Willow Lake Press
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ORANGE JUICE
by J. Rene Martinez © 2002

Orange Juice

My wife had a cold. She was in bed next to me, and I could hear her coughing and sneezing and trying to sleep. I got up and turned on the light.

"What did you do that for?" my wife said.

There were bags under her eyes and her nose was red. Mucus flowed from her nostrils to her upper lip. She sat up and wiped her lip with the back of her hand.

"Are you okay?" I said.

She snorted. "I need a tissue."

We had a large bedroom with a private bathroom and a walk-in closet. I went to the closet and got a box of tissues. I came back and gave her the box. She tore it open and got a tissue and blew her nose. She tossed the box and the used tissue on the floor.

"I can take you to a doctor," I said. "The night clinic is open."

"I donít need a doctor, Brian."

She was a stubborn woman. I didnít want her to get upset. "Will you at least take an aspirin?" I said.

"I took one a few hours ago."

"Take another."

She said, "Bring it to me."

I went downstairs to the kitchen and returned with an aspirin tablet and a glass of water. She swallowed the aspirin with the water.

"Is that better?" I said.

"I guess," she said, handing me the empty glass. She slid down on the bed and closed her eyes. I put the glass on the dresser. I turned off the light and climbed into bed. Then I went to sleep.

In the morning I rose and got ready for work. I was quiet because my wife was still in bed and I didnít want to bother her. There was this pain at the back of my throat. I thought I was catching my wifeís cold. I went downstairs to the kitchen to make breakfast. I wanted bacon. It wasnít long before my wife appeared.

"I canít believe youíre cooking," she said. Her voice was hoarse. She was wearing a blue bathrobe over her nightgown.

I was standing at the stove. "Itís just bacon."

"Can I have some?"

"Yes."

"Iím stuffed up. Iím going to call in sick today."

"You deserve a break from work," I said.

"Youíre right." She went to the refrigerator and took out the plastic container that was capable of holding a gallon of orange juice. She took a glass from the cabinet and filled it with juice. She began sipping the juice slowly. "This is the last of juice," she said.

"I really wanted some."

"Iím sick."

"I think Iím getting sick."

"Canít you get more juice?"

I said, "Iíll run to the store in a little while."

"Youíre sweet," she said. She dropped the empty plastic container in the trash.

"I know."

I scrambled eggs to go with the bacon. We sat at the table in the kitchen and had our meal. My wife drank the rest of her juice. I had a glass of water to wash the food down.

"This bacon is pretty good," my wife said. She looked at me and tried to smile. Weíd been married for twelve years and this was the first time Iíd made breakfast for her.

"Iím glad you like it," I said.

"You should make breakfast more often."

"I donít think I will."

"I wish you would."

I rose from the table and put my plate and glass on the counter. I grabbed my watch, wallet, and keys from the drawer in the counter where I keep them. I checked my watch. I had to be at the office in half an hour. "Iíd better get to the store."

"Which store are you going to?"

"The one on the corner."

She was munching on the last strips of bacon when I left. My green Ford Explorer was in the driveway. My wife drove a Taurus. We kept her car in the garage because it was new.

I drove to the convenience store. The air inside the store was stale. I was the only customer. The cashier was a young man who couldnít have been more than twenty. I was at least twice his age. He was eyeing me suspiciously and making me feel old. I got a gallon of juice and went to pay.

"Thatíll be $5.53," the cashier said. He had greasy hair. There was a line of pimples across his forehead.

"How much?" I said.

"Itís $5.53, man."

"For a gallon of orange juice?"

"Yeah."

I pulled out my wallet. "Are you sure thatís right?"

"Positive, man."

"It seems kind of expensive."

"The price is $5.53, man. Do you want the juice or not?"

I wanted the juice, but I said nothing. We stood there staring at each other. I started coughing.

"Donít be coughing on me, man," the cashier said.

"Give me my juice," I said. I handed him a ten-dollar bill; he opened the register and gave me my change.

I took the juice and left the gas station. I drove home quickly. I parked in front of the house. My wife was in the kitchen washing some dishes when I entered with the juice. "Why are you still up?" I said.

"The dishes were dirty," she said.

"Go to bed."

"Did you get the juice?"

"I got a gallon," I said, showing it to her.

She stopped washing the dishes and left the kitchen. I heard her climbing the stairs. I took a glass from the cabinet and opened the container and poured the juice. I took a drink. My throat started to feel a little better. I took another drink. "Thatís good stuff," I said to myself.

I put the juice in the refrigerator, rinsed the glass in the sink, then left for work.

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