Double Bubble

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Double Bubble Story By Matt Gallant Sammamish, Washington2 Twenty Minutes he sits in the car watching the door. He could’ve been in and out in ten minutes or less. He reaches into his shirt pocket and pulls out a pack of gum. He is never without gum, not since he gave up smoking. He jams a stick in his mouth and launches the foil wrapper out the window with a flick of his thumb just as a young guy in a tan shirt and black apron passes by pushing a line of shopping carts. Like he is going to get out and pick up the paper. Two teenage girls walk past, talking and laughing. He searches their butts for panty lines or traces of a thong. Both are dressed in green and white sweatpants and sweatshirts. School colors, he thinks. The one on the left with sunglasses pushed back into her long, blonde hair is more attractive. He would dislike the other. Her neck glistens in the sunlight. Is it sweat? He wonders if she just finished a jog. Blondie probably smells right now. Twenty-seven minutes and she is still in the grocery store. She will stay in there forever. They had argued over something stupid, like where to go today. She had plans, but he wanted to take a drive. She yelled and then he yelled. It went on like that for several minutes before she gave in. She told him they’d have to go to the store first. She wanted a picnic lunch. Now he feels bad for yelling at her and thinks he knows what causes him to get so angry, what makes him want to go at her. She talks loud that much he knows. Time after time he tells her to lower her voice. She never listens, just speaks louder like she hasn’t heard him or doesn’t want to hear. She comes strolling out of the store like she’d only been gone for a few minutes. He rolls the window up and turns on the radio. He finds a station real3 quick and raises the volume. It is blasting when she opens her door. She squeezes in with two bags on her lap. She doesn’t bother with the seat belt. Maybe taking a ride isn’t such a good idea, he thinks. He crosses the intersection and drives down the hill towards the lake and glimpses a speck of sunlight in the clouds overhead. At the bottom of the hill he turns right, passing an old man walking alongside the road where he used to jog a couple miles each day. There are too many distractions now to even think about exercise, and he looks briefly in the mirror, seeing the man stumble and then regain himself. With so many cars now on the road, he hopes the man’s life will not be complicated by taking time for a walk. He would hate to read about a man lying dead on the road. The beach area at the lake is deserted. He parks the car in the handicapped spot. She glances at him, but says nothing. She gets out and walks away from the car, carrying the two bags, but he can’t tell where she is going to sit. Picnic tables are still stacked on end by a maintenance shed. A small flock of geese stand around a muddy puddle. He follows her and they end up sitting on a bench by the walking trail. From one of the grocery bags she pulls out a beer and gives it to him. He tries chugging it all in one gulp, beer spilling down each corner of his mouth. She shakes her head, eyes closing briefly like she’s put off by something he did. He burps and then wipes the back of hand on his forehead. He’s been hot all day. He looks at the lake and thinks how cool it would be to jump in. He tells her this. She dares him to jump in. Without thinking, he runs straight for the water until he is up to his knees, and he is shouting it is so cold, and then he dives head first, vanishing down under the water. He stays down until his lungs are screaming and then he comes up for air. “Are you crazy?” she yells. “Yes.” “Come out, you’re wet.” “Cold, too,” he says. He crosses his arms. “Here,” she says, handing him her coat. “Wrap yourself up.”4 He does and it helps. They sit down on the bench. They are together, he thinks. This is what matters. He spits out his gum before kissing her on the mouth. She pulls away. She grabs the second grocery bag and lifts out a plastic tub. She holds it up for him to see. “Angel food cake,” she says. “What’s the expiration date?” he asks. “Is it expired? You know I hate expired food.” She raises her eyebrows, but turns the plastic tub around until she can read the label. “Well?” “Says tomorrow’s date.” “Let’s eat it.” She hands him the tub. He opens the lid and breaks off a chunk of angel food. That’s when he notices she is walking back to the car. “Where you going?” “Eat your cake,” she says. He watches her get into the car. She’s mad again. Get over it, he thinks. But he isn’t worried. She’ll calm down later. She’ll think about things and then everything will be all right. Things always turn out right. Always. He looks at her and she waves at him. See, he knows all about her. He smiles and then just as he waves to her he sees the car move backwards. He jumps up. Hey! She almost hits the tree behind her and then she is moving forward, tearing through the gravel parking lot and then she is gone. “Where you going?” he yells. He looks around, but he’s alone in the park. Even the geese by the utility shed have wandered off. He makes up his mind to wait. She’ll be back. Yes, he knows all about her. She’ll come back for him once she gives it some thought. After she calms down and realizes things always turn out right. Always. He eats the rest of the cake, but he has nothing to wash it down with. His beer is gone. He gets up and walks around the park looking for a drinking
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