Plus on apprend à connaître l'homme, plus on apprend à estimer le chien.
The more you get to know men, the more you admire dogs.
a sentiment attributed to a quite remarkable number of French women, including the 19th-century writer A. Toussenel, the 18th-century revolutionary Mme Roland (Marie-Jeanne Philipon) and the 17th-century queen of letter-writers, Mme. de Sévigné
Every couple of months, Brendan spent a Sunday doing manly, manly chores, such as hacking back the seasonal fire hazards and visiting the Ben Lomond County Dump with the detritus, the household garbage and the recycling. For this purpose, he had custody of a little yellow pick-up from a previous relationship, an ancient Datsun with dubious brakes and sickly muffler, the kind of truck that doesn't get sold because there is no way that it is going to pass any kind of legitimate inspection. He was very proud of every dent in that battered vehicle. It was testimony to his bucolic butchness. Went right along with the lumberjack shirt that he donned religiously for the occasion, to blend in with the rustics of the San Lorenzo Valley, most of whom were likewise engaged in blending in with each other, and what is wrong with that as long as you don't brag about it? They all had a great time and the trash did get moved to the landfill.
Annie spent the time on such equally vital tasks as hand-washing the delicates, his sweaters included since she insisted on doing her own and accepted his as part of the deal. Their agreement was quite explicit, a subject of intensive discussion when they first cohabited and occasional negotiation even at this late date. On the whole it worked out fairly well. He did most of the provisioning as well as the dump runs (Trade Czar, he appointed himself, being in charge of both the in and the out of the standard consumables) while she did the bulk of the cleaning and laundry in good traditional style (Queen of All She Surveyed) and they each tried to leave the cooking to the other when they couldn't agree on eating out. The one unbreakable rule of the kitchen was that whoever cooked was excused from washing up. Volunteering was, of course, permitted, but the chef was allowed to choose to wash, dry, put away or just keep the other company.
Fair's fair, as Brendan's Uncle Fred was regularly quoted as saying, all's well that comes out right in the wash.
Fred was a bounteous source of clichés and comfort, at least in the legend that they shared. Annie had never actually met the man, who was rumored to live in Minneapolis or somewhere equally frigid, scalding and generally unappealing (to her, that is; many consider it a Prince of cities). His value was as part of the consensual reality that made up Annie and Brendan's relationship, the small sharings that they had with each other and no one else that reminded them softly of the real affection that lay below the surface friendliness.
Ah, but where was the passion?
Where was it ever? wondered Annie gloomily, as she wrapped a light jersey in a towel and proceeded to pat it from wet to moist to damp and ready to dry flat where the neighbor's cat couldn't get to it. Hadn't they been driven together by the need to have someone to do things with? (Why did going to the movies alone seem so unacceptable anyway?) Drawn from companionship to attraction? From self-interest to sex shouldn't it be the other way around?
Shoulda shoulda shoulda shoop-shoop-shoulda. Sounded like a doo-wop number, by one of those street-corner groups with a number in the name, like the Five Lincolns or the Four Kittovers or the Three Angelas or the Two Much or the Ones Upon a Dream. Shoulda musta oughta. Duty booty cooty. Wanna wanna wanna. Musta needa gotta. Gotta gotta get away.* Aw-righ'!**
This kind of stuff was all very well for pounding the water out of the woolens but it didn't really get her anywhere unless catharsis counts. Brendan used to say that in the face of an unshakable determination to promote ZPG (i.e., since they didn't want to have kids), the mating instinct was an anachronism, like the appendix, no less real and no more important. Sometimes, she thought, he was very smart and sometimes he was full of shit.
"Hey there," announced the object of her mingled opinions, "You want some lunch?"
"I'll just grab a yogurt in a minute," she responded, unwrapping the sweater and arranging it on a fresh towel by the window. "Make sure you don't let Mookie in, will you?"
"Sure," he said, rummaging in the fridge and emerging with fixings. "I'm going to be bad and do peanut butter and jelly, you sure you won't join me? Molly gave us that great blackberry jam."
For people who weren't really into cooking, they seemed to spend an inordinate amount of their time together around the kitchen. Brendan always claimed he would rather just get shot up with the daily dose of vitamins, minerals and whatever. They even give water intravenously to dehydrated runners, right? Annie muttered about roughage but finessed the theoretical by ignoring it as usual; what she insisted on was avoiding animal products whenever possible. Unless she was someone's guest and it would create a difficulty, in which case she went along with the menu as planned. Unless it was veal, which was absolutely beyond the pale. Brendan thought being a vegetarian lowered the blood pressure, raised the life expectancy, lowered the weight, like that; Annie just knew it was right. No argument, no need. The piece of meat passeth all understanding.
"Saw José and Christina at the gas station," he said as he laid out ingredients over the counter. "They say hi."
