The Chronicles of Marr-nia (Short Stories Starring Barbara Marr)

The Chronicles of Marr-nia (Short Stories Starring Barbara Marr) by Karen Cantwell

Book: The Chronicles of Marr-nia (Short Stories Starring Barbara Marr) by Karen Cantwell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Karen Cantwell
Tags: Short Stories
    “Damn, Nanc , you look like a crazy China-woman when you smile like that.   Anyone ever tell ya that?”
    “Why, yes, Sherm ,” she laughed.   “You, as a matter of fact.”
    “Then why you still do it?”
    “To give you sumthin ’ to complain about.”   She patted her stomach when she talked and didn’t stop smiling.   It was Nancy ’s way.  
    Evidently, she didn’t care if she looked like a crazy China-woman or not.
    “So what can we get ya today, Sherm ?”
    “Can o’ Folgers,” Sherman answered, shuffling in the same direction as always.
    “For Horace?” she asked.
    “Who else?   I told ya a thousand times, I can’t stand the smell of it, much less the taste.   Stuff rots your gut.”   He had made a successful trip to the coffee aisle, picked a can off the shelf and returned to Nancy ’s register, where he began the slow motion effort of opening his tattered coin purse.   “It’ll probably kill him,” said Sherman , counting out quarters, dimes and nickels one at a time onto the cold counter, “if the laziness don’t first. He should be walkin ’ here himself – get up off his feet ever once in a while.   He’s just an idiotic old fart.   Oughta put him in a home.   Let someone else take care of him.”
    “You love your brother, Sherman Foster.   I know ya do.”   Nancy was getting that sad look on her face again.   It bothered Sherman .   Sure enough, he didn’t like the China-woman look, but that sad-as-a-lost-puppy look was even spookier.   Someone really should have a talk with that woman.
    He clinked a final coin onto the counter.   “That enough, Nanc ?”
    She counted out the coins, which totaled a dollar fifty-three.   The coffee cost three dollars and ninety-nine cents, not including tax.
    “That’s enough, Sherm ,” she said.   “You be good now.   See ya tomorrow?”
      “Not if I can help it!   This oughta last him least a week for cryin ’ out loud,” moaned Sherman , making his tortoise-like way to the door.
    “Right.   Well, say ‘Hey’ to Tina when you see her,” said Nancy, who then turned her attention to another customer.
    Sherman shook his head and wondered to himself.   Tina?   Who’s Tina?
    Snowflakes had started to fall – monstrously luscious snowflakes, floating to the ground like the feathers of angels wings.   Once outside, Sherman stopped and looked to the sky.   “Snow.   Who’s gonna shovel this crap?   Sure ain’t gonna be that lazy bum, Horace.”
    A young girl stood next to him, looking skyward, eye shining.   “I love the snow,” she whispered.
    Grumbling and angling his head toward the sidewalk he began the long shuffle back to the house where he and his brother had spent years growing from boys to men, so long, long ago.
    He passed the big field where they played cops and robbers, and where in winter, they would sail like the wind down the heaven-kissing hill on toboggans.   That was when snow was a dream, not a nightmare.
    He passed the cemetery where they’d buried Mother, and then Father, who just didn’t want to live without her no more.
    He passed Pearl O’Leary’s house – the woman who broke his heart.   Of course, Pearl didn’t live there no more, but her granddaughter did, and every once in a while, when she visited the girl, she would stop in and say “Hey!” to Sherman and Horace.   She always complimented Sherman on how kind he was to take care of Horace the way he did, bein ’ like a nurse and all.   “You’re a good man, Sherman,” she’d say.
    “Ach – he’s a bum.   Oughta put him in a home.”
    “You ain’t foolin ’ me,” she’d answer, “You love your brother, Sherman.   I know it.”
    Back in his house, which wasn’t much warmer than the air outside, Sherman shook off the snow, hung his ratty coat on its hook, laid his hat and gloves carefully on the radiator nearby, then made his arthritic way to the coffee pot on the stove.  

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