No More Pretty Pansies
by KJ Hannah Greenberg



“Yes, I quit,” huffed Chet.


“But we need your income,” answered Dorothy.


“You quit. How’s that any different?”


“I’m the mom - Addison and Terrance need me to be home with them. My therapist says that …”


“Enough with your therapist! Enough with our marriage counselor, too! Besides, you weaned Terrance so you could return to your gourmand ‘mastery’ of Ukrainian delights. Also, I do believe you used to be a lawyer. Lawyers make good dosh.”


“Oh, I get it, Polished Polish didn’t like your campaign, so you took your ball out of the game and came home. Sheesh! Grow up!”


“You grow up! They liked it lots and wanted me to start work on advertising for their lip gel. In fact, my boss gave me another raise, 2%, and apologized for having no new job to which to promote me.” Chet started tearing up. He picked up Withersmith, who obliged by going limp on his lap. The dachshund began licking away the tears falling on Chet’s hand.


However, Mr. Henry, upon hearing his human companions raise their voices, jumped out of the kitchen window. Rutherford, who had been waddling into the living room, too, turned away. He slid back behind the refrigerator. His quills notwithstanding, the household’s loud, large, upright beasts scared him.


Elsewhere, Addison was at toddler ballet class. “Little Terror,” their son, had actually fallen asleep in his crib.


“I need my therapist! We need out marriage counselor. You need a therapist, too. You’re so unprocessed!”


“I need a break from other peoples’ expectations, including yours. I’m packing a bag and driving to my father’s house. I still have the key.”


“He’s dead and buried, Chet.”


“Exactly, so his house will be quiet.”


“I though your family was going to cash in that property.”


“Eventually. Take good care of the children and our pets. I’ll be back, I think.” After filling his backpack with clothing, Chet walked out the door.


The first phone call came from Chet’s boss. Apparently, he hadn’t been notified that Chet had quit. Without Chet to answer their texts, emails, and phone calls, Polished Polish chose to call him.


In response, the boss had leaned over Chet’s cubicle to see what he could share with Polished Polish. Upon seeing only storyboards for Tell Bell, the boss had shrugged. He had thought that Chet had assigned that account to Aryeh.


The again, things had become weird around the office. Aryeh had stopped wearing carmine berets and had insisted that “Aryeh” was his dead name, i.e., that the staff should call him “Aiden.”


To boot, Romy had removed all but her eyebrow piercings, had taken to dying her hair honey blond and had stopped listening to techno punk. Presently, she was fixated with classic violin sonatas.


As per Maylee, that gal had switched her slitted skirts for loose, cornflower-colored pajama-like pants and had started blowing soap bubbles rather than wear her headphone. Like Aiden and Romy, that copywriter had switched things up on the heels of Chet’s promotion.


If only Chet would show up! When the boss called the man’s home, he was given a very terse reply by Chet’s wife. Essentially, she refused to discuss her husband’s whereabouts and cited something about not being subpoenaed by a judge, thus not being required to answer anyone anything.


The boss had forgotten that Chet’s spouse was a lawyer. He had not forgotten, however, how often he had overheard Chet mumbling aloud about hormonal women. The agency’s owner shook his head.


A few days after Chet left, Nancy Lynn rang the doorbell. Withersmith thumped his tail while waiting for Dorothy to let Nancy Lynn in. Nancy Lynn usually petted him.


Nancy Lynn, who had picked up Addison at toddler ballet, released the tot from her grip and bent to stroke the doxie. For some reason, when Terrance, who was draped over Dorothy’s shoulder, saw Nancy Lynn, he began screaming.


Dorothy smiled at her young neighbor and took Terrance to the kids’ bedroom. Nancy Lynn wandered into the kitchen. She had arrived soon enough to see Mr. Henry, two of whose claws were still painted Lovely Lenten Rose, once more jump out the kitchen window.


The little girl dismissed his departure as unimportant and opened Dorothy’s refrigerator. Rows upon rows of stuffed cabbage sat in a shallow dish. They looked like marching band members participating in an easy drill. She knew about drills because once in a while her mother took her to watch the high school band practice.


