Of Pride and Petulance
Larson wonders how Mr. Potts seems to not even notice the slick of mud covering him, his tail wagging away, held tightly under Larson’s massive arms; his rage with the dog increasing as he feels the mud behind his ears starting to dry a bit, to cake and crack. The elevator reached the top floor and he dropped the dog down onto the marble tile so it could run ahead and scratch at the floor, growl and bark just enough to disturb Mrs. Golden across the hall. Catching up to Mr. Potts, he waits a moment, his key already in the lock, for Mr. Potts to bark once more. Thinking he can feel Mrs. Golden looking at him through her peep hole, he smiles and lets himself and Mr. Potts in.
“Is that you, Hank?” Jamie calls to him from upstairs, as he walks into the kitchen where Mr. Potts laps at his water dish. He grabs a dish towel to start wiping the mud from his face. “No, it is a clever imposter who’s planning to work his way into your life such that he will someday be able to steal it all.”
“I thought that was Hank’s plan,” she says as she steps into the kitchen, pushing her hair back to put in her second earring. She takes in the sight of him, covered from head to toe with drying mud as he works feverishly to get the mud from behind his ears.
He looks up and is reminded how lucky a man he is. “Yes, I took that from him as well.” With her heels on, she is only half a head shorter than he and he leans over to give her a kiss
“I noticed that somebody tracked mud in from the door,” she says giving him the softest of kisses while trying to avoid the mud.
“I saw that as well. I have Mr. Potts investigating.” He steps aside as Jamie heads to the refrigerator. Standing in short sweats and a sleeveless sweatshirt, the arms of which may have been cut off or possibly had fallen off from age, he inspects his jacket. “I was thinking about inviting Stephen over for the game tomorrow.”
“Have you asked Mrs. Golden if she’ll allow people from the lower floors up?”
“Mr. Potts said she’d be fine with that.” He looks at his jacket now, holding it at arm’s length, turning it around. “Do we like the dry cleaner in this neighborhood, or do I have to bring it someplace else?”
“No complaints.” She becomes pensive as she looks for what she’ll bring for lunch. “There’s a cute girl that works behind the counter.”
“Right,” and he folds it in upon itself, inside out trying to encase the mud. “I’ll take it across the river then; to the old Chinese woman.”
“That’s ridiculous. They probably send it to the same place.” Larson grabs another dish towel and starts cleaning the floor. “Anyway,” she shuts the refrigerator door with her hands empty, “I’m pretty sure they’re from South America.”
“Young girl doesn’t have any concept of money and quality,” Larson pants a little, crawling on his hands and knees now, trying to get the worst of the mud. “That comes with age.”
“If I didn’t know you, Hank, I’d swear you were eighty.”
“Little more than half that,” he says with a blend of pride and petulance as he pushes himself up from the floor. “Which is probably twice what the girl at the local is and I’m just not comfortable with that.” He looks down at the floor and sees that he’s done a fine job of smearing the mud around and into the grout lines. “I’m gonna have to mop that.”
“Probably. Anyway, I said she was cute, you’re assuming that means young.”
“You said girl.”
“Them’s my southern roots,” she says, putting on her best Savannah accent and it reminds him of when they met twenty years before. He reaches out for but she steps back to avoid his muddy paws. “You would think after twenty years I’d remember not to speak that way around you.”
“It got me to fix your locker.”
“You know that tearing a door off its hinges isn’t the same as fixing it?” He rolls his eyes at her, “No, I need to make sure you know that because, when I get home, I’m hoping the floor will be clean, not removed.”
“You’re so picky,” said with petulance, which Jamie remembers as one of the things that attracted her to him, as the Girls basketball coach yelled at Hank for being in the girls locker room. Avoiding the muddy parts, she leans in for another little kiss. Scowling he gives her one. “Now you’re just trying to be nice.”
“That’s true.” Turning to head for the door, she notices Mr. Potts, still coated in mud, lying on the couch. She points at the couch and Larson looks over.
“God dam it Mr. Potts! Get off the fucking couch!” Mr. Potts jumps up on the back of the couch, wagging his tail and barks as Larson heads towards him.
“Tell Stephen to bring a guest.”