I’m writing this post at 8:00 P.M. on February 13th. I just said to my husband, “Just so you know, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I don’t have anything for you.” His answer was, “Oh thank goodness! I don’t have anything for you either.” It reminded me of a scene from my Coda Valentine’s Day story, Putting Out Fires, so I decided to share.
The bell on the door of A to Z rang when I walked in. The only person at the counter was Zach, who threw me a friendly wave before going back to analyzing whatever was on his computer screen. I had hoped Lizzy or Susan or my mother would be there, because I figured they could have suggested a movie. Even Angelo might have helped, once he quit razzing me. But there was only Zach, and despite owning the store, Zach knew jack shit about movies. Which meant that I was on my own. Which sucked since I had no idea what I was looking for.
Angelo couldn’t ever leave the movies in one place. He was constantly setting up different displays and moving things around. I thought it was counterproductive, because people had to wander around to find where their favorite section had gone. He said that was the point, because in wandering around, they might discover something new. I said that was manipulative. He said (predictably), “What the fuck ever.” Regardless of my usual annoyance at having to hunt for the “action” genre, I had to admit it helped me this time. He had a display right at the front of the store full of romantic movies for Valentine’s Day. And right next to it, another selection of low-budget horror movies that seemed to all take place on February 14th. Leave it to Ang to think of both sides of the coin.
The movies on the left were all things I’d heard of but never seen: When Harry Met Sally, The Notebook, Pretty Woman. I picked the first one up and started to read the blurb on the back.
“You gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’ me,” Angelo suddenly said from behind me, causing me to jump about a foot. “You don’t want to watch that shit, man.”
“’Cause it’s pretentious, sentimental crap.”
“But it’s Valentine’s Day,” I said defensively.
“Yeah. So what?”
I sighed and put the box back down. I liked Angelo. He was like a brother to me. Which meant that sometimes I wanted to punch him simply to prove I could. “Can you give me a break, Ang? I thought it would be a nice thing to do, that’s all.”
“If Jared were a chick, then yeah, it would be a nice thing to do. But he’s not. Making him watch that’d be more like torture. Trust me.”
“So what do you suggest, smartass?”
He cocked his head sideways at me, like he was sizing me up. Like he couldn’t decide whether to take me seriously or not. “You could come here. We’re doing Anti-Valentine’s Day. No chick flicks, no wine. We got beer and nachos and three different kinds of wings.”
“What movie are you showing?”
“That doesn’t sound very romantic.”
“That’s the point!”
“Angelo, do you have any idea how not helpful you’re being?”
He shook his head at me. “I am bein’ helpful, man. You’re just bein’ a jackass.”
“Fuck you, Ang.”
“Seriously, Matt, listen to me. You’ve let all those years of dating chicks warp your brain. Men don’t care ’bout Valentine’s Day. They only jump through the hoops to keep their ladies happy. But we’re lucky. We don’t gotta do that. That’s one of the many benefits of not bein’ straight!” I didn’t want to believe that just because my partner was male instead of female, I was off the hook completely. Guys liked to feel appreciated too, right? Angelo must have seen the doubt on my face, because he sighed. “Look, man, I’ll prove it.” He turned around to call across the store. “Zach?”
Zach looked up from his computer. “What?”
“You know today’s Valentine’s Day?”
Zach stared at us blankly for a second, looking completely shell-shocked. “No.”
“Did you buy me anything?”
Zach’s cheeks actually started to turn red. He didn’t blush often, but Angelo’s question obviously made him uncomfortable. “Um… no.”
“Good. I didn’t get you anything either.”
The relief on Zach’s face was almost laughable. “Thank God,” he said as he turned back to his computer. “Jesus, Ang, don’t scare me like that.”
Angelo turned back to me, grinning in that smartass way he had that was probably endearing when you weren’t the one it was aimed at. “See?”
“Fine,” I said. “But I still want to do something for him.”
“So give him a blow job.”
(My poor husband probably won’t even get that much.)
Putting Out Fires is a tiny little Valentine’s Day short story that’s available only from Dreamspinner Press. Go here.
And have a great day!