SARAH HAD ALWAYS LOVED big guns. Not those puny little toys some metrosexuals like to carry around town. No. She liked the kind of guns that you could sleep with. The bigger the better. A Browning shotgun. A Remington Rifle. A Mossberg Silver Reserve was an especially good gun to cuddle up with. It reminded her of the strong and tan arms of the original Marlboro Man. Her father used to know the guy who played the Marlboro Man before he dropped dead of cancer.
Sarah Aschenbener came from Texas. There are really three places in Texas: the good Texas, the bad Texas, and the one stuck in between. Sarah came from the latter one—from Denton County.
At night Sarah watches television. Lots of television. Television is her best friend now. It stays with her all night like a lover. It talks to her. Sometimes it teaches her something. There are times she cannot live without it. It shows her what love is. It takes her on vacation. It buys her the best meals on the Food Channel. It never judges her. It goes away when she gets sick of it. She can turn it on and off with the flick of a button. Television in Texas is way better than a Texas husband. It is even way better than a Texas dog. It is better than a Texas dog or a Texas husband. With a DVD player it even does tricks. Husbands in Texas don’t do many tricks.
At the beginning of each month Sarah sends out her bills. There is a cable bill. A telephone bill. An electric bill. Then there are the credit cards. A car payment—she owns a 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix. At the end of the month she sends in her mortgage bill that has her home owner’s insurance and property taxes all rolled up into one payment.
Sarah has four cats and a Bernese Mountain Dog. Her father, Ryan Aschenbener, Jr., had always raised Bernese Mountain Dogs. He died when Sarah was only fourteen. He was fifty-three at the time. The doctor’s said it was from his thirty-five years of smoking Pall Malls. Sarah’s mother, Kelly-Ann, died five years after the father, Ryan, had passed away. Kelly-Ann had begun to date sleeping pills and Johnny Walker Black Label sometime in her mid-forties. Their perfect relationship lasted decades. It was the second longest relationship of her life.
Sarah had married Ben Stapleton when she was nineteen and Ben was twenty-one. He had been the track star of their high school. Even three years after graduation he was still a star to Sarah and all of her friends. Six years into their marriage thought he worked at the meat packing plant in Fort Worth and no one could remember anything about high school. When he stopped coming home for days at a time, Sarah packed her things and left. She never bothered to file for divorce. She knew she was never going to marry again. She just left him.
In 2008, things in the United States were not exactly great. The Republican nomination for President had already been picked fairly early on: that great and stalwart war-hero, John McCain. If it had been John McCain circa 1988 it might have been okay. But it wasn’t 1988 anymore. Barack Obama led in the Democratic Primary, but they were trying to use the very non-Democratic “Superdelegate” vote to take the nomination away from him. The housing market was crumbling. Wall Street was a mess. Oil was $115.00 a barrel. The dollar was worthless. Companies were beginning to lay workers off thousands at a time. There was still a war going on in Iraq. There was sporadic fighting going on in Afghanistan. Russia was going around flexing its new found muscle again. Iran wanted to make a bomb. China was poisoning our pets, toothpaste, and even our children’s toys. Michael Moore was making yet another—oh, Ode to Joy! Thank God Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were still living together. Tom Cruise was still in the closet.
Monday. Sarah went to work.
Monday night she fed the cats and, Sam, the Bernese Mountain Dog. She watched Deal or No Deal. She liked the shaved head of Howie Mandel now. The whole thing made her wonder what ever happened to Donny Most?
Tuesday. Sarah went to work.
Tuesday night she fed the cats, and, Sam, the Bernese Mountain Dog. She watched Dancing with the Stars and Big Brother. She fell asleep on her couch during Flavor of Love.
Wednesday. Sarah went to work and there was a very handsome young man who she was very gentle with while cleaning his teeth. He made her laugh six or seven times. She saw his wedding band on his left hand that he had tucked under his right hand. She soaked in his laughter. It was the best thirty-five minutes of her week.
Wednesday night she fed the cats and, Sam, the Bernese Mountain Dog. Sam threw up. She wiped it up with some paper towel and fed him again. She watched American Idol and then CSI New York. She kept hoping it was Thursday, so she could watch Lost.
Thursday. Sarah went to work. She thought about the man who had made her laugh the day before. She wondered where you met a man like that who was single. She day-dreamed that he might come back and ask her out. She wondered what she might do if a married man asked her out. She told herself she would say no. She thought about saying, yes, though.
Thursday night she opened her mail before she fed the cats and, Sam, the Bernese Mountain Dog. There was an envelope from the IRS with a rebate check for $600.00—care of President George W. Bush. Sarah had not voted for Bush in 2000 nor in 2004. She had originally voted for Al Gore, because he invented the Internet and, you know, that is a really good thing to invent. In 2004, Sarah had voted for John Kerry even though she thought he was a real dud, a born loser, someone no woman in their right mind would date, marry, setup with their ugliest best friend, or even let him buy her a drink. She wouldn’t even let her cat go on a date with John Kerry, but she voted for him for President!
Before she did anything else she lifted up that glorious light-blue colored check from the IRS. The deep fonts of $600.00 were like a warm wave crashing over her on the beach in Galveston.
She thought of the shirred mesh dress and the beaded crinkle chiffon dress and the gold gemstone slide high heels she might buy with this money. She tried to think of where she would wear these new trinkets, could not think of anywhere, thought of Howie Mandel again, put everything out of her mind, and kissed the IRS rebate check like it was the white and spotty rear-end of George W. Bush.
She chuckled when she thought of voting for Al Gore and John Kerry; and for once she was glad that her vote actually did not count. She then proceeded to feed the four cats and, Sam, the Bernese Mountain Dog. She then crawled up in front of her new husband and watched Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader, and then she finally got to watch her favorite television show, Lost, after that. She wondered whatever happened to that guy that used to be on BJ and the Bear?