I stand at the bedroom window, my fingernails digging into the window sill and worry about Gregg’s prized Ferrari because there’s a bull—big and black and threatening like a bull is supposed to look—outside near the detached garage in the too-bright glare of the security lights. Sometimes the bull gallops back and forth across the lawn, tossing its great head, scaring me with its horns, other times it just chews its cud, waiting. I first noticed the bull last night when I couldn’t sleep. Gregg was snoring as he usually does, his exhalations and inhalations Hoovering up the carpet and the roof and the walls. It felt like I was in an earthquake, everything rumbling and the ground undulating beneath me, making me dizzy and lightheaded and shaking me out of bed. I steadied myself against the dresser I hadn’t wanted, the one Gregg insisted we buy because he says his taste is better than mine. That’s when I first saw the bull.
Gregg keeps his cherry-red Ferrari in the detached garage. He only drives it during the summer, so he has limited insurance on it for the rest of the year. I’m not allowed to go into the garage or near it. Gregg says the garage is the inner sanctum, the “holy of holies.” I park my car (a Ford, which Gregg insists stands for Found On Road Dead) on the street as if I’m only here for a short visit.
I watch the bull out the back kitchen window as I make chamomile tea to wash down a couple of melatonin tablets. I mean, it’s not doing anything, really, just being a bull. But still. I wonder if I should tell Gregg. He’ll probably just say that he doesn’t see anything, or if he does see it, he’ll say that it’s my fault, that I’m the one endangering his Ferrari, that there was no bull in his backyard before I came.
The night before I first saw the bull Gregg had told me that I didn’t dress sexy enough, so I think about where I can go to find sexier clothes as I sip my tea. I don’t want to spend too much: Gregg will have something to say about that as well. When I was younger people used to say I dressed too sexy. They were always commenting on the neckline of my shirt, the length of my skirt or how it clung to the contours of my ass. I thought once I said “I do” I wouldn’t have to deal with that bullshit anymore. Marriage would cloak me in the most respectable of garments: virgin white, dove gray, pale pink; refined, reserved, delicate. Something classic. Something worth cherishing. Now it turns out I’m not sexy enough.
I’m wearing the new dress I bought and we are going out to dinner. I like the dress, form-fitting, black and sleek, sleeveless. It does make me feel sexier. I found it at a consignment shop but I don’t tell Gregg that. We pull up to a ridiculously expensive restaurant, one of those lauded places where they pile your food up in the middle of the plate in some sort of design and you’re not really sure what it is or if you want to eat it, but it looks stylish. Gregg likes these kinds of restaurants. I remember how he took me to a ritzy steakhouse when we first started dating and I ordered my steak well done. He said that he’d be taking me to Western Sizzler from then on. I’d laughed.
Gregg parks the Ferrari himself because he never trusts valets and I walk into the restaurant to wait for him. When he returns, later than what it should have taken, he seems flustered and snaps at me for no reason. I want to order the filet—I love filet mignon—but don’t because now that I’m wearing sexier clothes I really should lose ten pounds. Perhaps this was what this was about all along; Gregg wants me to lose ten pounds but didn’t want to come right out and say it. I eat my thin soup, making sure to sit up straight and lift my spoon correctly. I imagine I’m a movie star filming a scene of a woman dining alone.
As we leave the restaurant, a man looks at me appreciatively and I almost smile, but then Gregg blurts out, “Take a picture, it’ll last longer!” so I don’t. He stalks off to get the Ferrari and then we’re home and he’s asleep and snoring and I’m awake at the kitchen window again, sipping chamomile tea and looking at the bull. I don’t like my tea without sugar but I’m drinking it unsweetened because I’ve got to lose those ten pounds and maybe it’s thinking about all the little things I love that I have to give up—like sugar in my tea—that drives me outside into the backyard.
The bull is still near the detached garage, but the Ferrari is locked away and safe. I, however, am in my dorm shirt and slippers with a cup of bitter tea and a bull on the lawn. Greg had promised he’d keep me safe. Long nights we’d spent talking when we were dating until I’d spilled everything: my childhood, the poverty, the abuse, the abandonment, my fears and he’d made me the promise. One night, when we’d been dating for a year, when I was sure he was “The One” he’d said, “You know, I really can’t understand what you’ve been through. I’ve always had a good and happy life,” and I was stunned how intense the hatred was that I felt for him for a moment.
