Sugar Bag Blues "Why are you bringing him in?" the man asked his wife as he watched her wiping snow off of her dog. She pressed a warm towel against the animal's thick coat of fur. The dog nudged her excitedly with his nose. "Its going twenty below tonight!" the woman said. "Toby can't stay out there in that cold!" "Edie, dogs have fur, and that is why. It keeps them warm." The man dropped the paper he'd been reading onto his lap and removed his glasses. "I don't care," she said. "Toby can stay in for tonight." "By morning I won't be able to breathe!" the husband said. "You know having that dog in the house kicks up my allergies!" Edith dismissed him with a wave of the hand. "Howard, you think you're allergic to everything." Getting up abruptly from his chair, Howard stepped into his shoes. He disappeared into the back room and returned with the dog leash. His wife, standing at the sink washing dishes, turned around just in time to see him snapping the leash onto the dog's collar. "No! Don't take him out!" She grasped for the kitchen hand towel and quickly dried her hands. With a stubborn look on his face, Howard opened the outside door and proceeded to take the dog back to his wooden house. "No!" Edith screamed and rushing to his side, used the hand towel as a weapon. In a burst of anger, she snapped with it at her husbands bald head. He reached up in a protective gesture and flinched with each slap of the towel. "Stop it Edith!" With haste, he made his way out the door; with a crash, she slammed it behind him. She pushed the lock and then ran to the front door to lock that entrance as well. "Let me in!" Her husband's voice was muffled by the door. With a smug smile she leaned against the door and listened to his outburst. His pounding fists shook the door, but she only laughed. "You can come in if you bring Toby back," she finally said and the pounding stopped. A half hour later the woman served Toby a plate of freshly baked oatmeal cookies. To top it off she lovingly poured him a few ounces of milk. From his living room chair, her husband watched her. The darkness of his mood showed on his face. "Aren't you going to give me some of those cookies?" "Why should I?" she asked defiantly. "You know," her husband said in a tired voice. "Sometimes I don't like you at all." "I don't like you either. In fact, I think I hate you." She reached down to pet her dog. "Because I have allergies?" "Because you ruined my life! "I've always loved animals. You took all that away from me." "How did that ruin your life?" She turned to face him. "You wouldn't understand even if I explained it to you! You wouldn't understand if I drew you a picture! You just don't understand anything! You never do! You never try!" Her hands were balled into fists, as if she wanted to punch him and her face flushed a deep shade of red. "What dramatics!" he exclaimed and reached down to pick up his paper. At exactly the same moment the couple quit talking to one another and throughout the rest of the evening it became a battle of will as to who could stay silent the longest. Edith busied herself washing clothes and mopping floors. In an effort to appear concerned about anything but his marriage, Howard made a show of bringing tools from the garage to the house. Piece by piece, he spread them out on the living room floor. Edith watched him out of the corner of her eye. Her inward composure remained in place until she saw him dragging an old vacuum cleaner across the floor. At that point, she became overwhelmed by a deep desire to scream. He was going to take that thing apart and fix it right there on the living room floor! She was fuming and her eyes saw flashes of red. Oh! He knew what he was doing! He knew exactly how to drive her crazy! Turning his back to her, he took a seat on the floor. Frozen in place, she watched as he picked up a screw driver and began to work. Before long, dust balls freed from inside of the vacuum were floating around the house and filthy parts of the vacuum were lying all over the floor. She'd spent an entire day cleaning and now there was dirt everywhere! Oh! How she hated him! Her eyes fell on the hammer next to his shoe and her thoughts took a decidedly twisted turn. The point came at which she could contain herself no longer. "You love to make me miserable, don't you?" He turned to her with a look of innocent surprise. "Why do you say that?" "You know I don't want that junk all over the floor!" With the hand he held the screw driver in, he gestured helplessly. "I was trying to do something good! I was trying to fix this for you." He stared at her intently, but she said nothing and only stared back. "I guess I can't do anything right." He tossed the screwdriver to the floor. "Do you want to talk?" he asked. Wiping at his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt, he watched her reaction. "No!" She stood to her feet and shoved the chair against the table. "Why not?" he cried. He watched her closely. She walked to the kitchen cupboard and pulled it open. Even standing on her tip toes, she couldn't reach the second shelf. She dragged a chair over and used it to stand on. He came to her as she searched through the cupboard. He attempted to be the voice of reason and understanding. "Edie, what is wrong? Why can't we talk to each other normally?" "What's normal?" she asked as she wiped a tear from her eye. Having forgotten what she was looking for, she stared into the open cupboard. "I wouldn't know what is normal. We've had problems for so long." Pushing aside several cans of vegetables, she let out a sigh that sounded of hopelessness. "When you say that, you make me feel as if you've never been happy." He reached up with a hand in an offer to help her down. "Let's sit down and talk." "No! I need something." Suddenly, she remembered. "Sugar. I'm making a cake for John's birthday." "You can make a cake later. We need to talk now." Taking a step back, he placed a hand on each hip. "Your son's birthday comes only once a year," she shot back as she struggled to pull the five-pound bag of sugar out. "How long has this bag been in here? It's like a rock!" "Oh! For Pete's sake! Hand it to me, Edie. I'll help you with the cake." "But, what happened to it? Did something leak in here? It's like it's turned to concrete." She slid the bag to the edge of the cupboard and poked at the side of the bag with a finger. "Give it to me," he said.