John smiled and shook his head. “What’d old Bill do this time?” he asked.
“Well, you know how when I first got hired I told you about that ridiculous lecture he gave me concerning my PTO? Sorry, paid time off? That it was only for me, for when I was sick and not for when my kids were sick? Remember? And I explained that we didn’t have any kids so, no worries there? And how he’d just wrinkled his nose and given me that oh so superior look of his and said, ‘Right.’?
“Well what I didn’t tell you was that when his son had kids that all of a sudden coming in late or even taking a day off for a ‘family emergency,’” she included air quotes, “suddenly wasn’t as big of a deal anymore. Poof! Just like that. PTO is PTO regardless of the why or the wherefore. Of course, he still wanted as much notice as possible, which I understand, but taking care of kids was a fine use of paid time off.
“I guess the man just had a revelation, huh? So, anyway, late last night he sent me a text- a text mind you! -reminding me that they hadn’t been able to do end of the year bookkeeping because I missed yesterday and that even though bereavement was part of PTO it would be great if I could come in for, you know, just half a day. He even assured me that he’d only subtract four hours from my PTO. Generous of the old Bohemie, isn’t it?”
John wasn’t sure how to respond. Joni had lost both of her parents and John’s were still alive and doing pretty well for folks in their mid-fifties. One thing that he’d learned was the value of the old cliché about walking a mile in someone else’s moccasins- he really didn’t know what Joni had gone through three years ago and then again just three days ago. He felt terrible for her but also understood that Bill, the skinflint, boorish, ‘old Bohemie’ that he truly was, had to run a business or none of them would eat.
He wisely chose to focus on sympathy rather than logic. “Oh, wow, sweetie. I’m so sorry. I really can’t imagine what you’re going through. I guess the only thing we can do is focus on our future and how much better things’ll be going forward?”
Joni cast her eyes down at her plate for a moment, quickly raised and then lowered her eyebrows, looked him in the eyes with her head tilted slightly to the side, allowed a sardonic half smile to pass over her face, took John’s hand and answered, “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. But still, a text?”
The mature wisdom he had displayed moments ago was over-shadowed with a casual inquiry of, “Well you wouldn’t expect him to call you late at night; would you?”
Joni dropped his hand and delivered an icy stare that he hadn’t seen in quite a while. The only good thing concerning their extended separation was that every time they got together it was almost like a mini-honeymoon; lots of very welcome lovey-dovey even when the circumstances were horrid like with the deaths of her mom and dad.
“Yeah,” she said, drawing the word out and ending on a falling inflection. “Maybe so. Better finish your eggs before they get cold.”
The food wasn’t the only thing that seemed to be losing heat. The warm, light-hearted interplay that they’d experienced for the last hour seemed to evaporate like water on a dinner plate that’s sitting out in an Arizona August: There one minute and then, poof! Gone the next.
“So, you still get the paper I see,” he said, picking up the Tribune.
Joni allowed a tiny smile to curve her lips a fraction of an inch upward. “Yeah. You know Mom, always liked to read her paper. Speaking of which, can you call and cancel today for me? After our payments are used up, I mean. Might as well get it until then.”
“Sure,” he said, picking up the paper and looking at the weather forecast. “No problem.”
“Great,” she answered, gently squeezing his hand and then releasing it so that she could eat.
For John the mood at the table had gone from ebullient overshadowed with a touch of melancholy to hostile and now to lukewarm. He made a subconscious decision to simply eat his delicious breakfast next to his delicious wife while perusing the newspaper. He wasn’t much of a boat rocker and the last thing he wanted to do was to bring more burdens on Joni.
He read and ate and when he had finished his meal he looked up to find Joni looking at him with a smile on her face. “Finished?” she asked.
“Yep. And it was great. Thank you.”
“More than welcome. Well, I guess I’d better go get ready for work. I need a shower,” she said as she gathered the four plates and brought them to the kitchen sink.
John picked up the coffee cups and juice glasses and began to run water in order to wash the dishes. Joni asked, “What are you doing?”
“Uhm, the dishes?”
Joni smiled at him and said, “Just put them to soak. You can wash them in a little while. You’d better hurry if you’re going to shower.”
John looked at her, head tilted to denote a lack of understanding. “Uhmmm, I just showered?”
“Well sure, but not with me. You coming?”