The bull is pacing back and forth across the yard, tense. I watch the powerful muscles bunch and undulate beneath the glossy black hide, the massive penis bobbing and the heavy scrotum swinging low. Looking at it I am fascinated and disgusted at the same time. I think about giving the bull a name. After all, he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere now that he’s taken residence in the backyard. I try out different names in my head, but I can’t settle on one. Some of the names are too dark, terrifying; others so light and inconsequential they might float away into the starry night sky. I lose myself in a waking dream about dancing in a field of wildflowers, weaving a garland of blossoms and draping them around the bull’s horns. The end of the garland in one hand is comprised of beautiful spring flowers, bright and lush; the other end turns black and wilts as I hold it and I wonder how one thing can be two different things at once.
On the grass, here and there, I notice black spots. Then it dawns on me what it is. Cow patties! I stifle a giggle and steal a sideways glance at the neighbors’ houses. All their windows are dark. Whew! Gregg would blow a gasket if he knew. A friend—he was my friend, what happened to him?—used to joke that Gregg spent his spare time lying on his stomach on the lawn with a ruler and a pair of manicure scissors and he wasn’t far wrong (Really, what happened to him? My friend? He used to make me laugh). I run into the house to get a garbage bag, a gardening trowel and some rubber gloves. I clean up as much of it as I can until my back starts to hurt, but I worry that Gregg will see spots where the dung was fresh and stuck to blades of grass, particularly near the detached garage where the Ferrari is stored.
The bull remains by the garage, thoughtfully chewing its cud, watching me frantically pick up its shit in the moonlight. Then it tosses its head from side to side, snorts, and disappears behind the garage. Standing in the backyard in my dorm shirt, my favorite slippers I’ll have to throw away and orange rubber gloves now brown with shit, I can’t help but feel the bull disapproves of me and it makes me disapprove of myself.
The next morning I cook Gregg his favorite breakfast—bacon and eggs—because he has an early golf game. I read somewhere that bacon and eggs used to be considered a king’s breakfast because, at the time, only royalty could afford to have meat for breakfast every day. I imagine Gregg sitting in the sunny breakfast nook, an ermine robe casually tossed over his sloping shoulders, a golden crown cocked precariously on his bald head. I stand propped against the kitchen counter and have only black coffee myself, though I like it pale with cream and lots of sugar. Gregg will take his truck to the golf course; he wouldn’t dream of stuffing a bag of golf clubs in his Ferrari, so I don’t worry about him seeing the shit stains that remain on the grass. Gregg loves golf and talks about it all the time. I don’t understand the game, but that may be because I’ve never played. Whenever I’ve tried to learn about it I always think about the old George Carlin joke that all golf courses should be used for housing the homeless.
When we were dating Gregg had relished telling me about one golf game he attended where someone had hired strippers who passed out beer naked and turned cartwheels for tips. I didn’t let it show but I’d been appalled by the story. I thought that people who could afford to play golf had more class and valued women and I wondered why Greg had even told me about it in the first place. I imagined the girls tumbling forever end-over-end across the greens like blow-up sex dolls caught in a gale and asked Gregg why he had participated. He said that’s what those girls were there for and that they had been doing them a favor, saving them, really, because the girls needed the money.
After Gregg leaves, I clear away the breakfast dishes and go through the motions of washing them: lift, wipe, rinse, dry, put away, repeat. Simple routine for simple dishes. In the dining room we keep our wedding china in a lighted glass display cabinet. Gregg had let me pick out the pattern, but only with his approval. We finally settled on one exquisite pattern, almost too beautiful to eat off, so we didn’t.
Outside in the backyard there are more cow patties dotting the lawn like the round part of exclamation points. The bull is closer now, standing near the sourwood tree and the cherry tree halfway between the garage and the house; pawing the ground, his eyes bloodshot and wild. Watching. Waiting. I press my whole body against the kitchen window, willing the bull closer, daring it closer; my heart revving, wheels spinning, red blood pumping, pulse racing, feeling myself open, drawing it into me, but the glass keeps me safe.
Helena Baptiste is an aspiring writer whose work has been featured in The Weeklings and Aforementioned Productions. She is currently working on a young adult series.
photo by Mrdidg (via pixabay)