May 1999

Stephen Sossaman

Stephen Sossaman Stephen Sossaman is a Professor of English at Westfield State College in Massachusetts.  His stories and poems have appeared in Paris Review, Southern Humanities Review, and other journals.  This is his first appearance in an online magazine.
Afternoon Respite    Click to hear this poem in RealAudio

The door recognized Samuel's face and slid open silently. Monica was there, waiting for him.

"You're late again. Why this time? Don't give me the usual excuses," she blurted out.

"Stop whining," he retorted, brushing past her into the living room, whose light came on.

"If you had been here earlier, I could have asked your help. Now it might be too late."

Samuel took off his shoes and stared at her. "What now? More problems with the appliances? You know they're sensitive to abuse."

"Nothing so stupid, if you'd just listen. Little George wants to get married. He's still my baby."

"Your so called Little George is, what, 25? Why shouldn't he get married? What's the compatibility rating of this one?"

"That's just the problem. The computer must have made a mistake here. Remember how it mismatched Martha and John? They fight almost every month. And . . ."

"God, Monica, get to the point. What were the ratings between George and this woman?"

"Here. This can't be right. Look."

Samuel scanned the compatibilities sheet. "Sexual Fantasies, 97.7. Parental Techniques, 94.8. Money Management, 93.5. Social Status Valuation, 94.8. "

"Monica, this is a spectacular match. These two will never, ever fight about anything. They'll always be passionate for each other, for goodness sake. George would be a fool to pass up this woman—and the Domestic Tranquillity Bureau bonus these two will get will be astounding. The government has finally come up with the perfect marital match, even better than that couple they paraded on the Tube last year."

"I should have known you'd be no help," Monica said.

"How does this woman feel about these scores? Has George met her yet?"

"She's only 22, Samuel, and obviously is head over heels in love with these ratings, But Samuel, he's such a baby at heart."

"He'll be a sexual giant with her. And not like us, always bickering."

"That's so like you, not to take this seriously. I don't know what to do. I suppose when George's father gets home he can try to talk some sense into the boy."

"And just when is your husband due home?"

"I haven't checked the sensor in an hour or so, but his ETA couldn't be before six. And you know how slow the bullet trains are at this hour. We have plenty of time, Sweetie."

"Good," Samuel smiled, as he got up for a drink. He and Monica would have at least two hours to fight over George, the money she spent on food that week, his clothing habits, her weight, whether he should buy a new electronic air departiculator, and the frequency with which each had sex with the spouse. Each was still enjoying frequent, wild sex with the spouse, even after 15 years of marriage for him, and nearly as many for her.

Later, when the sensor tweaked its warning, they broke off their squabble about whether dogs were better pets than cats, and arose, he from the deep chair facing the Tube, she from the Exersuction Cycle. At the door, Samuel turned to her, and they exchanged a kiss, tight and quick.

"Was it good for you? She teased, her eyes twinkling in the subdued Security Scan glow. "Super, Darling," he smiled, looking away shyly. "You give great bicker."

Monica playfully swatted his chest. "You're still one hell of a grump yourself, Sweetie. But hurry, before he comes. I have to shower and get into my Teddy."

Samuel barely heard: he was already at the elevator, humming to himself, and smiling more than he should have, waiting for the elevator filled with similar faces glowing with relief, eyes averted.

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Stephen Sossaman: Fiction
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue SevenThe Cortland Review