“Well I guess that’s it. Everything’s in order,” he said to his wife who sat across from him at the kitchen table. It was a goal they’d strived for since marriage, one that consumed their every day and now they had achieved it: the weight of all their worries was now off their shoulders. “We have all of our bills together. All of our debt is paid off. We’ve both secured tenure at the school. Would have to touch a kid to lose that.”
His wife nodded and they smiled at each other.
She scoured her brain for some unrealized financial woe or some emotional strain that had been burning in her. She couldn’t find anything. Still her smile faded as she looked away. An awkward silence filled the room as they stared at each other then looked away several times.
“Yep. No problems. Everything is complacent,” he said, annunciating the T at the end of complacent. He tapped his pencil on the table.
She stared at the pencil for a while. He had never done that before. Was it something he had always done and she just hadn’t noticed? “Don’t do that,” she said to him, staring at the pencil.
“That,” she pointed at the pencil. “Stop that. It’s annoying.”
“Oh,” he said, “I’m…okay. I won’t.” He set the pencil down and clasped his hands on his lap. The house was calm and quiet. He looked closely at her. “When did you get that mole?”
She placed her fingers at the corner of her lips, “Forever. I’ve had it forever.”
He continued to look at it. “Oh, sorry.”
She rubbed her lip.
He brought his attention to the reports littering the table, organized them into piles, and then with a hopeful smile said, “Any word from the kids at college? Are they failing? Any professors need to talk to us? Are they getting along?”
His wife contemplated with the same enthusiasm. But it faded. “Talked to Sarah today. She’s great and George aced his geography test.”
“Well, I guess that’s good.” He tapped his pencil then abruptly stopped and looked at her. He thought the mole had grown since the last time he looked at it. It was brown with a single protruding hair. He tapped his pencil.
She tried with all of her might to stop the pencil with her mind. It continued, tap, tap, tap, echoing through all the rooms of the quiet house. All he saw was her disgusting mole and all she heard was his annoying tapping, and at the exact same time they wondered how long things had been like this.
Ryan Dempsey is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Writing. At university he was an editor on the campus literary magazine. Currently, Ryan works for Allegheny County and resides with his wife in the Pittsburgh area.