Nancy Lynn grabbed a cabbage roll, took a bite, made an unhappy sound, and dropped the roll on the floor. Bother Withersmith and Rutherford, who had pulled himself out from behind the fridge, gobbled up that victual.


Again, raising her shoulders slightly, the child returned to the living room where Addison was breaking DVDs in her attempt to insert them into the slot beneath the television. Nancy Lynn found a disc featuring lions mauling gazelles and popped it in.


When the girls were halfway through the video, Dorothy returned to the living room. She told Nancy Lynn to go home. Thereafter, Dorothy gave Addison an early dinner. She hoped that after an equally early bath, her older child might consent to go to bed.


Dorothy had just finished speaking to her mother and needed to process that call. Weeks before her nuptials, Dorothy’s mother had warned her not to have married Chet. Now, two kids and a few years later, she wondered if her mother had been right.



After deep minutes of quiet reflection, Dorothy resolved that she ought to call Chet’s sister. Surely, that woman could console her. Maybe, she’d even agree to sell their father’s house so that Chet could once more enrich his and Dorothy’s bank account and so that he would have no readily available place to which to run.


“Hi Sam! How are you? Guess what? I bought a pregnancy test!”


The line hummed silently.


“Did I tell you about the snowplough that Addison built from Legos? Did you know that she learning to count to ninety-nine?”


Sam broke her silence. “Of course, she can. She has our blood. I think you should return to work, Dorothy. Children are expensive.”


“Well, Samantha...”


“I don't see why you can't give Terrance formula. After all those years of school, you should work. My kids are no worse for being raised on formula.”


“Actually, I’ve already begun to...”


“Has Chet had a break this week? He sounded so tired the last time we spoke.”


Addison ran out of her bedroom. “Auntie Sam? Mommy, I got to talk!”


On cue, Terrance erupted with earsplitting blasts. Dorothy handed her toddler the phone.


“Sam? Hi Sam! Oink-oink-oink. Cock-a-doodle-do. Aweeeoph. That's an elephant! Grrr. That’s a lion about to eat the elephant. I saw a video about how lions eat. I'll do it again. Aweeoph..."



The next call Dorothy made was to Esmerelda, her older sister. For reasons which Dorothy hadn’t bothered to explore, Nancy Lynn’s mother, that unfailing goodwife, had knocked on her door and had asked to watch the children. Dorothy had smiled her thanks and then had  promptly sequestered herself in her bedroom.


Dorothy took her phone out of its port on the high shelf over her bed. She dialed her sister. Mr. Henry pushed the door open and then threw up a furball.


Esmerelda answered. “Dot?” It's three a.m. Again! What gives?”


“My neighbor’s watching the kids.” Suddenly, Dorothy burst into tears. “Es, Chet ran away!”


“What? Hold on. I’m grabbing my reading glasses.”


“To talk?”


“No, to think. Whatever. What’s going on?”


“Remember, I’ve long been the Queen of Puke? Only this time, none of my tricks are working. Twins are more than double cargo. Es, twins! Reality check.”


“Mom know?”


“Not yet.”


“So, you’re fertile. Not news. Tell me about Chet.”


“You had twins.”


“I had treatments. Twins are a typical, low-ball outcome. Where’s your husband?”


“His father’s house.”


“His father’s dead.”








“Okay, so it’s five in the evening by you. What do you need?"


“Sleep, to stop throwing up, and a tongue without morning fuzz. Mostly, I need my husband.” Dorothy cried for several minutes. Esmerelda stayed silently on the line.


“All that jazz. Send you money? We don’t have to talk about Fran quitting, right now.”


“Es! I really don’t care about your wayward nanny. I care about my wayward husband.” Another few minutes of Dorothy’s tears and Esmerelda’s silence followed. After Dorothy tried four square breathing, she asked, “you still there?”


“Not talking to anyone else at this hour.”


“Sis, you’re the best! Well, you'll be getting a new niece and nephew, or nieces or nephews.”




“Don’t know. Don't care. Just want healthy babies and a home birth, but Magda won't let.”


“And G-d won't let me have babies naturally. Get a grip.”


Dorothy started crying again. “What I really want is Chet.”


