• Michelle Halliwell

The 19th Anniversary Carpet

Francis stands by the cash register, praying. If the eighteen month, interest free financing goes through, he will be able to buy the shag carpet for Cindy. It’s their anniversary and Francis needs to make it a good one.

The dude with the Moses beard frowns.

“Doesn’t look like you’re approved for the eighteen month,” he says.

Francis’s shoulders slump like a balloon deflating.

“Unfortunately, it’s saying your credit score wasn’t good enough. All I can offer you is the second option.”

“What’s the second option?”

“It just has an interest rate.”

“How much is the interest rate?” Francis asks.

“Hold on. Let me look,” the dude says, typing keys on the computer.

Francis stands there suffering restless leg syndrome.

“Uh,” the dude says wincing, “thirty-six percent APR.”

Francis shrugs. “I need it installed on the nineteenth.”

On the nineteenth, Francis runs his naked foot through the shag hairs, like strands of silk caressing his ticklish foot, shooting a pleasant chill up his spine. He sits in his recliner, leaning forward in his Adidas jumpsuit, circa 1991 and a rap group known as Run DMC. Cindy comes strolling in three hours late, wearing the female version of a power suit, circa 2020 corporate big pharma board. She stops and gazes down at the new carpet.

“How much did that cost?” she asks.

“Don’t worry baby. I got it covered. Remember when you said we need a new carpet? Happy anniversary!”

“Happy anniversary to you too. Now how much did it cost?” Cindy asks, her hands planted firmly on her hips.

“I uh, I don’t know. I financed it.”

“What was the interest rate?” she asks.

“Thirty-six APR,” Francis says.

“Thirty-six! You’re going to need a better job!” she says and marches up the stairs.

Suddenly Francis feels very tired and anxious. His arms hurt. His legs are in pain. “Honey!” he says, standing up slowly, dropping to one knee. He places one hand on the soft carpet but can’t support his own weight because his chest is throbbing agony. Each breath flees and the next one is harder to pull into his burning chest.

“Honey,” he croaks, the sound of voice with insufficient air to lend it sound.

The carpet is so soft, the shag hairs caressing his skin as he tumbles lightly down to it. Francis clutches his chest with his right hand, runs his left across the silk hairs of the beautiful carpet. Little dots float around his vision, turning black and growing. He is so tired but thank God for this soft carpet. It makes is last fall into slumber well worth thirty-six percent APR.

Upstairs, Cindy sits on her smartphone. She is on Twitter arguing against the beggars who think all Americans should have free healthcare. If she pays $2,000 grand a month regardless of whether she actually sees a doctor or fills a prescription, she will be damned if some poor immigrant gets it for free. Everyone wants free stuff and she’s tired of it. She plays candy crush for awhile.

Five hours later she looks around her room and suddenly notices that Francis isn’t next to her. Sighing because she knows she’s hurt his fragile little feelings again, she goes down the stairs.

Francis is lying awkwardly on his face, his butt poking up slightly, like a baby struggling to crawl. The long tan hairs of the carpet are tall grass on a prairie to the background of Francis’s ghastly face, bloated purple with bulging eyes, staring at eternity somewhere in his beloved brand new carpet. Why is he purple? Why is he purple? Why is he purple? is all she can keep thinking.

A fist in her chest she didn’t even know existed clenches tightly, digging its imaginary fingernails in. Cindy takes four steps and kneels down next to her husband of nineteen years. It’ll pass, she thinks, even as her breaths come in that hyperventilating way of a pregnant woman on her way to the hospital. She feels lightheaded, drunken. Her face slips across the velvety shag hairs of the carpet. Now she finally understands what he saw in it, why hadn’t she just paid it off? She had the money, but she’d wanted him to be responsible. But those hairs are so soft.

As the clenched fist tightens its grip, she sees Francis’s face. Why is it purple? she thinks before blackness overwhelms her.


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©2019 by Michelle Halliwell