Nicole wasn’t a big fan of her name, something she was reminded of every time she said it aloud. She didn’t hate it; it just lacked a sense of the exotic – much like her. Her family called her Nic, which was okay, although she thought it sounded too masculine when outsiders said it. She could have gone the Nicky route. Nicky would have been peppy and maybe worn a side ponytail and made sad faces when she told other girls they didn’t make the cheerleading team. At the very least Nicky would have dated a jock and worn his letterman jacket. She could never pull Nicky off. Nicky hesitated to give an opinion and that was something Nicole never did.
Nicky would still wear the same size as she did in high school though, that’s for sure.
“Go for Johnny.” A slow-drawling voice broke through the hold music.
“You have got to change your radio station for that hold music,” Nicole said.
“Who is this?” Johnny asked.
“Oh, sorry, it’s Nicole.”
There was silence on the other end of the receiver.
“Nicole Baylor? With the blue hybrid?” she said.
“Oh, right. Yes, how can I help you today? How are those brakes working?” Johnny said.
“They haven’t gone out on me so I guess they’re working. I have a flat tire.”
“Oh yeah? Well that’s unfortunate, but we can fix that up real quick,” Johnny said. “Was it a blow out? Did anyone get hurt?”
Nicole smiled – the big chain garages would never worry about anyone else. “No, I think it is just the smooth thing.”
“What smooth thing?”
“The smooth thing that you raft on.”
“An inner tube?”
“Yes. I think it’s just that,” Nicole said biting into an apple.
“Yeah, cars don’t have those anymore,” Johnny said.
“Can I drive on it?” Nicole asked.
“You’ll have to bring it in. We aren’t far, shouldn’t cause too much problem.”
“Uhm, we don’t have the money for a new tire and my last payment hasn’t gone through, so my credit card’s kind of frozen right now,” Nicole said with some embarrassment.
“Oh, sure. Well, whenever you have the cash. It won’t be much,” Johnny said, equally embarrassed.
“Right, for sure. Can I drive on it? In the meantime?”
“I can’t? As in, I’m not able to?”
“You shouldn’t, it could cause a whole heap of problems.”
“But I can.”
“No, you really shouldn’t.”
“Let’s say a mad gunman breaks into my house and I have to rush my kids out and we climb in my car for safety and I need to drive to the police station to save all our lives – can I do that?”
“Yes, if you had to save your lives, you could.”
“But you shouldn’t,” Johnny said.
Nicole hung up and put the last coffee cup in the dishwasher. She glanced out the window and looked at her flat tire. “Damn.” She said. The kids raced by at full volume, involved in some epic battle. Checking the clock, Nicole noticed it was only noon. “Damn,” she said again.
The boys raced back outside.
“Lunch?” Nicole said as softly as she could. Taking their silence for no, she grabbed the phone.
“Hey,” came across the receiver on the second ring.
“Hey,” Nicole said back.
“What are you up to?” Tanya asked.
“Contemplating my existence and how many ways I went wrong in life,” Nicole answered.
“Okay, let me get comfortable,” Tanya said.
Nicole appreciated a friend who had little affection for emotion. Nicole could lay on the drama with the largest knife she could find and Tanya would respond with “uh-huh” until it was her turn to pass judgment. Nobody told her to get her act together as well as Tanya.
“I have a flat tire and no money to fix it.”
“You will – it’s almost payday.”
“Yes, but until then I’m under house arrest…with my sons.”
“What about school?”
“Yikes. What are you going to do?”
“Drink myself into oblivion and watch some chick flicks,” Nicole said.
“Not sure what to say.”
“You’re worthless. Bye.”
“Oh wait!” Nicole said. “Do you have the latest book in the Mine Own Eyestrilogy?”
There was a pause. Nicole waited on her end. “Tanya?”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Tanya replied.
“You said you would read them so we can discuss them.”
“I was in no way serious when I said that,” Tanya said
“No, I know. The writing is dreadful but the story…it’s fun.”
“Okay, I was feeling sorry for you but now that I know you’re an idiot, I have no sympathy for you. Goodbye.”
“NO! Come on, T. I’m stuck here in my house with children I don’t understand and barely like and a husband who insists on being a guy 98% of the time.”
“And what is he the other 2% of the time, I shudder to ask?”
“No, seriously, last night…” Nicole started.
“Don’t. I know you want to tell me some part of your deviant lifestyle that you pretend to disapprove of, but I can’t right now. I’m PMSing and vomiting is never far from my mind.”
There was a pause. Nicole looked at her nails and pictured what they might look like if they were bright purple. She made a note on her shopping list to make a nail appointment.
Tanya cleared her throat. Nicole switched gears; this was her lifeline to the outside world at this point.
“Did you see that big blockbuster movie?” she asked.
“Which one? Aren’t there like three out right now?” Tayna asked.
“The big one – with all those actors in it.”
“Oh, yes. Last week. You?”
“Yes, Last month – I told you!” Nicole said.
“Okay, sorry, sheesh.”
“What about that one guy?” Nicole asked
“The one with the hair?”
“Yeah, him. Seriously?”
“Wow…I would like to shake his parents’ hands. And then have sex with him. Maybe even in front of them.”
“I wonder what they would say.”
“His parents? While I am having wild ape sex with him in front of them? They may be rendered speechless.”
“What if they critiqued him – you know, told him he wasn’t doing it right or to lift his leg a little higher.”
“That might be awkward. Maybe I won’t throw down while his folks are there. But he and I will have mad ape sex at some point.”
“Well I hope so. And I hope you write a book about it and then we can discuss that instead.”
“Are you really so desperate that you’re reading? Aren’t there talk shows on or something?”
The boys ran through the kitchen again. The elder, Raymond, stopped in front of Nicole.
“Can I have food?” he asked.
Nicole pointed to the receiver in her hand and mouthed the words ‘I am on the phone.’
“What?” Raymond asked loudly.
Nicole gesticulated in the direction of the refrigerator. Raymond opened the door and peered into it. He walked away without shutting the door.
Nicole rolled her eyes and shut the fridge.
“Nicole?” Tanya said.
“No, I’m here. I think I have to go feed my children.”
“Bye. Call me soon, you know, to make sure I survived.”
Nicole rummaged through the fridge. Maybe she could order something – and then steal the car of the person who delivered it.
As soon as she opened the freezer, all three of her boys appeared from wherever they had been and effectively pinned Nicole to the refrigerator. She wondered what it was about frozen food that attracted males like a moth to flame. Had she known about it sooner, she would have worn Bagel Bites as earrings in college.
“CORN DOGS!” came the rallying cry of the boys, making this officially the first time they had agreed on anything that day.
Nicole was jostled until she finally just dropped the box into their greedy little hands and pointed to the microwave. Raymond assumed control of the situation. Nicole eyed the half full bottle of white wine on the refrigerator door and then the clock – 12:28. Probably not a good idea.
Just then the dog went nuts, which meant the mail was here. She grabbed the mail and tossed the bills on the dining room table and the mailers in the trash. There was on card in the lot addressed to her. Nicole recognized her ancient aunt’s ancient handwriting. Opening it, she saw it was a birthday card – a belated greeting given Nicole’s birthday had been 3 months ago. However, when she held the card up, a check for $30 fell out. Nicole grabbed the phone.
“Go for Johnny.”
“How much for a tire? One that would fit a blue hybrid.”
“I have a retread that would fit your car on sale for $28.”