She Wants to be a Country Singer ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
They gave each other an unfeeling peck on the cheek and sat on opposite ends of the couch. Squeamy sat in a chair across the room, crossed his legs and examined his shoelaces.
“How have you been, Squeamy?” Ouida asked.
“I have this terrible pain,” he said.
“You’d better have it looked into.”
“We didn’t come here to talk about Squeamy’s pains,” Mercelle said.
“Would you like a drink?” Ouida asked.
“No, thank you,” Mercelle said curtly. “We didn’t come here to drink, either.”
“What did you come for?”
“Now that mother has been dead for a month, it’s time we discussed some practical matters.”
“Since she left the house to you, I think I should get all the money in the annuity, instead of just half.”
Ouida laughed, more with surprise than with mirth “Both our names are on it. That’s the way mother wanted it.”
“We both know that mother could be very unfair.”
“What is it you want, Mercelle?”
“I want you to agree to remove your name from the annuity so only my name is on it.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because I deserve it.”
“Maybe I don’t agree.”
“You get the house and everything in it. Don’t you think it’s only fair that I get everything else?”
“I was the one who stuck with her and took care of her through all the difficult years,” Ouida said.
“Yes, you never pass up a chance to tell me how terrible your life has been, do you?”
“I refuse to have this conversation with you, Mercelle.”
“She’s been to see a lawyer!” Squeamy said.
“Shut up, Squeamy!” Mercelle said.
“A lawyer?” Ouida asked.
“I can take the house from you if you don’t agree to give me the annuity.”
“On what grounds? Mother had the house in her name and my name. Now that she’s gone, it’s in my name.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
“I can say that mother was mentally incompetent and always meant to have the house in both our names, but you prevented her from putting my name on it because you wanted it all for yourself.”
“That isn’t true!”
“I can sue you. Tie up the house for years. At the end of all the legal proceedings that I’m prepared to engage in, the entire cost of the house could be absorbed in legal fees.”
“You would do that?”
“You probably think I want the money for purely selfish reasons, but I don’t.”
“You’re going to tell me you need a life-saving operation?”
“No, it’s Bobbie.”
“Bobbie needs a life-saving operation?”
“She’s in her last year of high school. She wants to get into a really good college next year. It costs a lot of money.”
“I wish Bobbie all the best, but her college education is not my responsibility,” Ouida said.
“No, you never wanted the responsibility of having your own children, did you? You remained an old maid living with her mother and now that the old woman is dead, what does the old maid have?”
“You can insult me all you want, Mercelle, but I don’t have to sit and listen to it.”
“I always thought you weren’t as smart as the rest of us. That you were deficient in some way.”
“Because I didn’t get married and have children?”
“No man ever wanted you because of your peculiarities. You were too much like daddy’s side of the family. Mother always talked about how odd you were and that she would have to take care of you always, until the day she died.”
“She never said that!”
“Not to you she didn’t, but she said it to me and to everybody else.”
“Let’s not talk about the past, Mercelle, or I just might end up ordering you out of my house.”
“Out of your house! I like that! This is just as much my house as it is yours!”
“The last time I looked at the deed, I didn’t see your name on it.”
“Well, that isn’t my fault! I know mother would have put my name on the deed, too, if you hadn’t kept her from it.”
“Why don’t you leave now, Mercelle?”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
“Could I say something?” Squeamy said.
“No!” Mercelle said.
“What is it, Squeamy?” Ouida said.
“Don’t let her bully you into giving her money that isn’t hers.”
“Shut up, Squeamy!” Mercelle said. “You don’t know the first thing about it!”
“She wants Bobbie to go to a fancy Eastern school so she can have something to brag about to her friends.”
“That’s not true!” Mercelle said. “You should just keep your stupid mouth shut!”
“I don’t think it’s right to threaten your sister to get her to give you money. That’s called extortion.”
“Well, Mr. Big! You’re the voice of authority, aren’t you? This is a family matter that doesn’t concern you and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay out of it!”
“Bobbie doesn’t even want to go to college,” he said. “She wants to be a country singer.”
“Every young girl wants to be a country singer at some time or other in her life.”
“With Bobbie it’s different.”
“You’ve always been such an idiot and you don’t know anything! I look at you and I wonder how in the world I could have ever married you!”
“It doesn’t always have to be that way.”
Mercelle stood up so abruptly that the floor quaked. “Well, I’m going home now,” she said, “and you’re not getting into the car with me, Squeamy! You’ll have to find your own way home and if you don’t come home at all, it’s all the same to me!”
“Good night, dear!” Ouida said. “Drive carefully.”
After the door slammed and Mercelle was gone, Squeamy and Ouida looked at each other. Squeamy smiled and shook his head.
“You don’t have to stay married to her,” Ouida said.
“Maybe we deserve each other,” he said.
“I can give you a ride home, if you want.”
“No, thanks. I like to walk. It clears my head and gets the kinks out of my joints. I think I’ll stop off someplace and get drunk enough to slur my words. That’ll make her really mad!”
“Well, thanks for coming by,” Ouida said, “and tell Bobbie hello for me.”
Copyright © 2015 by Allen Kopp