a weekly series of fiction to enjoy with your bowl of cereal
Igor and Spank by Kel Rohlf
The next time I saw Igor, we were both at Dairy Queen. He was there with his mom and little brother. I had forced myself out of bed that day. I was craving a chocolate dipped cone. I hadn’t had breakfast yet, and since it was almost lunch time I got up. I threw on my navy sweats, and drove to DQ. Igor recognized me immediately. They were in line when he spotted me pushing the door to enter.
He ran over and asked, “How are you today?”
“Fine,” I replied. I fought inside myself, but had to ask, “How’s Spank?”
“Just fine. He lives with us now. My mom says he was a gift from God.”
What a face that boy had. It was expressing eagerness, joy, curiosity and innocence all at once. Dark hair bouncing every which way with straight bangs, over his deep brown eyes set perfectly above a cute nose and smiling mouth.
“Igor,” called his mother. “Who is that? What do you want to eat? Get over here and help Momma with Georgie.” He smiled at me and ran back to her. As I stepped into line behind them, I overheard him whisper, “That’s the lady who helped me look for Spank’s owners,” I smiled nervously at Igor’s mother. She nodded politely, yet with some interest. I ventured a polite, “Hello.”
“Hi, I guess you’ve met Igor already, this is my son Georgie.” Georgie looked about two or three. Thumb in mouth, other arm wrapped around his mother’s leg.
“Nice to meet you, Georgie.” I bent down to his eye level, he looked me in the eye and clung closer to her.
“Momma,” Igor interrupted, “It’s our turn to order. I want the chicken finger basket.” Igor’s mom placed the order, then turned back to me, “Would you like to join us?”
“I guess so,” I shrugged.
They went to get a booth by the play area. As I ordered my ice cream, in my mind I heard my therapist cheering me on, “Go, Gail! Meet new people, get out there.” Walks around the neighborhood, trips to Dairy Queen, having lunch with strangers- would miracles never cease? I stopped by the drink station, picked up some napkins and filled a courtesy cup with water. As I approached their table, I thought I heard Igor whisper to his mother, “This lady seems lonely, momma.” I hesitated. Igor noticed; he jumped up took my hand which was full of napkins and pulled me into the booth next to him. Igor handled the introductions. “This is my momma! Her name is Elena. What’s yours?”
“Nice to meet you, Gail,” she nodded while helping Georgie dip his french fry in ketchup. “Igor is my little gentleman, isn’t he?”
I laughed. My ice cream was dripping down my hand, so I gave it my attention. The cool treat satisfied my craving. Lunch was completed in the midst of children’s requests to go play and a mother’s urging to finish lunch first. I just sat quietly and enjoyed their presence while eating my “lunch”. When we all finished eating, Elena sent the boys to play on the indoor playground. Igor patted my hand, after he squeezed past me to get out of the booth, and then chased his brother to the top of one of the slides. Tears brimmed in my eyes. I hadn’t felt the warmth of a child’s touch in months. I tried to gulp back a sob before Elena noticed. She glanced at me, recognizing my pain, then becoming engrossed with a ketchup stain on her blouse. Georgie deposited it there when he was grabbing fries from her earlier. I fiddled with the pile of napkins, took a deep breath, and looked over to watch the boys climbing up the slide the wrong direction. I automatically began to correct them, just like I used to do when Adam was a little boy. “Be careful, Igor, slides are for going down, not up.” He laughed at me and continued his upward quest. Just like Adam. My mind sent out a warning, “No, don’t think about him. You’ll start crying and never be able to stop.” I was a fool. Why did I think I could leave the house? I’m just not ready yet. I got up abruptly to leave. Elena openly stared at me, but made no motion to stop me. She probably thought I was crazy.
I fumbled with the key in my car’s door. Finally I got in and laid my head on the steering wheel. Too late, now the sobs and tears were coming forth like a dam lock being released.
Dam lock. Dam store. Dam tour. Joshua would have been making a big deal out of that. He loved to say those phrases because he was swearing without swearing. We all laughed every time, even though it was an old joke. “Oh, Adam and Joshua, please come back. Please, please, please.”