“Hmm. Double the hormones means double the tears, too?”




“So, this was his reaction to your news? That man needs to grow a pair and fast.”


“He doesn’t know.”




“The day I was going to tell him, he told me he quit his job. Es, he had just gotten a second salary increase. I had just quit my job. We can’t feed six people without him working.”


“Maybe, he didn’t like his job?”


Suddenly, Dorothy recalled that she had promised to bring honey babka and a side of yabluchnyk to the next day’s coffee klatch.


“Gotta go!”




“While my neighbor’s still watching the kids.”


“Hold on. It’s the middle of the night, here. We’re going to finish this. It’s the least you can do. As per funds, your family, currently, only has four people and the smallest takes formula. If you were still nursing, likely, you’d not have gotten preggers.”


“Don’t know. I enjoy my private time with Chet.”


“Okay, too much information. So, why’d he quit?”


“Don’t know. We fought, he packed his knapsack, and then he left for his father’s house.”


“Sweetie, call him. Apologize. Even if you’re 100% right and he’s 100% wrong, make peace. Trust me.”


Dorothy cried some more. Esmerelda waited.


“Es, you’re the best. Next time we talk, let’s make it a saner hour for you.”




“…and we’ll talk about Fran quitting your household.





“We could dip into the principle,” was all that a sheepish Chet said when he crossed the threshold into their home.


“You mean the deposited mystery money? That was an enormous check, Chet. What if it was mistakenly sent to us and we have to return all we spend?”


“Doesn't matter. We’ll fight about it later. For now, just kiss me.”


“I was wrong for getting mad at you. I’m sorry.”


“Me, too, that  is, for getting mad at you. I think Sis and I ought to sell Dad’s house. There’s no use in it sitting empty.”


“Great idea! Cuddles tonight?”


“I’d love that.”


“Oops, there’s something I need to tell you.”


“You signed Addison up for toddler painting classes?”


“No, but that’s a great idea.”




“I’m pregnant. With twins.”


Chet eased himself onto the sofa. He didn’t cry. He just blinked.



That night, after a wonderful session of “cuddles,” Dorothy regarded the luminous dial on their bedroom’s clock radio. It was late. No, it was early. Even the birds were asleep as no bit of sunlight had yet broken through the sky. Suddenly, Addison and Terrance’s mom jumped up, pushed open the bathroom door, and pitch the last of her dinner into the toilet.


Back in bed, her mind wandered. What if, in Iowa City, a recalcitrant billionaire, on the brink of divorce, had tried to shelter his money and his accountant had divested his holdings into paper companies, but had erred, by a single digit, while typing in a sequence. Almost one thousand new millionaires would have been made. She and Chet would be one in one thousand new millionaires! The transfer would be legal but using the funds would be immoral. It made no difference that the sender’s intent was immoral, but legal.


The lawyer frowned herself to sleep. She felt worse than nauseous. Sometimes, knowing the law was a burden.



“Ma, yes, Es was right that I have news. You see... oh, here's Chet, now. I forgot that he changed his schedule. Love that flex time. I'll bet he wants to say ‘hi.’ Talk to you later.”


Dorothy passed the receiver to her dripping husband. He had forgotten his umbrella, again.


“Hi, Ma. Gotta change. Here's Addison. Yes, I  promise to hold the phone to Terrance when Addison’s done.”


Chet trudged toward the bedroom. He noticed the unfolded laundry on the floor but chose to ignore it. It was equally impossible that his boss had let him adopt a hybrid working from home/working from the office schedule as it was that Polished Polish liked Chet’s halfwit campaign for their lip gloss. Advertising was repeatedly proving to be the province of nitwits.


The father and husband rescued a foil package of uneaten stuffed cabbage from inside of his rain-sodden kakis. He listened to sounds emanating from beyond his door. Addison was still voicing animals to his mother-in-law. Elsewhere in their home, Terrance was screaming.


Maybe, it wasn’t so bad to be immoral, sometimes. He and Dorothy, especially given the advent of their twins, could immediately use a babymoon.




a line


More stories from Winamop

Copyright reserved. Please do not reproduce without consent.