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The Tallywacker Chapter 2
The second episode in the weekly serial
from the fountain pen of Alexandra R. Nyfors
Previous Chapter Chapter Index Next Chapter

Mr. Hibbert’s Digestion


“Virginia, my stomach is bothering me.”

“I told you not to get artichoke hearts on the pizza.”

“It gives me something to chew!” he said in exasperation, thinking fondly
back on the good old days when he had been allowed to consume meat and meat
by-products.

“Well, I told you not to.”

“The artichoke hearts have nothing to do with it. I really should call and
complain. Their pizza is so greasy these days. It didn’t used to be so
greasy. But I guess that was when that fellow was the manager there – what
was his name? The one with the hat.”

“Did you remember to take your cheese pill?” his wife asked with some
asperity.

“Yes I took my cheese pill! I always take my cheese pill when we eat cheese
don’t I?” he snapped back. “Have we got any mineral water?”

“No dear,” she replied. “And I have no idea who you mean about the fellow
with the hat. They all wear hats. For that matter, they all wear the same
hat. And it’s not,” she added meditatively, wondering whether to superglue
the crack in her thumbnail now or just before bed, “as if they were
attractive hats. I mean, what on earth are they thinking when they design
those hats? How to make everyone look ridiculous? I always say that it doesn
’t have to be expensive to have style, and those hats have no style at all.
In fact, the entire uniform is really revolting. That’s why I couldn’t
possibly take a job working for one of those places. Can you imagine me in
one of those hats? ME? I think not. Well, I just said to the girl at the
last place, ‘I don’t know about you but I’d rather eat dirt and wash with
Clorox than work in one of those places.’ Of course, it isn’t that different
from what working in one of those places is like really, is it? I mean
eating dirt and washing with Clorox.”

“What happened?” he asked, ignoring everything she’d said. It was Virginia
who made sure there was always mineral water.

“What happened when I told her that? Well, she got a little huffy I thought,
but then it’s so hard to tell with the girls Sarah’s age you know. Are they
being huffy or are they just being businesslike? I’m sure I don’t know.
Anyway, what she said was ‘Suit yourself,’ or something like that. I told
her I was looking for clerical work but apparently if you don’t know
anything about computers or telephone systems you can’t do that sort of work
anymore. What, by the way, is a telephone system?”

“No, what happened to the mineral water?”

“The Mercedes,” she said, deciding to do her nail now. She reached in her
purse for her superglue.

This was unanswerable, in view of the couscous incident earlier in the
evening. Unless he aspired to truly ruin his digestion and his entire night’
s sleep, Carl knew very well he should not follow up on this snarkiness.
However, it went into the bin with all the other things she’d said over the
last 30 years that he would show her about some day.

There was a pause. Virginia knew she had gone too far. When Mr. Hibbert’s
stomach was bothering him, he required soothing, lots of soothing.

“Did you take your gall bladder pill?” she asked.

He frowned. He hated the gall bladder pills, because as soon as the capsule
dissolved, they left him belching wormwood all evening and he was truly
aware that wormwood was indeed as bitter as the Biblical passage implied.

“I could make you a glass of lemon-water,” she offered, “if that would
help.”

“No, no….”he muttered, knowing it would be without any sort of sugar
whatsoever. A fervor of saliva flooded his mouth at the mere thought. He
swallowed hard.
There was nothing for it. He would have to go to the kitchen and take one of
the gall bladder pills. It wouldn’t do a thing. He knew it wouldn’t do a
thing.

At his office, he was generally regarded as the fellow who took charge. He
was a man among men, a vice-president to be reckoned with, and a center of
power. His days were awash in dignity and grace. Once home, however, he was
but a martyr to Virginia’s dietary regime, which had all the restraint of
asceticism and half the flavor. In the kitchen, washing down the pill with
tap water, he felt himself writhing helplessly under the yoke, as a poor ox
fed on last year’s straw. Damn the woman! He had half a mind to go out for a
steak, if he could be sure he wouldn’t be sick in public.
Pizza! Whatever had possessed him? He’d be in the bathroom half the night
and a mere shell of himself come morning. And the woman just sat there,
knowing it and doing nothing.

