Wouldn't It Be Nice

Vinyls inside a record store #stories

Looks like I messed up good this time. I mean, I messed up plenty before, that ain't nothing new. But this time I messed up good. Abby and I just had a nasty fight and she walked out and went to her mama’s house. I don't know when she'll be back. Or if she'll be back for that matter. She said plenty she oughtn't said. And it all started over a damn plunger.

I went into town to get some beer—the supply was low—and Abby asked me to get a plunger while I was out. We somehow lost our plunger. Who loses a plunger? It should never be more than two feet from the toilet, within arm's reach when you're popping a squat. That's just common sense. But I guess that tells you the kinda people we are—the kind of people who lose a plunger.

Well, I drove into town and went to the Quickie Mart instead of the general store because the general store doesn’t sell beer. Old man Curtis owns the general store, says selling booze and liquor ain't Christianlike. But they drank wine in the Bible. Hell, Jesus himself turned water into wine. Would he say that wasn't Christianlike? Only a fool would say Jesus wasn't Christianlike. But old man Curtis, he act like he ain't heard a word of it and he carried on without the booze and he wonders why people pass his store on their way to the Quickie Mart. But people at the Quickie Mart don't judge you when you walk in and grab a six pack. They're Christianlike like that.

Anyway, I got my beer at the Quickie Mart and so I turned around and drove home, beer in hand. Mission accomplished. Or so I thought. The beer wasn't even in the fridge when Abby started with the accusations: “You forgot the plunger, didn’t you?” It was obvious when I walked in and didn't tell her I had got the plunger. A plunger ain't a casual purchase. That's something you buy twice, maybe three times your whole life. Of course I had forgot it. But she didn’t have to be all judgmental about it.

“Will you get off my back, Abby?” I shot back. Her eyes went cold. Abby started saying I didn’t listen to anything she said. All I wanted was my beer. Her mama was right about me. Blah blah blah. She blabbered on and on.

“I’m going to my mama’s,” she said when she walked out of the bedroom with a bag in her hand.

“Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you,” I said and I toasted my beer can at her and then took a long sip.

“You’re just like your daddy.” That was the last thing she said before slamming the front door and running down the steps and speeding off in the Bronco. Those words would float in the trailer house long after she had left for her mama's house.

I laughed and reclined back in my chair. I had my beer and I had my favorite seat in the house. Despite the storm at home, things was all right. I grabbed the clicker and turned on the TV and flipped through the channels, but none of them was coming in. Every single one was static. All it would take was to was get up and walk over the TV and move around the rabbit ears on the antenna until a good signal came in, but that was too much effort for me in that moment, so I pushed the power button on the clicker and turned the TV off.

And with no picture or sounds coming from the TV, Abby came through clear like she was still in the trailer.

”You’re just like your daddy”.

“I ain't nothing like him,” I told her in my head. “I ain't nothing like him and you know it.”

The more I drank, the louder she got in my head. And the deeper her words cut. She knew just how to cut me. And worst yet, she knew she knew it.

The beer was and the need to cut back was strong. I couldn’t call her mama’s house to speak my mind because her mama would screen my calls. She didn't want Abby talking to me in the best of times, and she'd make sure to get between us now. Abby couldn't get cell phone reception there. Even if she could, she probably would have turned her phone off just so I couldn't get in touch with her. Like she did that time she went and stayed with her sister outside Dallas.

I could have written her a mean letter, but that would have taken too much work. Besides, letter-writing ain't for men like me.

After a while the need for revenge left me and made way for longing for what we had before I went into town and came back with the beer and forgot the damn plunger. I didn't like to see Abby angry, especially not angry at me. Instead I wanted to see her happy again.

Abby loved music. And she loved her vinyl records. She said the records reminded her of the good times in her childhood, before her parents got divorced. Her favorite memories of them together involved music. Lazy weekend days with the house full of music. Her dad would walk over to her mom and hold out his hand and she'd reach out hers and he'd pull her up and they'd dance and smile at each other. After a song or two just the two of them, they'd reach out to Abby and she'd dance with them. Abby cried the first time she told me about them all dancing together and I couldn't help thinking that her dad sounded like something might be off with him.

