Friday, June 18, 2004

The Round Tuit

As editor of Fiction Daze, I failed miserably to coax Wendy into finishing her story. She used a broken computer as an excuse. Robert has failed thus far to send me Les Deux Bobs and other stories, so I had to pull out one of my old Friday stories. I like the story, and it's short.

The Round Tuit
By Bob Bringhurst

Sister Christiansen experienced childlike giddiness for a brief moment in 1982. Her husband, Kirk, carried the first family VCR into the house. Before Kirk took the VCR out of the box, he called the family together and declared that he was the only member of the household entitled to rent videos. While Kirk warned the wife and children of the filth included in all R-rated movies and many of the PG-rated movies, Sister Christiansen feared that she might disobey him. Indeed, her fear was realized in the spring of 1983, when she rented The Parent Trap from Bob's Video Store a few blocks north of the BYU football stadium. She meant to return the video the next day, and again the next, but if there wasn't one thing, there was another. The video remained in the Christiansen home through two more childbirths, three home entertainment centers, one dog's life, and nine Christmases. Everyone in the family assumed that they owned the video, even though it was enclosed in a hard plastic case, but the wife knew that one day she must face the shame of returning the video and paying the late fee, which she figured to be anywhere between five and one-thousand dollars.

There was always something to distract her.

There was the preparing of baked goods for the Relief Society; there was the bearing of a child, and then the last; there was the home study course in Victorian poetry at BYU; there was the purchasing of tennis balls and wrist bands; there was the clipping of coupons; there was the endless list of thank-you notes to be written.

On a sabbath day in the summer of 1992, a Sunday that seemed like any other, Sister Christiansen was inspired to return the video. Her inspiration came in the form of a church lesson. The Relief Society instructor presented a lesson on procrastination in which she passed out Round Tuits and said, “Now you can never say, 'When I get around to it,' because you all have a Round Tuit!” As Sister Christiansen looked at the Round Tuit sitting on the Book of Mormon in her lap, she told herself that she would humble herself, confront her fears, and return the video the next morning. She even wrote it on her Do-It list. Here is what the source of her inspiration looked like:

 /      ( TUIT )

After buying groceries at Food-4-Less the next day, Sister Christiansen forgot what her next chore was. In fact, for a brief moment she forgot which town she was in. The dull light shining through the windows of the Suburban made her dizzy, as if she had stood up too quickly. To her left and right cottonwood trees stood still on the breezeless summer morning; ahead of her a red signal dangled in front of the mountains; behind her glared the menace of slowly approaching cars. She closed her eyes. Nothing.

She opened her eyes and stared at the back of her hands. Her hands were the hands of an adult — leathery skin, dark freckles, protruding veins. On one of her fingernails she noticed a little white spot. All her life, she paid close attention to these little calcium deposits, as if they were participants in a race which began at the cuticle and finished at the end of the nail.

Her mind flashed images of her teenage years, when these little white spots seemed to take longer to make their way across her nails. When summer started after her 5th grade year, a particularly memorable white spot emerged from her cuticle, one that looked as majestic as a medieval jousting horse. Before her childhood calcium deposit could make its way to the end of the fingernail, she visited her maternal grandparents in Bountiful, where her grandmother taught her to mark the scriptures with color-coded tags, the home where she and her extended family sat around the breakfast table and prayed and read holy scriptures before the sun had risen, the home where she watched the carcass of a dead horse burn in an open field beneath the setting sun. She visited her paternal grandparents in Heber City, the town where she and her cousins jumped from a loft in the barn down into a haystack, the town where she collected telephone pole incinerators near the railroad tracks, the town where she took a mental snap shot of Darlene, her first and only real love, swinging her angular body on a rope above a dammed river, creating an image that would remain clear and accessible to her all her life. She learned to swim sidestroke. She was grounded for two weeks because she and Darlene floated down the Provo River on a Sunday. She returned to Bountiful to see her grandmother's corpse planted reverently in the earth. She started sixth grade and listened to Mrs. Johnson read Black Beauty to the class. She cross-stitched with her mother, who mentioned that her fingernails were getting long, at which time the girl who was to become known as Sister Christiansen clipped the last half — the hind legs — of the white spot.

Now 45, Sister Christiansen sat parked in front of a green light, looking at her most recent calcium deposit, wondering where on earth she was going. This white spot reminded her of nothing. A mere blob. Empty promises. Horns honked. She ran through her mind everything that had happened since the white spot first appeared on her nail. She attended church twelve or thirteen times. What else? She cleaned the refrigerator. What else? She did thirty or forty loads of laundry. What else? She took the girls to piano lessons a dozen times or so. What else? She cooked many, many meals. What else? She watched her husband win a tennis tournament in the 45-55 age division. Oh, and the Hansen's party! What else? She wrote a letter to Darlene that she never sent. What else? She aerobicized to the Jane Fonda videotape 43 times.

What else? What else? What else?

“The videotape!” she said. She looked down at the video in the back seat of her Suburban. There it was. Finally, this stupid thing will be off her mind forever. She drove with purpose now, past the shopping center, across University Avenue, right on North Canyon Road. Her eyes blinked as she passed in and out of the shadows of the cottonwood trees. Her heart pounded hard. She approached the place where she had rented the movie some nine years ago, easing the Suburban into a parking stall. To her alarm, she discovered that Bob's Video Store no longer existed — Don's Dry Cleaning had taken its place.

Sister Christiansen left the video on the doorstep of Don's Dry Cleaning and drove away. It was time to go home.


At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn you, Bob Bringhurst, for refusing to keep working on this novel. It's a beautiful piece of writing, and deserves to see the light of day. That's my claim, and I'm sticking by it.


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