Thursday, March 5, 2015

Free Read: Counting Pennies

I'm very much enjoying writing these little snippets for Oscar and Phillip. As each deadline approaches for Free Fiction Friday, and I ponder what to write, I keep coming back to these two characters, and each time I do, I learn more about them. It's a fascinating process, and quite unexpected on my end.


It wasn't until his third trip to the kitchen in search of an elusive snack that Oscar noticed Phillip hunched at the computer desk.

Phillip hadn't moved from that spot for nearly four hours. Oscar thought about it for a moment. He'd come in earlier, looking for pepperoni, and Phil had been there, scribbling something on a sheet of paper. Before that, when he'd stopped by to refill his coffee mug, Phillip had been frowning at the screen and tapping at the keys to fill out some type of spreadsheet.

Oscar flitted about the kitchen, opening the fridge doors and closing them again when no new snack options appeared. He wanted summer sausage. Or prosciutto. Maybe even liverwurst, at this point. He definitely had a craving for something salty and meaty, with a streak of fat. Inspired, he checked the freezer, but even there he struck out. Usually a wrapped package of bacon hid within, but they'd fried it all yesterday for breakfast.

Oscar checked the coffee pot. The liquid inside was still hot, but it had condensed down into a semi-thickened drink that would surely eat through his stomach lining. Oscar dumped the coffee into the sink before he could have second thoughts. As a last resort, he filled the kettle with water and set it on the burner. Tea seemed like a good choice.

He craned his neck and could see Phillip's mug was empty, and bone dry. "What are you doing?" he asked as he stepped close to his love, "And do you want tea?"

Phillip made a flustered noise and his hand jumped on the mouse, minimizing the spreadsheet.

"Phil?" Oscar tilted his head. "What are you doing?" he asked again. He snagged the corner of the piece of paper with the tip of his finger and pulled it close. Scribbles covered the surface, but they were all numbers. Oscar narrowed his eyes as he considered the entirety of the information.

"Just paying some bills," Phillip said. He pulled the paper back toward himself and flipped it over.

"Uh-huh," Oscar said. He turned the paper over again so all the scribbles showed. He pointed to a set of tallied numbers. "You're worrying over the mortgage again."

"Maybe a little," Phillip said. "I just thought it wouldn't hurt to crunch some numbers. See if we should refinance. We've been paying ahead a little, so I thought it might be good to see how long we had left. Just playing with the numbers."

"I see," Oscar said. He looked hard at Phillip, who looked tired and stressed out. His hair needed to be combed and he was still in an old pair of sweatpants and a ratty t-shirt. "If there's something else, you can tell me. You know that, right?"

"I know," Phil said. He looked away, out the nearest window, and then back again to Oscar. "It's just sometimes I realize how lopsided things are. Your job, my job. Without you, this house would be beyond me. I was looking at one of those mortgage calculators and if I was really frugal, I might be able to live by myself in the garage."

"Phil," Oscar said. "I don't know what to say. We're a team. We're in this together. I don't want you living in the garage unless I'm living there with you."

With his index finger, Phil skimmed down the columns of numbers on the piece of paper. "I just want to make sure I'm contributing, and not taking advantage of you."

Oscar placed his hand over Phillip's. Then he slid the paper out with his free hand and crumpled it into a ball and chucked it at the garbage. "I'm pretty sure I like it when you do take advantage of me." He grinned and Phillip grinned back. Behind him, the kettle whistled on the stove top. "But let's make some tea, and go sit on the sofa. We'll talk it over and see if we need to change anything."

"Okay," Phil said.

"Good," Oscar replied, and he stood up, and turned to prepare the tea.

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