"Uh-huh," she replied vaguely, wrapping another sweater, this one thick and heavy. "This is the last one."
They concentrated on their separate tasks for a minute, Brendan spreading peanut butter (organic, no salt) theatrically in time with Annie's rhythmic pummeling.
"Pound that sucker!" he encouraged. "Beat the shit out of it! Just take your aggressions and let them go! Let it all out!"
"It's your winter sweater, you know," she panted when she stopped.
A deal's a deal, it was all part of the agreement, he wasn't going to bring it up.
"Did Magdalena have her baby yet?"
"I don't know, there was a line and they were just leaving as I drove in, we just yelled across the forecourt."
"Probably not or Christina would have told you. I'll have to give her a call." She gave up on the massive green monster and laid it out for the sun god Ra. "You want to ask them over to dinner?"
"Sure, why not. Here, take your pick, I made them the same."
"Thanks," she said, carefully picking the less immaculate one. It was another of their standing arrangements: The maker offered the choice, the chooser picked the worse, the maker got the best and everyone felt right about it. There was order in the universe, or at least in the kitchen. It was very fair and very comforting. It was also very boring, if you happened to have gotten out of bed on the wrong side that year.
"How about Thursday?" he suggested. "You're off Thursday and Friday this week aren't you?"
"Yeah," she admitted agreed, stated, this wasn't an investigation, not yet anyway as she prepared to tear into the sandwich. "But that demo's coming up."
"Thmm Rmmcrmmmtmmnt Cmmntmmr?"
"Mm-mmm," she confirmed, correctly interpreting his question as 'The Recruitment Center?'
"Isn't that a lunchtime deal?" continued the Inquisitor, gently.
Actually, the cross part of the examination was all in her head; he was just asking a question. And she had nothing to be guilty about. It was all very confusing.
"Yes, 11 to 3 it says on the flyers, but it's kinda open-ended. Some folks seem to want to actually occupy it, you know, I mean like as long as possible."
Eating conveys a lack of stress. You can't fight while you eat. Well, you can actually, but it kind of plays down the issue. Annie knew these tricks from childhood, where she had raised getting around confrontations with her mother to a high art. Rule one, absolute denial. Nothing exceptional is happening. Rule two, admit the minimum and give as little as possible. Rule three, take the long way round and tip-toe, literally and figuratively. Save the loud screaming for last; used occasionally the shock value sometimes prevails but you have to tend the quality of surprise carefully.
"I don't know. Maybe."
Ah, the Machiavellian social lie: 'I don't know' meaning 'I'm not ready to tell you yet' and 'Maybe' meaning 'But don't say you weren't warned'. Not quite as duplicitous as the old denial-by-sarcasm ('What have you been doing?' 'Oh, having wild and passionate sex with Bill all afternoon' which neatly conceals the affair you are, in fact, having with Bill), but far more useful as ammunition in any subsequent mouth-to-mouth combat.
"Can I come?" followed up Brendan with what seemed to Annie to be elaborate casualness. Sometimes he wasn't as thick as he looked.
"Of course." Deep sincerity and invitation. "The main event's meant to like cover every possible lunch hour. When are you thinking of coming down?"
"I've got an issue to put to bed this week," he reckoned aloud, sounding quite relaxed, "So I don't know quite how it's gonna be. Can I leave it fluid?"
"Shhurr," she agreed, inhaling the last of lunch and licking her right paw, where peanut butter had leaked, "I'll know more about it on Tuesday, 'cause there's a set-up meeting at the red church by the Nickelodeon. People are gonna talk about what's gonna happen and then I think we're gonna make signs and stuff. Wanna come?"
"Nah, I don't want to go to a meeting. Storming the Recruitment Center sounds kind of fun though. Remember the riots in Oakland?"
He was back on safe territory here, facts in the database. With developing cynicism, or perhaps it was just an increasing awareness, Annie sliced him open, took stock and pushed him down the direction she wanted him to go.
"That was in the movie, wasn't it?"
"Right, right. Thousands of protesters and hundreds of cops, or was it the other way around, buses burning in the street."
"I don't think so, were the Panthers big yet? They were more Black Power than anti-Vietnam anyway. I could look it up"
He was off. She was safe. It was over.
For now, she was passing as a partner and perilously close to passing on. Sometime soon she would have to admit it. Sebastian knew and kept it to himself. Brendan was developing suspicions but kept them from himself. Annie was trying to hide by herself.
It was getting lonely in there with no one to talk to.
Not even herself.
*© 1965 Richard-Jagger, which is pretty cheeky if you think about it; let's blame management.
**Jagger, ca 1963 , passim but surely P.D. Over the decades, the consonants have disappeared until the interjection is predicted to reduce to approximately o-i shortly before Mick finally melts.