Adjusting Little Things

Beaver’s Pick
Lori Volante

back door
Photo Credit: Stephen Cummings

His routine smell of 5 a.m. coffee strongly brewed like the thick air of July percolates in her mind. It is Saturday. She listens to the calico scowling at the man who can’t resist his urge to pester.

It is on this day, the wife begins to count the number of times her husband enters and exits the back door announced repeatedly by the squeak of the pull chain and final retraction to the frame. What he does with all this entering and exiting is an adjustment of little things. Like how her eye doctor flips lenses. Asking, can you see clearer with lens one or two? Here’s one again. Any difference?

Outside, the husband pulls a small flowering weed from the rock garden. Inside, he pushes the front window open three inches. Outside, a handful of scattered tree buds are quickly swept with a heavy bristled broom from his white cement driveway. Inside, the curled feline gets her fur stroked the wrong way. The wife hears fourteen door closures before sliding out of bed and losing track of counts in the hot shower.

Her husband once told their marriage counselor that he saw himself as “a happy-go-lucky guy” while his wife first chuckled at his sarcasm then blinked shocked at his perceived personality. Well, maybe at family parties, she considered. Picturing his twitching smile while he shouted CANNONBALL, slamming shots of Apple Pucker Schnapps between euchre hands. It could have been Christmas in 1997 or the last Memorial Day. The scene has repeated countless times with all the same lines from Caddyshack quoted by her husband and his brothers.

At seven a.m. while drinking cinnamon tea, his wife watches him wring the red checkered washcloth (twice) in the kitchen sink and place it very rightly over the long neck of the stainless steel faucet. She wonders when he became so obsessive. Before the presidential election? After his father died? Lately, it feels as if she’s observing the compulsive pacing of a mad man. It is making her a bit insane too. Should it matter if the blinds are up or down in the bedroom when he isn’t using that room? Does every tomato plant need a cage? Why do the newspapers have to be put in the recycling bin before lunch?

But this Saturday morning is different from last week. This Saturday morning she is making pasta salad for a backyard barbecue and she happens to notice that as the clock ticks 10:59, he opens the refrigerator for a cold Busch (it’s noon somewhere, she’s heard him say before). And the beer isn’t the difference but on this morning she notices his adjustment of little things decline with each trip to the fridge. After three beers and forty minutes, the cat purrs quiet on the couch and through a freshly wiped pane of glass, the wife sees her husband comfortably adjusted in a camp chair by the garage, listening to sports radio, clutching his happy-go-lucky personality.


Lori lives in Michigan where she works for InsideOut Literary Arts Project—a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the passion and power of poetry to young people. Email: lvzeke[at]

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