Nancy said to Frank, “Sweetie, I feel like ice cream. Oooh, mint ice cream! Want to share with me?”
Frank kissed Nancy’s belly bump and said: “Aaaah, I see the cravings are starting. Mint ice cream? Sounds like a trip to the fridge.”
He jumped out of bed, nearly stepping on Pom Pom. The little orange Pomeranian ran busily between Frank’s loafers, intent on making him trip on the way to the kitchen. Frank opened the refrigerator’s door, peered in, frowned. “I don’t see it. We don’t have that.”
“Well, it wouldn’t be in there, silly, it would be down in the freezer.”
He opened the freezer too: “Ok. Then we definitely don’t have that.”
“Are you sure? Mint ice cream. It should have green on the box.”
“Nope,” Frank said, trying to keep Pom Pom from jumping headfirst into an icy playground.
“Ok, what about a cucumber? Do we have that?”
“I thought you wanted ice cream,” Frank said.
“Or a cucumber,” Nancy said. “All sliced up in the mint ice cream.”
“You’re kidding,” he said, shaking Pom Pom off his loafers as gently as the little beast deserved.
“Haven’t you ever tried that? You slice up the cucumber, you dip the slices in the minty fresh ice cream. Want it, want it, want it!”
Frank said: “We don’t have cucumbers either. And who puts vegetables in ice cream?”
“Creative people! So. Are you sure we don’t have a cucumber? You didn’t look hard enough.”
“I got a cucumber for you,” he mumbled as he closed the refrigerator door, and turned to see the emphatic rolling of her eyes.
“Do you think Pom Pom will get jealous?” Nancy said. “Of the baby, I mean. I heard some dogs don’t deal well with competition.” They were in bed. Pom Pom lay between her and Frank, territorial and triumphant in the sheets.
Frank chuckled, “Well, if Pom Pom gets jealous of the baby, we’ll just have to do the right thing and dump the baby off at the nearest orphanage.”
“Ha,” she said. She was running her fingers through the dog’s coppery fur, teasing at the sharp little ears. Pom Pom, perhaps sensing the conversational bent, aimed a curious snout at Nancy’s pregnant belly. “Did you know that the ‘Minute Waltz’ was inspired by a Pomeranian?”
Frank said: “Did not know that. What’s the ‘Minute Waltz’?”
“It’s a Red Hot Chili Peppers song,” she groaned. “Do you have any culture? It’s a piano waltz by Chopin. The one that goes really fast? Bugs Bunny played it all the time. Or at least a couple of times. La la la la, la la la la, lalalalala… Anyway, Chopin called it the “Valse du Petit Chien” because it’s really about a little dog chasing its tail.”
Frank grabbed his wife’s face, squeezed somewhat harshly, smooched her sonorously: “How did you get so smart?”
“How did I get so pregnant? Can’t be THAT smart if I got THIS pregnant.” She laughed and freed herself, “And now I kind of want to eat a red hot chili pepper.”
“Sounds nutritious,” he laughed.
“Red hot. Chili pepper. Can you bring me some? From the jar in the pantry.”
“What? It’s 1 in the morning,” he said.
“So? It was probably 1 in the morning when you got me pregnant and if I recall, you were pretty much up for anything that night! Just go to the pantry, please?”
“You’re kidding,” he said. “And since when do we even have chili peppers? Maybe green peppers…”
“No! Not green! It has to be red!”
“We don’t have red peppers, I guarantee it,” but Nancy had already struggled off the bed and walked out of the bedroom, mumbling:
“Tomato? What are you talking about?” Frank found himself trailing her, and Pom Pom was the rear guard.
“I say to-may-to, you say no-to-mah-to,” she was singing, a slurring, angry kind of song. “I say po-tay-to, you say no-po-tah-to. To-may-to, no-to-mah-to!! Frank always says-no-to-Nancy! Let’s call the whole thing off!”
“You’re being absurd,” he said.
She pulled open the refrigerator door, cast a fierce look inside it: “We never have anything I want. No red pepper, no cherries, no tomatoes. Oh,” she stopped herself. “I found it.”
“What is it?”
“Oh, this looks so good, and I’m so thirsty,” she held a jar of Ragu Old World Style Marinara Sauce.
“Thirsty?” He was confused. “Do you want me to make some pasta?”
“No, this is fine.” She winced as she tried to twist the cap open. “Care to give your pregnant wife a manly hand? You know these things are always a mission to open but you just stand there. It must be fun watching me struggle.”