Adam and Joshua had been gone for about two months now. My husband, Jack, took them with him to New York. He was transferred with his job, and under the circumstances it seemed to be for the best. I just couldn’t keep up with the three of them anymore. Jack was traveling extensively. Home on the weekends, but that was just about all. When we got married, we were eager to start a family, so Adam arrived about 11 months after our wedding. On our first anniversary we had a one month old. I was at home with Adam all day. At first I really wanted to be at home full time. I was going to be a fantastic homemaker. Many of my friends had chosen the same, so it wouldn’t be that lonely. We could take walks with the babies or visit over coffee during naptime. I had grand designs of making our house a home. Yet it was lonely. Jack was just starting out with the airlines. So, he had the worst schedule. Just like he still has and I’m still lonely. Wouldn’t this ever stop? I thought life was going to be full of romance and adventure, even if I had to create it. But life just never seemed to cooperate. My mind wandered back to Igor. Why did Igor get to keep Spank? That didn’t seem like the way life usually works out. He was supposed to be disappointed and heart broken, just like I have been over and over again.
Sirens wailing past the Dairy Queen broke in on my reflections. I started the car and drove home. As I pulled into the garage, visions of burrowing under my comforter called to me. That’s exactly what I will do. I will climb into bed, cover my head and rest from all this crying. Sleep always helps. I guess.
“Jack, is that you? Wait, don’t leave, I’m stuck in the covers… Jack, Help me! Help me! I can’t get out of bed.” I hate that dream. I’m stuck under the covers and Jack leaves before I can talk to him. I better tell my therapist about it. She’ll probably tell me that I just miss him or something lame like that. At least I’m up now. The alarm clock is flashing 12:00. The power must have surged while I was sleeping. I look at my watch. It reads 8:00am. I must have slept all afternoon and through the night. Time to make some coffee. I always feel much better after my first cup of coffee.
Today is a fresh day, the sun is shining, I’ll have my coffee, take a shower and call my boys. I can shake the dream off. The dream always ends the same way where I can’t get out of bed, but this time the whole dream seemed so real. I was in Central Park having a picnic with Jack and the boys. We were all laughing and they were telling me how great it was to have me with them, “We wish you had come from the start. Why didn’t you?”
Just as I am reveling in their adoration, a flying Chinese dragon, like the ones in Chinese New Year’s parades comes swooping out of the sky and carries me away. Then at the end I am back in bed struggling to get out of bed.
Igor would get a kick out of that dream. I just hope he doesn’t have any dreams about me because they might come true. At least the one he had about the dog came true, but that was just a coincidence. Maybe I could invite him and his mother over some time.
The coffee pot whistled. I poured the steaming water into my mug of French Vanilla flavored instant coffee. As I sat outside on the porch enjoying the warmth of the morning sun, a car rumbled around the corner. It looked just like the 1969 Dodge Charger that Igor and I talked about, and his mother was in the driver’s seat. Igor sat in the passenger seat and Spank leaned his head out the backseat window to catch the breeze. I waved, jumping out of my seat and hollered, “Hey, Igor!”
Amazingly, Elena stopped the car at the corner just past my house. Now they must really think I’m crazy. A little out of breath I made it to the car, and let Spank lick my hand. “Hi, Gail”, they both chimed. “Where did you get this car?” I asked.
“It was given to us by the neighbors up the street,” Elena explained, “they were moving overseas and couldn’t take it with them?”
“Really, that’s interesting. How nice of them.”
“Yeah,” Igor agreed, “and I dreamt it would happen, too!”
“No way,” I teased. Igor laughed. “Hey, I’m glad I saw you. I was wondering if, uh…”
“What? What?” Igor asked as he bounced out the car window towards me.
“Can you guys, come over for dinner sometime?” There I had asked. What will they think?
“That would be nice,” Elena replied, “We would like that. When is good for you?”
“Um, how about, let’s see, today is Tuesday- how about Friday at 6:30pm?”
“That’s fine, right Igor?”
“Yipee! Yes, momma.”
“I’ll make grilled chicken, OK?”
“Wonderful, thanks again for inviting us. We don’t have many friends here yet,” Elena explained as she tousled Igor’s hair.
“Bye!” they called as the car rumbled off.
I caught myself smiling again. Back to my coffee and the porch, and planning a menu.