Cigarettes, Bacon, and Plates

by Cara LONG

Ross sits on the toilet smoking a joint. He can hear his girlfriend, Donna, frying bacon out in the kitchen.

“Babe,” he calls out to her, “are you going to get more cigarettes?”

“What?” she yells back to him.

“Cigarettes,” he shouts.

He hears her walking down the hallway. She opens the bathroom door.

“I can’t hear you with the bacon frying,” she says.

“Are you going to get cigarettes?” he asks again, taking another hit off the joint before passing it to her.

Donna takes it from him.

“Yeah,” she says. Then, “Christ, turn the fan on.” She leaves, closing the bathroom door and taking the joint with her.

When he goes out into the kitchen, she is already sitting down eating her breakfast.

“Do we have any bread?” he asks her.

“What do you think?” she says.

He looks at her plate and sees two pieces of toast on it.

“I didn’t know if you’d finished it,” he says.

“Mmmm,” she says, dismissively.

Ross takes two slices of bread from the open bag on the counter and then sops up the bacon grease from the pan with them.

“That’s disgusting,” she says, looking up from her plate at him.

He ignores her and sits down with his plate, happily chomping away on his bacon sandwich.

They eat in silence until Donna finishes her breakfast. She stands up and puts her plate in the sink. Licking her fingers, she says, “gimme some money for the store.”

“It’s in my pants’ pocket,” Ross says. “The ones on the floor in the bedroom.”

Donna heads down the hallway.

“Take a twenty,” he calls out after her.

A few minutes later, she is putting her shoes on in the kitchen.

“Ok,” she says, “I’m going.” Glancing at the sink she says, “can you do the dishes while I’m out?”

He looks at her. “Yeah, ok,” he says.

“Please, Ross,” she says.

“I said OK,” he says.

He hears her car start in the driveway and he goes over to the front door. Opening it, but leaving the screen door closed, he yells, “If they don’t have regulars get me lights, not menthols again.”

She waves to say that she has heard him. Then, opening her window she yells, “and close the door. I can see your junk.”

Ross looks down and notices that he’s slightly exposed through his boxers. He closes the door and walks back into the kitchen. He looks at the dishes in the sink and groans. He hates washing the dishes, but he is better at it than Donna, who always leaves suds on them. He removes all of the dishes from the sink and fills the basin with hot water and soap. Ross washes the dishes the way his mother taught him: glasses first, then plates and bowls, silverware at the bottom, left to soak until the end.

Before finishing the silverware, he takes out a new sponge, throwing the old one away. Then he remembers that Donna is on a green kick and that the sponges are compostable, so he fishes it out of the garbage and tosses it in the compost pail. Ross sometimes makes fun of her for smoking because of her newfound environmentalism, but she just tells him to shut up. For a while, she switched to herbal cigarettes until she read an article saying that they were just as bad.

“I’ll do what I can,” she finally declared, “but I’m a smoker. I like to smoke.”

“Imagine how bad the world would be if everyone acted like you,” Ross said jokingly.

“They do,” she said, gesturing around, as if their living room somehow helped to bolster her statement.

After Ross finishes the dishes, he begins drying them. His mother always told him that letting them air dry was cleaner, but he can’t stand to see dishes sit around after they’ve been washed. The dish towel he uses has strawberries on it and he can’t remember ever having seen it before. He looks around the kitchen, trying to familiarize himself with every object. Ross sometimes thinks that if they were robbed, he wouldn’t really be able to say what was missing, unless the T.V. or the couch or something big like that was taken. He supposes that maybe there just aren’t a lot of things in the house that he really cares about.

Still, he thinks to himself, a person should know what his salt shaker looks like, shouldn’t he? Donna would know. She can tell if you’ve moved a pen six inches. One time last summer, they went away for a long weekend and asked a friend to pet sit for their cat, who was old and needed medicine every day. When they got home, one of the first things Donna did was rearrange the items they keep on their kitchen table. She didn’t complain, but she switched the salt and pepper shakers with the napkin holder and re-positioned the trivet to be exactly in the center of the table. At the time, Ross had asked her, “why do the salt and pepper shakers go on the left?”

“Because that’s where we sit,” she said, not missing a beat.

“Yeah,” he said, “but why not the napkins?”

“Because I put them out when I set the table,” she said, impatiently.

“What about when I set the table?” he said.

“When do you set the table?” she responded.

Ross finishes drying and putting away the dishes. He scratches some food gunk off of a plate rather than re-wash it, and places it in the cabinet, atop a neat stack of clean plates. Ross likes the symmetrical arrangement of dishes that Donna has created: stacked bowls, in rows and columns, arranged according to size. Same thing with the plates. And the dishes they use most often are closest to the front. Ross opens up all of the cabinets and marvels at the organization. He is stoned, he knows, but still, he finds it remarkable.

If Donna was here and he tried to compliment her on her arranging skills, she would call him a jackass or a stoner, but he thinks she deserves the compliment. He finds her stacking and sorting abilities artistic. Ross goes and gets his camera from the bedroom and he photographs the interiors of each of the cabinets. After he has taken a picture of the inside of each individual cabinet, he sets the camera to panoramic and snaps a couple of shots of the kitchen, cabinet doors wide open. He admires the shots in the viewfinder. He stops when he hears her car pulling into the driveway. Ross hurriedly closes all of the cabinets, and rushes back into the bedroom to put his camera away. He feels like a thief, trying to cover his tracks. He hears Donna open the front door.

“I’m back,” she calls out, “and you’re in luck: they had your cigarettes.”

Ross walks out of the bedroom, still only in his boxer shorts. He kisses her. At first she is surprised by this, but then she relaxes into it.

“I washed and dried the dishes,” he murmurs.

“Exciting,” she says, pulling at the band of his boxer shorts. She steps back and tosses him his cigarettes, then heads into the kitchen.

“I think we should start smoking outside,” she calls out. “You know, make it harder for ourselves.”

“Whatever you say,” he says, taking a seat on the couch.

“What?” she says, coming back out with an ashtray in her left hand. Sitting down next to him, she lights up a cigarette.

“I thought we were smoking outside now,” he says.

She looks at him. “You don’t have any pants on,” she says.

He laughs. He goes into their bedroom and pulls on his jeans.

Returning to the living room, he grabs her hand, hoisting her to her feet.

“Let’s go pollute the great outdoors,” he says.

Donna grabs the ashtray. “No more throwing the butts on the ground, either,” she says.

“Of course not,” he says, holding the door open for her. Donna sits down on the grass cross-legged. She looks up at him, squinting against the sun, which is behind him. He moves to block the sun from her eyes.

“Thank you,” she says, and lights him a cigarette off of the end of hers before handing it to him.

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