“Just let me help you” he said. He took the jar and pressed in. “You know, my manly hand doesn’t magically open jars, these things are tough for everybody. Ok, well, now it’s open.”
“Give it. Give it!” She snatched the jar from his hands, tilted her head back, then began to convulsively chug, chug, chug down the thick red sauce with the wild, hedonist abandonment of a decadent Caesar.
Frank stood aghast. “What are you doing? You can’t do that! You’re going to throw up!”
She pulled herself away from the jar’s mouth to say: “Maybe I want to throw up, don’t tell me what to do.”
“This is the grossest thing I ever saw you do.”
“Stop being a child,” she said. “You want gross? Wait til Labor Day. Get it?” She went back to the jar, smacked its bottom, and the rest of the Ragu poured all over her contented face.
Six months in, they were very glad to brunch at the Dream Thai Garden. An inner courtyard. A pet-and pregnant-woman-friendly atmosphere. Nancy was wearing the bluebell-patterned dress that made her bump look like an adorable, flowery hillock. Frank helped her into a wide mamasan chair. Pom Pom’s leash went round the chair’s base. The waiter said:
“I’ll gladly recommend the Red curry-”
“-it’s been simmered with coconut milk, red peppers, then there’s bamboo shoots, fresh basil. I have it myself when I eat here.”
Nancy nodded amiably and said, “I’ll have the blueberry waffles with blueberry syrup.”
“Pardon?” The waiter said.
“I want the blueberry waffles with blueberry syrup. What do you want, Frank?”
“What do you mean waffles? It’s a Thai restaurant,” Frank said, and looked up to the waiter apologetically. “That red curry sounds fantastic. Make mine beef.”
“Did you just dismiss me? ” Nancy asked. “Look at me. At my eyes. I said I wanted the blueberry waffles with blueberry syrup, and you turned away from me.”
“I turned away from you because you’re a grown-up woman who has to realize that we’re in a Thai restaurant that doesn’t carry blueberry waffles. I don’t know anything about Thailand, Nancy, but I can figure out that Thailand isn’t known for its waffles, and I can read menus, and there was nothing resembling a waffle in the menu.”
Nancy leaned her head back, looked up, up at God, up at no one in particular, as if the motion could help her contain her tears:
“This is my husband, the man who claims to love me. I’m having his child. This is an actual thing that is happening. He made me have his child, and he talks to me like I am nothing, like he hates me.”
Frank sighed, “Nancy, of course I don’t hate you. But you’re asking for waffles. We got out of the house, we brought the dog, we drove to a Thai place, and you’re asking for waffles.”
The waiter said, “He’s right that we don’t have waffles, ma’am. The panang curry is good though.”
“Fine. Forget about the blueberry waffles,” Nancy said.
“Ok,” Frank said.
“But maybe blueberry muffins?”
“You’re kidding,” Frank said.
“I’m not kidding. How come you always ask me if I’m kidding? Is the idea of me actually daring to ask for things inherently humorous to you? Is it a joke to you that I might have needs and desires?”
“What the hell are you even talking about?”
Pom Pom began to yelp, and Nancy pounded on the side of her chair. “Don’t act like I’m somehow irrational because I have a pregnancy craving! Blueberries look very very appealing to me right now, ok? You know that happens to everyone! You were right there with me when the doctor said this would happen! You were, weren’t you? Or did I imagine that? Is it possible that you haven’t been here with me all along?”
The waiter interjected: “You know what? We have a flower in Thailand, the blue pea flower, dok anchan, it’s edible, the chef grows it. Would you like…?”
Nancy sighed: “YES YES YES BRILLIANT! Bring me the flower!”
The waiter returned bearing the brazenly blue flower on a pot. Nancy snatched at the pot, munched on the flower’s tender petals while Frank stared. Pom Pom stared as well. Nancy crunched into the stem, returned the empty pot to the waiter, and sighed.
“Thank you. Thank you. God bless you. You are very understanding. Your wife is very lucky.”
The waiter shrugged: “I’m not married.”
Nancy said: “Well, then you’re the lucky one.”
“Oranges!” she screamed at him from the bed. “Go now and get a big bag of oranges, and if I can’t eat them all today, we can make juice out of them! Real fresh OJ!”
Frank paced at the foot of the bedroom, shaking his head with rebellious spasms: “No! No! I’m tired! I’m sick of it! It’s three in the morning! Everything is closed down, Nancy! And they don’t sell oranges at the gas station! And you can’t possibly need that much Vitamin C! And NO! Wait until morning, and I’ll buy you Orange County if you want, but I can’t be pushed around anymore. I am a MAN!”
