Back to contents page

Material World

"I can't seem to work up any enthusiasm for the actual living of my life," he said, leaning against the bathroom doorframe. He wiggled his Heineken at her. "It's not that I want to be dead or anything. I just want to skip all the boring parts, but if I do, there's not much left."

She was scrubbing the toilet in the guest bath, still wearing her navy blue suit and ivory silk shirt. She had only meant to pee before changing clothes but how could you see this mess and not clean it? "It's like this stuff is baked on," she grunted as she worked the brush. "How does stuff in the toilet get baked on?"

"See what I'm saying?" he said. "Cleaning toilets. Why should we have to do that? Why isn't the universe designed so we don't have to do that? It's so...material. Sometimes I hate the physical universe. Know what I mean?"

She rose up from the toilet bowl and looked at him, her face flushed. "Uh-huh." She dropped the toilet brush into its little designer stand and headed for the bedroom, pulling off her jacket. A button popped off, bounced on the hardwood and rolled under the sofa.

"See?" he said, getting down on his knees and fishing for the button. "Thread breaks. You lose buttons." His face mashing against the back of the sofa muffled his voice. "I get so tired of looking for stuff that rolls under stuff."

She was already in the bedroom peeling off her pantyhose. He held out the button until she took it from him and set it on the dresser.

"Know what I'm talking about?" he said. "Sometimes it feels like you spend your whole life messing with all this physical stuff. I mean, your body is supposed to be a vessel for your mind, or your soul, right? Your body's supposed to serve you, right? Provide transportation, sensory input, entertainment, stuff like that. But instead, I spend all my time taking care of it and all the stuff that goes along with it, like buttons and sofas and shrubs and flat tires."

"Uh-huh," she said.

He followed her into the bathroom, where she started wiping off makeup.

"Take the garbage out?" she asked.

He sighed. "That's what I'm talking about, right there. Garbage."

"Uh-huh," she said, scrubbing her face with a white washcloth. "Did you or not?"

"Almost," he said, slumping away to do it.

When he came back in she was in the kitchen melting butter in a pan, holding a glass of white wine. She took a sip and gathered a stray drop with her tongue. Buttermilk, the golden retriever, wagged her tail for a snack.

"Anyway," he said, "I just get tired of it, you know? I'm like my own slave or something. My life's a big bore." He drank the last of the Heineken and dropped the bottle in the empty recycling bin. "I'm gonna play a computer game. Call me when dinner's ready."

She added chopped onion and garlic to the melted butter and tossed Buttermilk a chip. The dog swallowed it whole and thumped her tail on the throw rug, grinning. "Good girl. Good sweety." The onions and garlic began to sizzle in the hot butter, and the kitchen warmed from the sound and the scent. She scratched Buttermilk's chin with one hand, feeling the moist doggy breath on her arm, and stirred the sauté with the other. Steam from the pan rose into her face. The shaggy throw rug was warm and soft under her bare feet, and she thought about how nice it felt to have her pantyhose off.

Copyright © 2003 Steve Gullion

About Steve Gullion: When I was in the fifth grade I read a book about the skiing soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division and decided I wanted to be a writer. Since then, I've sold funeral plots door to door, worked as a newspaper reporter, practiced securities law, and developed software. I haven't written much fiction in that time, but I've done a hell of a lot of typing.

I moved to Houston twenty years ago after a youth misspent in Virginia. I'm still here, with my wife, two daughters, and miscellaneous pets. "Material World" is my first published piece.