He went back into the living room and turned on the television. An
advertisement for a steak house assailed him, and he rapidly switched
channels. Virginia didn’t even like to hear references to animals being
eaten. He suspected her of believing that they had souls, which he thought
was heresy.

“Did you take your pill?” she asked, poking at him through the cage bars so
to speak.

“Yes,” he said shortly, “but I know it won’t do any good.”

“Well, you are supposed to take it before you eat, you know.”

“I know.” Neither his stomach, nor his mood, were improving.

He turned off the television, too bothered to watch. “There’s too much
Spanish on television. It’s not right. This is America.”

“Well, if you wait around long enough, America will be Spanish,” she
replied.
“Although I don’t see why you should care. After all, Tubbers, it’s not like
your family came over on the Mayflower or anything.”

Hearing the magic use of his pet name, Tubbers, Mr. Hibbert knew he was
receiving an overture of truce for the evening. He was forgiven the Mercedes
yet one more time. How long it would last no one knew. However, he was
certainly going to sell the BMW. That was a lost cause.

“I was telling Tom at work about what a martyr you are to your digestion,
dear. I said ‘Tubbers is just a complete wreck whenever he eats anything a
little out of the ordinary,’ and he recommended that you try some enzymatic
digestive aids, so when it’s payday at the store I’ll get you some, and you
can try that.”

“You called me Tubbers to your boss?” he asked faintly.

“Of course, that’s your name isn’t it?”

“We’ve been married for 30 years. If you don’t know by now that my name is
Carl I simply don’t know where to begin. Really, Virginia.”

“Oh well, I’m sure he didn’t mind. Besides, he must have heard it before.
You remember when he and David were in high school together. He was around
here quite a bit in those days, and he must have heard me call you that. And
why he should care one way or the other I don’t know. All he cares about is
getting the right product to help you, although, if you’re going to eat
pizza it’s possible that nothing will help. I mean, pizza is not meant for
your digestion my dear, is it?”

“Well but you might have been talking about the cat!”

“Of course not, he knows the cat’s name is Smidgen. Don’t be grumpy,
Tubbers!”

“And anyway, who made certain we had to order pizza for dinner?” he fumed.

“That’s true, I did. I’m sorry.” She passed behind his chair and kissed him
lightly on the top of his shiny bald head. “I’ll make you some green tea.
That will help.”

“It tastes like stale grass,” he said, thinking of the ox again.

“But it is good for your tummy, now, isn’t it?”

“Well…” he admitted huffily.

While she was making conciliatory green tea, Carl had a quick nip of
Sambuca, which was said to be an aid to digestion. If things got any worse
he was going to go and get into his secret bottle of Grappa in his study.
Probably nothing would make any difference to his digestion now, but at
least he wouldn’t have to hear everything so clearly. He would need reading
matter for the bathroom too.

When she returned bearing his tea, he drew himself up to his most impressive
height in his chair, and prepared to take a stand for any shreds of dignity
he might be able to retain.

“We can’t have this go on, you know. If you insist upon working, I must at
least specify that you do not make our personal lives the source of
conversation. I do not want every Tom, Dick, and Harry knowing our
business.”

“Oh dear, but I’ve known them all so long, you see! I’ve been shopping there
since before Tom was in high school and it is just a little store in a strip
mall and it isn’t like anybody there is ever going to know you or even know
anybody you know, so I don’t see why I can’t ask a simple question like I
did about digestive aids, and after all, dear, I did it for you.”

“Well, fine, but nothing about our personal business, do you hear me?”

She stared at him with a gimlet eye. “But I already told them about the
Mercedes.”

“Damn the blasted Mercedes!!!” he shouted, spilling hot tea on his leg. “Now
look what you’ve made me do. My head is swimming. I’m just going to go and
lie down.”

“Yes, Tubbers,” she replied meekly.

Previous Chapter Chapter Index Next Chapter

Legal stuff: Please do not print, copy or distribute this without prior
permission from the author. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2001 Alexandra R.
Nyfors. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

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