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How to Pay the Bills #fiction

How to Pay the Bills
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John rubbed circles into his temples in a counter-clockwise pattern with one hand. With the other he ruffled the stack of papers on the secondhand table using stiff fingers. His breathing grew harder and his fingers more rigid, as though the stack might leap up and attack his face and he had to be prepared.

How would he ever pay these bills?

A snort came from the bed. His wife’s curled hair poked out from underneath the sheet. She gave another snort and rolled over, her foot popping out on the other side of the bed. His side of the bed.

Great. Now the sheets were going to be hot. At least something in their marriage still held heat.

He shuffled the papers and let them flop back on the table. One sheet shot over the edge and slipped somewhere underneath their faded couch.

Double great.

He knelt and peered under the couch. He cursed under his breath. Pure darkness. Where did the stupid thing go? He couldn’t turn on the lights because turning on more than a candle meant using more electricity, which meant spending more money—another luxury no longer affordable. He’d have to wait until tomorrow to find it.

His stomach tightened. Who was he? Could he even call himself a man if he couldn’t even provide for simple necessities? At least they had TP, even though it was single-ply.

The candle glow illuminated the bottle of pills on the table. He grabbed it and stared at the ingredients. Croscarmellose sodium. Polyethylene glycol. Acetaminophen.

His stomach tightened more and more until it cramped. Shadows moved behind the candle. They got through tight spots before, hadn’t they?

He stood slow, taking the half-melted candle in his other hand, and climbed into bed. He blew out the candle, and the light burned onto his eyelids a glowing ethereal halo.

The tightness in his stomach eased.

Somehow they would get through this. Maybe tomorrow would have answers.

He put down the bottle.

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