A fiction short story by Karen Coleman
Standing in front of the bedroom mirror, Paulie checked the pin on his name tag, then reached up and smoothed-out the dirty curling band-aid on his bald head.
“Paulie! Paulie! You got your undershirt on?” she yelled from the kitchen over the blaring radio.
Paulie let his fingernail pick the edges of the scab under the band-aid. Looking closer at his image, he mumbled through clenched teeth,“My name is Paul.”
“PAULIE! Undershirt!” she yapped. “You know what Ma says about your pit stains.”
“I’m wearing it! Shut up!” he barked back, as his thick fingers struggled with his top button.
The sticky linoleum clicked under his shoes, as he stepped into the tiny kitchen. Rita had been frying smelts again and the smell made Paulie queasy and hungry at the same time. He reached up, smoothed-out the band-aid on his bald head, and lifted the scab just a little, then reminded himself to stop picking. He did not want any blood this morning.
“Paulie! Turn it up, Tom Jones, hurry up!” she ordered from the kitchen table, pressing her fingers on the crumbs that had dropped on the plastic flower-print tablecloth, and sucking them into her mouth.
Paulie stood behind her, staring into her unwashed Aquanet hair, and said, “Don’t call me Paulie. My name is PAUL!”
“Tom Jones! Turn it up Paulie! It’s Delilah. Hurry up! Jesus Christ Paulie you’re so slow! ” She fanned her thin house dress, “It’s so goddamn hot in here. I’m sweatin’ like a pig! Turn…it…up Paulie!”
“Paul, Paul, Paul, my name is Paul.” His eyes watered as he reached on top of the Frigidaire and spun the volume button all the way up on the dusty radio.
She smiled at him with a mouthful and sang along, “My my my Delilah….why why why Delilah…your undershirt on Paulie? You don’t look like you got it on. You know Paulie, it’s low-class if you ain’t got no undershirt on.”
Paulie squeezed his eyes shut and reached up to smooth-out the band-aid on his head, stopping to pick the edge of the scab some more.
“Don’t pick that thing Paulie, for Christ-sake, your brains gonna come outa there!”
His eyes burst open and he bent over, pointing at his nametag, and yelled in her face, “MY NAME IS PAUL!”
Rita pushed his face hard with her open hand. “Get outa my face Paulie! What’s a matter with you? Get outa here! Go to your important job, countin’ the seats at the movie theater…1, 2, 3…real hard, real Einstein you are Paulie!”
“PAUL! MY NAME IS PAUL!” Starting to cry, he rubbed his forehead and began to rock back and forth.
Rita screamed, “You’re sick-in-the-head you know Paulie! Ma always said so and she was right. Paulie is sick-in-the-head! Such a cry-baby all the time.” She reached for her cigarettes.
The kitchen phone started ringing. With her unlit cigarette clenched in her lips, Rita said, “You gonna answer that? THIS IS PAULIE, OH, I MEAN ‘PAUL,’ sick-in-the-head PAUL.” She lit her smoke and blew it at his face.
He grabbed the heavy receiver and smashed it down on her head. Her bloody head hit the table and she moaned, “Paauulie.”
Tears streamed down his face. “My name is PAUL!” he said as he tightened the telephone cord, wrapping and squeezing it around her fat, greasy neck.
Tom Jones bellowed,
“My my my Delilah…
Why why why Delilah
So before, they come to break down the door
Forgive me Delilah I just couldn’t take any more
Forgive me Delilah I JUST COULDN’T TAKE ANY MOOOOOORE!”