Larry squinted at the clock behind the bed until the numbers came into focus. 7:00. His first inclination was to pop out of bed using his stomach muscles. Not this morning. He could swear a Sumo wrestler perched on his abdomen. He rolled to his side, onto his sore right shoulder, and let his legs, first one and then the other, drop to the floor. An "aaaauugh" slipped past his lips.
"What's wrong?" his wife asked, in a voice full of sleep.
"Nothing. I just ache this morning."
Becky, normally caring and affectionate, offered neither concern nor affection.
"You played racquetball yesterday," she said. "When are you going to admit you're not a kid anymore?"
"Stop it. I'm fine." He sat on the edge of the bed, hesitating a moment, fearing his legs might balk at supporting his weight.
Becky reached across the bed and slapped him on the behind as he rose, his knees complaining, his joints snapping. "Take two Tylenol."
"Yeah, yeah," he growled. His ankles refused to bend, so he began a flat-footed shuffle to the bathroom.
"I have no pity for you," she called out.
He felt a dull pain in the back of his left leg and recalled how Tom had swung hard at a ball off the back wall and hit him just below his ass. He assumed a purplish bruise tattooed his flesh.
He wished he hadn't played the fourth game. But he had won two of the first three and the unwritten guy rule required him to offer his opponent a chance to even it up. Tom, damn him, should have had the decency to accept defeat. But, no! What a competitive sonuvabitch.
While searching the medicine cabinet for Extra Strength Tylenol, he recalled with satisfaction how he had won the last game 21 to 19. When he tied it at 19, he could have stopped—Tom could barely breathe—but he pushed himself and took the final two points. That'll teach Tom for being so competitive.
The stiffness in his back subsided a bit and enough flexibility returned to his ankles for him to trudge back to the bedroom, feeling a little more like himself. The morning air warmed the room and he wanted to remove his T-Shirt. But he grimaced at the thought of raising his arms.
Becky shook her head. "Why do you do this to yourself?"
"The same reason you wore heels to the Obermans' party the other night, and went to the chiropractor the next day."
"Don't start with that again."
He wanted to lean over and kiss the woman he'd loved for almost forty years, but feared his back wouldn't allow it.
BIO: Wayne Scheer has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. He's published hundreds of stories, poems and essays in print and online, including Revealing Moments, a collection of flash stories, published by Thumbscrews Press, (http://issuu.com/pearnoir/docs/revealing_moments.) Wayne lives in Atlanta with his wife and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.