They leered at each other like a standoff between two gunslingers waiting for the other to make the first move — Edwin knew he’d have to pull the trigger first. He brooded behind his 1950s Hermes Baby typewriter with the clattering of dishes in the next room. The blank paper was a frequent visitor in their quaint apartment. Then like a flash, an idea sparked — his fingers twitched on the keyboard. “Ed, a little help might be nice,” barked Elizabeth from the kitchen.
“I’d love to, honey, but I’m working.”
A dish crashed to the floor. He groaned and ambled a few steps to find Elizabeth slumped on her knees sweeping glass into a trash bin. She glared at him. “Ed, things have to change around here. I work all day trying to find houses for people who can’t afford them then come home to cook and clean and wash your dirty underwear.”
“You want me to wash my underwear?”
Elizabeth glanced at the butcher block within arms reach. “You need to get a job.”
Edwin rocked back on his feet — away from the butcher block. “I have a job.”
“One that earns money,” she said.
“All I need is one good novel.”
She wiped her hands with a towel and twisted it out of its misery. “It’s been five-years, Ed, and you have produced nothing.”
Her words shot through his heart like an arrow. Seized by the wound, Edwin shuffled toward his desk in the living room and glanced at the blank paper. “I’ll tell you what, Elizabeth, give me two more years to get published. If I can’t do it, I promise to find work.”
“One year.” she said, “and you help with the housework.”
He cringed and nodded with reluctance, “Okay, deal.”
The pressure was on.
Perched at his pint-sized desk stuffed in the corner, he gazed at the framed photo of John Steinbeck propped on his desk. “Come on, John, help me out here.”
Several hours later, the trash bin overflowed with paper balls of paltry writing. Edwin’s queue to call it a night.
The smell of sizzling bacon and pancakes wafted from the kitchen. Edwin peeked around the corner and found Elizabeth nibbling on an IHOP style breakfast at the dining table. They hadn’t spoken since the previous night and he knew he had to think of something to do to make her happy. He prepared his plate and joined her. “You’re not working today?”
Elizabeth shrugged, “I don’t have any appointments.”
Edwin set his coffee cup down, “How d'you like to go antique hunting today?”
“My friends are working.”
He took a small bite of toast and mumbled, “I mean, with me.” He couldn’t believe he’d just said that.
Elizabeth choked on her coffee. “You? You hate that kind of stuff. You should be writing, or are you conceding already?”
She was right, he should be writing. Instead, with no hesitation, he said, “I think it would be nice to spend the day together like we used to. Besides, it’ll be nice to get away for a while.”
“While I get ready to go, will you do the dishes?”
He cleared his throat. “Sure, Honey.”
Edwin found a parking space in front of the antique store and fed the meter with a few quarters — perfect, a timer.
Elizabeth pushed the glass door open and bells jingled. She wasted no time and marched straight to displays of various antique knick-knacks. Edwin meandered through the store eyeing the mishmash of objects scattered around with no sense of display organization — perhaps there’d be a good story here somewhere. He picked up a teapot and acted like he was interested. “Is there something I can help you find?” a cute elderly woman said from behind him.
He turned and faced her. “How much is this?”
She told him the history and how it passed down from generation to generation. She showed the engravings and how it came into her grandfather’s possession. “That’s all interesting, but how much is it?”
“It’s hard to put a value on such an item, but for you, fifty should do it.”
Edwin cleared his throat and replaced it on the shelf. “We already have a teapot.”
The woman showed Joseph to other items he found useless and explained stories for each. The shop had an array of various items so he took a chance and asked if she had something owned by John Steinbeck.
The woman leered at the ceiling and rubbed her chin. “Follow me.”
Edwin’s eyes widened — here we go.
The woman hoisted a Hermes Baby typewriter from an old school desk and handed it to him. Steinbeck’s typewriter was at San Jose State University. She’d be full of crap if she told him otherwise. “Just set it down there,” she said and pointed to another table. The woman crouched on her hands and knees and reached under the school desk. “Got it,” she said and held out an unraveling, dusty, and tired wicker basket.
“We’ve had this wicker basket so long, I forgot we even had it,” she said. “This is an item Mr. Steinbeck gave my uncle. My uncle couldn’t find a use for it, so he gave it to me to sell.”
“Your uncle knew him?”
“They were neighbors before Mr. Steinbeck became really famous.”
Edwin turned it arou...