth was dry and her tongue swollen, and the word fell out flat. Fuhhh. On the floor next to her was the now empty bottle of wine, and a full ashtray. Charlene hadn't smoked in five years.
The pounding was coming into focus now, and there was her name again, Charlene!, still coming from a million miles away. She started to get up from the floor and the backs of her legs stuck to the vinyl tile. Bits of spun sugar covered the floor and, Charlene saw as she looked around, nearly everything else. From the table to the cabinets to the ceiling fan, the kitchen was draped with fine, golden sugar spiderwebs. And there, in the middle of the kitchen table, was the cream puff tree. It was smashed together and dripped with custard and sugar. In some places, it appeared to be held together with Hubba Bubba. The entire thing leaned precariously to the east.
She started to say what happened?, but that's the moment she looked at the windowsill and saw that the little white pill was no longer there.
"Charlene!", it was Darrell's voice calling from behind the front door, she realized now. She hurried to the door, calling "I'm coming! Did you forget your keys?"
She forgot her state of semi-undress and threw opened the door. "Damn, baby," said Darrell, "you are ready!" He reached for her and she jumped back.
"What in the hell, Darrell!"
"You called me, sweetie. You called me and said you wanted to make another baby and I'm here! I'm ready, and so are you in your special panties!" The man smelled like coffee and deer piss.
"Darrell, I am fifty damned years old and I am not making another baby with you and I am trying to get to Bunco and I do not have time for this shit and oh GOD is that blood on your coveralls?" Charlene felt her stomach rise.
"Bunco? Charlene, did you get The Call?" And it was the look on his face that got her moving again. This wasn't about cream puff trees or prescription medicines or Spanx, this was about Bunco, by God. This was about finally fitting in with the Ladies' Society and being able to look at Kathy Mahoney as an equal. Granted, a younger, better looking equal, but an equal nonetheless.
"Darrell, you have to help me. I have to be there in-", she glanced at the clock, "holy hell, fifteen minutes! Get in here and help me with this cream puff tree!"
Darrell followed Charlene through the doorway into the kitchen. "What! What happened in here, Charlene?" Darrell looked around the kitchen, his neck straining against his coveralls, a red band rising over his collar and up his cheeks.
"What is all over the floor? In the fan? Is that Hubba Bubba?"
"Now honey, I can get this all cleaned up later. Right now, I just need you to bear down and help me!"
Charlene turned just in time to see Darrell turn the most alarming shade of purple before he fell to the floor.
"Darrell? Darrell!" Charlene ran to her husband's side and watched the color drain from his face. Hot tears filled her eyes and her hand gently touched his hair. "Oh, Darrell."
Charlene glanced at the clock.
There comes a time in everyone's life where they reach a crossroads. Where they have to decide whether to take the path that will lead them to ruin, or prosperity. In Charlene's world, prosperity was spelled B-u-n-c-o.
"Damnit, Darrell," she sighed.
Charlene grabbed her husband under his arms and started dragging him through the kitchen into the living room. Her bare feet sticking with each step, the smell the deer stand coming off in him in waves, every ounce of her body throbbing. Getting him into the living room was not as difficult as getting him into his recliner. She had to get on her hands and knees to give him one final heave and heard, and felt, her Spanx give a great rip up her backside.
When he was finally sitting upright, he almost looked like he was sleeping. If only his hand was down his pants and he was snoring, she might believe he was. The thought of it made her tear up again, and she turned quickly to leave. She stopped suddenly, reached over his still body, and turned on the television. "I'll be back," she said. "Don't go anywhere."
Charlene walked into the kitchen and glanced at the clocked once again. She should be at Bunco by now. She'd be late, and she wouldn't have the Hubba Bubba cream puff tree, but she could still make it. A little concealer, a little perfume, and she'd be alright.
Then the doorbell rang.
Oh, you have got to be kidding me, she thought. It was no doubt the UPS guy or someone selling stupid cookies, but they were persistent. Charlene ignored the bell and it fell silent. She stood for a moment and listened and then she heard it - a soft, soft tapping at the glass door to the patio. She turned to see Kathy Mahoney and three other members of the St. Loquacious Ignatious Ladies' Society staring at her. Their hair and clothes were perfect, and their modestly lipsticked mouths formed a trio of perfect o's. Together, they seemed to be saying, ooo.
"Charlene, hon?", said Kathy Mahoney, "Did I not mention you were hosting?"