The silence of the empty house wrapped itself around me. I clumped noisily down the steps from my upstairs bedroom, tired and bleary-eyed. Although I classified myself as a morning person, getting up was never easy. From experience I knew that after spending fifteen minutes upright, I would be ready to go full throttle into the day.
Nine-year-old Tammie and eleven-year-old Niki had boarded their school bus two hours ago. At about the same time, Arnie, my husband had left the house to deliver products to one of his farm customers. Taking advantage of my day off from working at the hospital, I’d crawled back into bed for an extra hour of sleep.
Mentally, I organized the chores I needed to do before Tammie, Niki and Arnie returned to the house hungry for supper. Glancing into the living room showed me that straightening the house topped the list. Papers and books littered the floor where Niki and Tammie had done homework and art projects. Sofa pillows were scattered across the room.
Since everyone in my family also wanted blankets to cuddle while watching television, four of them lay crumpled wherever they were used. Segments of the newspaper I’d read last night after supper, lay scattered next to my chair, along with an empty drinking glass.
The sofa, Arnie’s royal throne, looked as if it had exploded. One cushion was out of place and on the floor. The pillow and blanket he had used were tossed in separate directions. A few chocolate chips, raisins and peanuts were scattered throughout. An empty bowl and beer bottle sat on the table next to the sofa. The television remote control laid on the floor under the coffee table.
Apparently, Arnie had been a night owl all of his life. From the earliest days of our marriage, when I trooped off to bed between ten and eleven at night, he stayed up for an additional hour or two of reading or television watching. Sometimes he fell asleep on the sofa, waking in the wee hours of the night to properly go to bed.
Six or seven hours after supper, hunger would set in. Arnie liked to make a few rudimentary snacks for himself. He never attempted to cook much, so he was limited to buttered bread, thick slices of aged cheddar cheese and wedges of summer sausage washed down with beer.
Once in a while, Arnie’s sweet tooth would kick-in and he would search the cupboards for a treat. I seldom had candy around, but if I did, I was really good at hiding it. That left him with only one option, to make home-made party mix. Taking one of my mixing bowls, he’d pour in some raisins, chocolate chips and peanuts. Whenever he did, I called him Chef Bruno.
The day passed quickly, as all days off from work do. At the supper table that evening, as I passed the potatoes to Arnie, I pointedly remarked, “I see that Chef Bruno was here last night.”
Ladling mushroom gravy over his potatoes, Arnie snickered. He fully knew from past conversations what I was talking about. After a moment he defensively commented, “You should have sweets around the house more often.”
Indignantly, I exclaimed, “The last time I went grocery shopping, I bought two boxes of your favorite marshmallow oatmeal cookies. Plus, I often make cakes and bars. How much more do you want?”
Leaning forward, to completely drive home my point, I instructed, “If you see Chef Bruno tonight, kick him out of the house! I’m making chocolate chip cookies for Tammie’s birthday treat for school tomorrow. I’m not going shopping before then!”