Her favorite album she owned was Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, the one Abby said they all listened to during the happiest times. When she listened to the album, she remembered her parents dancing and waving their arms like hippie children and laughing together. I never understood what was so great about the album. The cover showed a bunch of goofballs feeding a goat. Anyone ever owned a goat knows they don't make great pets. Abby told me that the album was so beautiful because it had all these different instruments and sounds layered together in harmony. I thought the album didn't have enough guitar in it. Where were the solos?

Abby’s mama never played any albums after she and Abby’s daddy divorced. And when Abby moved in with me, she took Pet Sounds from her mama's collection and her mama never even noticed. But she wouldn't have given it to Abby if she asked for it so Abby didn't bother.

The trailer we rented was small, but Abby had insisted that we buy some stereo speakers and a turntable. I made a fuss, but she made it clear I didn't have no say in the matter. And so we got the speakers and the turntable and we often had our own lazy weekends listening to records and drinking beer. I gotta admit, I did enjoy myself in those moments sometimes.

I got myself out of the recliner and walked to the stereo. In the base of the cabinet was a storage compartment. Pet Sounds was the first record in her collection, so it was easy to find. I pulled the album sleeve out and walked into the kitchen and I sat at the table, looking at that album cover with the goofballs feeding the goat, wishing Abby would come home already and put the record on the turntable.

That stay at her mama’s house was the longest. It was fine when I had work to keep me busy. But if there was a second of downtime, I was thinking about her and driving myself crazy.

Without Abby at home I had no one to talk to. So I got drunk and talked to myself. And then I'd start talking to my daddy and I'd cuss him real good and then I'd cry and tell him I didn't mean it. I think it was after the third night of this that I took a chance and wrote her a letter. I thought I'd just sit down with pen and scribble something on the paper and be done in five minutes, maybe less. But I hadn't written a letter since Mrs. Thomas gave me an F in second grade because I couldn't learn cursive.

I sat there stumped, looking at the blank page. My pen floated over the paper but wouldn't write nothing down. The words sounded pretty in my head, but getting them to paper was harder than I thought it would be. It was killing me. I was about to give up when it came to me: What would one of them goofballs feeding that goat on the cover of Pet Sounds say if he had gone into town to get some beer and forgot to get a plunger? How would he patch things up with his old lady? What was the words he would have used? I started to get up and put on that record so that I could listen to the words and maybe copy some of them straight from the songs. Or maybe just get some inspiration.

But then it happened. It finally happened. The pen touched the paper and words was being written. But it wasn't me doing the writing. It was one of them boys on the record cover. But he was writing as me. It was like I was possessed. That's what it was, a possession. But not a demonic possession. No, sir. But a good possession, whatever you call that. An angelic possession, kind of like them angelic harmonies on the record Abby was always going on and on about.

The pen was moving and ink was flowing and words was filling the page. The words was coming so easily, I thought about starting over and writing in cursive, but I stuck to writing in all caps.

The writing flowed. I kept it simple. I told her I knew I messed up. And I was sorry. Truly. And the trailer was so empty without her and there was a chill in my heart even though it was July. And it didn't feel right when she wasn't sitting beside me, in the middle of the bench seat of my Chevrolet. And you can't don't wanna think how lonely the booth seat at Charlie's would have felt on Catfish Friday.

The letter was pure poetry. I wanted to send it the night I wrote it, but I couldn't find any stamps and I wasn't even sure where to get them, so I had to ask Earl at work the next day and he told me I could go to the Quickie Mart and get me some stamps when I was picking up my beer after my shift. Earl's efficient like that. No wonder he got promoted foreman over me.