“You think you’re a MAN?” Her eyes were wild with a laughing rage. “Frank, our tiny little DOG has bigger balls than you! A MAN knows to do right by a WOMAN! A WIFE! A MOTHER! You’re not a man! Frank, you ruined my youth! You ruined my BODY! You ruined EVERYTHING! Now I’m giving you a CHILD and you can’t give me an ORANGE? I AM VERY HUNGRY!”
“I don’t know where to go for oranges at 3 in the morning. If you tell me, if you guide me, then maybe… I’m lost, Nancy! Tell me what to do.”
“I’ll tell you what to do, Frank. You get your keys, you get on our car, you drive to wherever the Mexicans live in this goddamned town, you wake any of them from their Tequila stupor, put ten dollars in their hand, and ask them for oranges. They. Always. Have. Oranges!”
“You can’t believe that, Nancy. It’s racist. It’s ridiculous.”
She rolled out of bed with near-gymnastic vigor and said:
“Frank. I’m going to the kitchen. I’m getting a fork. And I swear on all that is true and holy that if I do not get those oranges within the next thirty minutes, I will shove that fork right up my own cunt and I will stab your fucking son in its fucking STUPID ASS BABY HEAD AND DRAG IT RIGHT OUT OF MY BODY! And NO, I am NOT kidding!”
Keys in hand. Out the door. Frank runs. Into the car. He thinks: Where where where can there be oranges and Mexicans out in the dark maybe I can drive this car off a ravine and then I won’t be responsible for anything and they’ll find me in the morning free and dead and if she has cravings maybe she can look for things herself! Who do I live with? Would she do that? Is it even a physically possible thing? A fork? Her cunt? She said the c-word! She’d never said that word before. She’s crazy. She’ll kill the baby, and the baby will die, and then she will die and then… what? I can go and take the dog somewhere nice, somewhere it’s not this dark. not at three in the morning, driving somewhere, is anything open? And she wouldn’t anyway, she doesn’t really want oranges, she just wants to frighten me to scare me to turn me into this sad little thing that lives under her heel and maybe just orange juice. Yes. Look look look there’s a gas station, that’s right, a good normal gas station, it’s open 24/7, and I’ll knock on the glass and the attendant will talk to me through the window. What I’ll do is, I’ll ask him for orange juice, tons and tons of Tropicana, and I’ll come back and I’ll throw the orange juice right on her face and say here here here are your oranges, what, you think that just because you’re pregnant you get to be a bully, you get to be cruel, just because I love you and we are married does that mean you can hurt somebody? You used to be a good person, you would never hurt a stranger, why would you threaten me and my baby, your baby, our baby!
Does anyone own a baby?”
“Let me have six cartons of Tropicana. The orange juice. Eight cartons. I don’t know.”
“Are you ok, son?” The gas station attendant cast a concerned eye on Frank.
“Do you have it? Do you sell orange juice? I need 10 cartons. I think that will be fine.”
“I’ve got orange juice. But you don’t seem to have your senses about you, son.”
“My wife is pregnant and she wants orange juice. She wants it real bad.”
“Ok, then,” the attendant said. “Orange juice it is.”
Frank, hauling plastic bags full of OJ cartons, turned the key on the lock. Stepped back home. Except it wasn’t like going back home anymore. It was like breaking into a tomb, into a kind of powerful persistent cell of concentrated corruption. He felt it instantly. He dropped the bags with the cartons. There was nothing else to do. There it was. Horror. Horror sprayed black and red and gore across the walls, horror smearing itself over the surfaces of couches and sofas and beds and refrigerators, horror echoing from living room to kitchen to bedroom to bathroom and back the living room.
He took a few more steps in. He could see her there: Nancy, naked, feral, crouching over a pool of blood. He could see her holding the fork and stabbing downwards merrily. He could see her face splashed in red in some wild atavistic rite, he could see her dropping the fork, digging with claws into the muscle and sinew and bone, hungrily slurping it all up.
“Hey sweetie. You took long. I’m sorry I was so hangry.”
“Did you..?” He whispered. “Did you?”
“Did I what?” she said. Blood trickled down her chin as she spoke. “Did I kill our child?!? No, good God, don’t be silly! I wasn’t serious! It’s just the hormones! I was just saying things I didn’t mean. You know I love you, sweetie. You know I’m gonna love our little boy. It’s all fine now,” she said. “It’s all going to be good from here on out. Turns out I just needed to eat something orange.” And she went back to gnawing on the meaty rib cage of what once had been an orange Pomeranian named Pom Pom.