Joanne watered her flowers. Her watch clicked past 0900 and she wondered when she had started thinking in military time, in the numeric language of her husband. Roy had promised to water the flowers after he got off shift at 0700, but she had already dropped the kids off, fed the cat, cleaned up the minor disaster of Breakfast, and fingered the novel she was too apathetic to read. Apathetic or something.
The dirt around the tomato plants, the chrysanthemums, the basil, was basically totally dry. It only took a day to die for young green things in the dog days of an LA summer. Roy wasn’t here yet. Which was Okay and Not Unusual because Roy was probably having breakfast with Johnny, a way to unwind, and that was No Big Deal; but he, Roy, usually bothered to call and had seemed earnest about letting her sleep in today and instead take Chris and Jenny to school (a treat for the kids) and then even water the flowers which were actually mostly inchoate vegetables and herbs in any case.
The sun was already an enemy, and—worse—humidity already teased at the edges of the air she breathed, a tease of rain that probably wouldn’t fall. Los Angeles was usually pleasantly arid—you’d think, wouldn’t you, that all the fires in the county would guarantee it.
Black water swept sprinkles of fertilizer brightly around the clay confines of the planter at her feet—Joanne was going to drown this tomato. She moved the watering wand over to her basil plant. Roy wouldn’t have bothered to reattach the wand to the hose before bathing the plants; he would be more prone to flipping the valve open and pummeling the poor plants with a rush of high pressure water. It never seemed like high pressure until it bruised a petunia to death. Or perhaps instead Roy would have cobbled together some pragmatic unorthodox system that would actually have astonished her even if the actual efficiency of the system tended to be negated by the time it took to think up the whole thing in the first place. But when Roy did that kind of skillful cobbling—where anything within reach became tapped for its hitherto undiscovered usefulness—this was when Joanne loved Roy most, became quietly flooded with admiration, and loyalty. And the sense of the solidity of his presence seemed wholly guaranteed and totally un-threatened by the reality of what it meant to spend one’s working life rushing in and out of burning buildings. Those blue eyes would sparkle unvoiced with enthusiasm, with a pride in his own unorthodoxy. This made him more boyish, but also more imposingly, impossibly, adult-like. Sure, more manly. He was always fixing things. But Roy hadn’t done any cobbling lately. Her kitchen sink was leaking; this hose was leaking.
She was drowning the basil. She didn’t even really like basil. Roy and their wonderful weird kids liked basil. Joanne all at once became conscious of the heft of her own limbs, her fingers barely grasping the wand. She shook her head sharply and tightened her grip. Time to go in. Things to do, always things to get done. Drag the hose back, close the valve, reel the hose back onto the contraption Roy had made—had made for her. He had made it to save her the trouble of awkwardly shaking the heavy line of tough rubber back into the neat stack of itself.
Joanne heard the phone ringing and simultaneously saw Roy pull up the driveway. Something else rang in the back of her head, or buzzed dully. Less of an alarm, a klaxon, and more a belated, resigned drone of recognition—this is happening, Joanne. See it yet? She walked to their garage phone and picked up the receiver; a voice tinned in her ear as she watched Johnny close the passenger door and quip something that looked like “incredible!” which was likely since incredible had been Johnny’s favorite word since at least he had becomes Roy’s partner at 51. She adored Johnny, this brown-eyed bolt of energy who had saved Roy’s life more than once, and she loved her husband who had saved Johnny more than once. Something clicked, either in her brain or maybe in her ear on this plastic telephone she held loosely in her fingers and she wondered—as the voice on the other end of the line buzzed in her ear and her husband kissed her damply sun-hot cheek, passing with Johnny and Johnny’s cheerful greeting into their, Roy and Joanne’s, house—when, exactly, they had started fucking.