Howard and Helen Play House
By James Tipton
Helen had not been the same since Howard had hit her in the head with a can of tuna.
Yes, that was Howard as in “husband” Howard, the same Howard who liked to tell Helen that she needed to change her hair, that he wanted her to look more like Betty Crocker on the cake boxes after the “big” war.
Helen, twenty years younger than Harold, had no idea what Betty Crocker’s hair looked like after the “big” war. All she knew was that Howard was a little boy then and that he had waited every day for four long boy years before his father finally came home, only to leave again, a couple of years later, and that time it was forever.
Helen’s head had hurt now for over two weeks.
Howard had been mad because Helen once again had started to chop celery and onions to make tuna fish sandwiches for supper. Howard hated tuna fish sandwiches. Howard had hurled the unopened can of tuna at Helen, but he had not, he said, intended to hit her. He thought she would catch it. She caught it all right, right in the middle of her old forehead.
Helen slumped to the kitchen floor and leaned against the cabinets. The white terry cloth towel Howard handed her turned red. When she could finally stand and the bleeding seemed to have stopped, Howard helped her to his leather Lazy Boy and turned on her favorite channel, Animal Planet.
He ordered a pizza, double pepperoni. He paid outside the door and returned to Helen. Around her eyes and across her forehead she was already beginning to turn a dark and ugly blue.
“I think you need to stay at home and rest for a few days,” Howard said.
“Howard…tomorrow is the day I go to get my hair done.”
“Your hair looks terrific Helen, it can wait a couple of weeks.”
“I want to go tomorrow, Howard.”
“You can’t go looking like this!”
“I’ll tell them I ran into a can of tuna.”
He put two slices of pizza onto her best china and handed it to her. She waved it away.
Now, two weeks had passed. The dark blue circles were lighter and the wound on her forehead had begun to heal. Her hair had never looked so good. But that tuna can had also hit Helen’s heart. That wound had not healed at all.
And Helen was beginning to hate The Animal Planet.
Howard was standing in the kitchen chopping celery and onions to make tuna fish salad, Helen’s favorite. Helen ordered a pizza, double pepperoni.
Her battered green American Tourister bag she had purchased shortly before the wedding stood hidden behind the bushes just outside the door. When the delivery boy arrived, she set the pizza inside and offered the boy $10 to take her to the bus station.
As Helen picked up her bag she realized she had packed it years ago.