So on Friday, after cashing my check, I went to the Quickie Mart and bought some stamps. The next morning, I walked to the mailbox near the entrance of the trailer park and put the letter in the mail slot of the big mail receptacle and walked back to the trailer and settled into the folding yard chair under the shade tree and I drank my beer and waited for the mailman to come. When he finally showed up, I watched from afar as he opened the big mail receptacle and took all the mail and loaded it up in the truck and then drove off to get my letter on its way.

I tossed and turned in bed the next few nights. At work one day, Earl asked me if I was all right and I told him I was right as rain and he asked if I meant acid rain because I looked like hell. I told him I still looked better than him and he shrugged and said that ain't saying much and then we got on with our day.

One day when I got home, I opened the door to the trailer and Abby sprang from the couch and wrapped her arms around me and kissed me. I almost cried while we was kissing. Abby put her head on my chest and I put my hand on her head and squeezed her further into me.

“Thank you for the letter,” Abby said and she blushed. “And, to think, they say romance is dead.” We laughed and then we went to the couch and just held each other. It was the first time I understood what people meant when they talked about living in the moment because it was the first moment of my life I could remember wanting to keep on going forever. There was nothing else: Just me and Abby and the trailer we call home. The only thing that could have made it better would have been if I had my girl on one hand and a cold beer in the other.

Abby and I talked and we buried the hatchet. And we both said we'd do better going forward. I'd listen better and she'd get a hold of that temper. That fiery, fiery temper. We hugged each other and squeezed each other and we kissed and then we went to the bedroom and we made love. Things was copacetic again.

After a short stint through Hell, I had found Heaven. And I swore I would never do anything again to mess it up.

We went back into the living room and I joked that I had worked up an appetite and I went into the kitchen to make a sandwich. I asked her if she wanted one and she said sure. I had my head in the refrigerator, looking for the cheese slices when Abby said something about playing some music. I told her that sounded great. Why would I argue? I was smiling so big my mouth hurt. It was good to have her back home.

I was moving aside the ketchup bottle when I heard her humming “Wouldn't It Be Nice”, the opening track to that Pet Sounds album, and I couldn't help thinking, it already is nice, baby. It is. It really is.

I watched as Abby walked over to the turntable and leaned down to the storage compartment and grabbed the album. We both heard a clinking sound as she pulled out the album sleeve for Pet Sounds. She looked at me confused and I'm sure I gave her the same look back. Her hand slipped into the sleeve and that was when it all came rushing back to me. I remembered sitting at the kitchen table with Abby's favorite album. Her insult kept echoing in my head. She had cut me good. And I was looking to cut back. I remembered slipping my hand into the sleeve and pulling the record out and placing it on the table. I thought about throwing it against the wall. Or banging it against the table. Hell, I even thought about smashing the record with the damn plunger, if I could have found it. Instead I took a long sip of my beer and then I set the can down and I placed one hand on top of the middle of the record and the fingertips from my other hand underneath one end of the record and I pushed down and pulled up in opposite directions. The first pop, the first snap, felt good. It felt real good. I rearranged my hands and continued breaking the record in more places, my smile growing with each pop. I sipped my beer and looked down at the pieces and admired my work. I took my time placing the pieces back in the sleeve, as most like a whole record as I could. I walked the record back to the stereo, with a hand on each side of the sleeve, pressing together to keep the record together. I put the sleeve back in its place and made sure to rest the other records firmly against it so that the pieces wouldn’t sink to the bottom of the sleeve. And then I sat back with my beer at the kitchen table and I imagined Abby's reaction when she found what I had done. But I didn't imagine that she would find the album broken after we had just made up.

Abby pulled out a piece of vinyl and held it for a second or two before dropping it on the floor. She held the record in both hands, looking at the cover art of The Beach Boys feeding that stupid goat. She sniffled. Her whole body began to shake. Her eyes closed and she let out a squeal that reminded me of a kettle building steam.

“I’m—” I started but then I stopped. There weren't no point. I messed up good this time. Better than I ever had before.