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Best Laid Plans . . .

A short story by Harvey Grund

Oscar Ramirez smashed another spent cigarette, his third in the past hour, into the overflowing ashtray on the kitchen counter. Grey curlicues of smoke from this last contribution, hanging in the air all around him, went unnoticed. His mind was far too cluttered this evening to worry about the tongue lashing he would get, for smoking in the house, as soon as Tony stepped in from the garage.

If, that is, Tony came home at all this evening. The argument this morning had been brutal and had culminated in a literal slap to Tony's beautiful, tanned-by-God cheek. A slap that, to Oscar's disappointment, was not returned or responded to in any significant way. Tony's only reaction was his arrogant, I can control MYself smirk, and a rapid exit through the garage door.

Oscar was being a "bitch!" He not only admitted it, he was working hard at it.

For the last month the type of scene that played out this morning, always skillfully instigated by Oscar, had become an almost daily staple in the Chulati-Ramirez household. It was the only way Oscar could think of to get himself kicked out of Tony's life. He loved Tony far too much for the truth. But it seemed now, this evening, the truth would have to come out. Events had transpired and promises and commitments had been made. Oscar could only hope that at the end of this evening the last thing he would see was the contemptuous smirk. If he saw the other look, Tony's hurt look, Oscar was certain his resolve would shatter like an earthenware crock dropped on the kitchen floor.

A car turning into the gravel driveway snapped Oscar out of his reverie and, without even thinking about what he was doing, he threw open the kitchen window and tried to fan the still resident smoke out of the window. The clank of the overhead garage door starting to open coincided with the chunk of the kitchen window slamming closed as Oscar realized that this was what he wanted - a fight - and a fight over a smokey kitchen was as good, for his purposes, as any.

Seconds later, Tony literally exploded into the room, his Armani suitcoat flew onto the kitchen table and he rushed over toward Oscar.

Oscar braced himself against the attack. Thoughts flew through his mind at computer speed: 'He must have found out somehow, but how could he?' 'He had someone watching me, reporting to him where I went, what I did, God forbid, who I did it with.'. 'He's going to kill me - literally kill me!' 'But he's smiling. His hands and arms are open.' 'Is he happy to get rid of me? Maybe the smile is a phony. He's so good at hiding his real feelings. When he gets close enough to me the smile will go away and he's going to beat the shit out of me.'

Tony grabbed Oscar in a bear hug and easily lifted him off the floor. He spun himself around twice and set Oscar back down where he found him. The smile was still there, larger than life, he looked like a Mediterranean version of Lewis Carroll's Cheshire cat.

"Oscar," he crooned the name more than saying it, and placed one large hand on each of Oscar's delicate upper arms, holding him at arms length like you would a child you were about to scold or praise, "something wonderful!"

Oscar couldn't help himself - his heart melted, first at the physical contact then at the sound of his name rolling from that tongue, that mouth.

"You certainly seem happy!" Oscar understated. "What did you do, win the Lottery?"

"Yes!" Tony almost shrieked the word. "Yes love, I did . . . WE did! We won $20,000,000 dollars." The words started rushing out now. "In last nights drawing, remember I went at the last minute down to Rosatti's Quick Mart and got a ticket. And that's what's so amazing, I only bought one ticket. Millions of people buy bunches of tickets every night and I did it with just one ticket. This must be a sign. God must be sending a message. 'Tony, he must be saying, you're not a bad guy . . . for a faggot, so here's some money to make yourself happy and to make your family happy, and to make your lover Oscar happy, and don't forget to give some to Father Carlucci down at St. Pats.' God, Oscar, do you realize what this means? We can quit our jobs, we can go anywhere, we can do almost anything. Oscar! Oscar? What's wrong, you look like you're out in geosynchronous orbit somewhere."

'We won $20,000,000 dollars,' that was all Oscar heard. Perhaps all he needed to hear. His thoughts once again overwhelmed him, leaving him, if only for seconds, unaware of his surroundings: 'WE won,' he said. He didn't say 'I won' he said 'WE.' My God this beautiful, beautiful man loves me so much he'll share this fortune. Share it with ME, after I've been such a bitch. And I was going to throw him over for . . . for a woman! What was I thinking? I have to find her tomorrow, tonight, and tell her its over . . . no! No I don't have to ever see her again. So what if the deposit is paid on the apartment. They can keep the deposit - she can keep the apartment. I know this will hurt her, especially after this afternoon. 'The first day of the rest of our lives' she called it. How corny can you get. Sorry Maria, I got a life here with Tony. My Tony who loves me so much . . .Tony!

"Tony!" Oscar smiled his most sincere smile. "I'm so happy!"

(c) Harvey Grund, 8/30/98