Cool Down

Originally published in The Weekly Knob

The man sat at the table in the small cabin and wiped the sweat from his brow. He stared at the expensive communication radio on the table and turned the frequency knob left and right, listening to the static flicker.

“Will you stop that?” said the woman, who was sitting on the couch fanning herself.
“Not much else to do,” the man shrugged.
“Of the limited options we have to choose from, choose something that doesn’t make an annoying noise. Put it back to the right frequency. Now, please.”

The man sighed and tuned the radio back to the frequency marked with a notch on the dial. He wiped his forehead again. A slow breeze blew through the screened windows and made a light whistling sound.
“Do you think I can go outside?” he asked.
“No.”
“It’ll be for a minute. I want to walk to the Ebro and dip my feet in the water.”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“I tell you every day, no leaving. We aren’t allowed to leave,” the woman wiped the sweat off the back of her neck.
“I know we can’t, I heard the instructions too, but they won’t even know if I go for a minute.”
“They’ll know.”
“How?”
“They just do. It’s their job. They’ve probably got this place bugged.”
“This little cabin all the way out here?”
“I don’t know how these people operate. All I know is we have to follow every instruction to the letter and that means no going outside. We have to stay here for two more weeks and we’ll be taken to our next assignments,” she said.

The man stood up and walked over towards the door.
“Hey, I told you, no leaving.”
“What’re you going to do?”
“I’ll call them.”
“You wouldn’t.”
“I would. I’m telling you.”
“Liar,” the man said as he opened the door. The hot, humid air poured into the cabin.
The woman jumped up from the couch and dashed over to the table and grabbed the microphone on the radio, “Don’t push me.”

The man stared at the woman, and the woman stared back. Stalemate. The man closed the door slowly without breaking eye contact with the woman. She slowly lowered the microphone.
“You’d better listen to me. I’ve been doing this for a while longer than you have,” she said.
“I know. I get it, you’re more experienced. You’ve been on cool downs before.”
“You let in a fly,” she said.
“Just because you’re more experienced doesn’t mean you’re immune to boredom.”
“You let in a fly.”
“I hate when you talk down to me.”
“You let in a fly.”
“So get the fly swatter.”
The fly buzzed around the man’s head as he waved his hand at it. “What are you waiting for?”
“Where did you put it?”
“The swatter? I don’t know, you had it last,” he smirked.
“What are you smiling for? You let this in to bug me.”
“How would I know the fly would come in?”
“You didn’t have to open the door.”
“I wanted to go outside.”
“You could have done literally anything else,” she said, opening the drawers in the kitchen.
“Like what?”
“Splash water on your face if you’re so hot.”
“I wanted my feet wet.”
“Then you could have dipped your feet in the tub.”
“It’s not the same as outside. All I wanted was a touch of freedom.”
“Not with this organization. You get no freedom.”
“I don’t need you to yell at me, I’m sorry about the fly.”
“How about you just shut up and help me look for this fly swatter?”

The man sighed and began looking in the other drawers in the kitchen.
“I already looked in those,” the woman said.
“Maybe you missed it.”
“Are you calling me stupid?”
“How am I calling you stupid?”
“It’s dripping off everything you say. I know you think I’m stupid.”
“Are we really doing this?”
“Just admit it,” she said, moving to the sitting area. She looked in the drawers of the coffee table, “You think I’m stupid and underqualified and I can’t do my job which is why I’ve been on multiple cool downs. I know what you’re doing when you ask me questions.”
“You’re really starting this? You even said we only have a few more days.”
“I said we have two weeks. You never listen,” she swatted at the fly.
“What do you mean I never listen? I didn’t go outside. I turned the radio back. I listen all the time. It’s all I do, listen,” he said, walking to the bedroom. The woman followed him in.
“You listen now because I had to practically yell at you. You don’t even care about me, or us at all.”
“Oh, is that what this is about now? I told you that — where the hell is that fly swatter? Did you check the sitting area?” he asked.
“Yes.”
“I told you I didn’t want to get involved with anyone from work. Specifically, this line of work.” He wiped the sweat off the back of his neck.
“Well with the way you’ve been acting this entire time, I definitely feel stupid for even thinking you were a decent person.”

The man walked out of the room and sat down on the couch, and the woman walked into the kitchen and began looking through other cupboards for the fly swatter. “I’m a decent person, I’m just so bored here. This entire experience has been miserable.”
“Yeah, and being with you makes me miserable,” she muttered.
“At least I’m not insecure about every single aspect of myself,” the man said.

The woman pulled out a glass from the cupboard and threw it right at the man’s head. He ducked and the glass shattered against the wall behind him. Glass fell behind the couch. They both stared at each other, wide-eyed.
“This went too far,” the woman said quietly.
The man nodded. He got down on his hands and knees and began picking up glass off the floor under the couch. The woman came over to help. A smile crept across the man’s face as he chuckled.
“What’s funny?” the woman asked.
“I found the fly swatter,” the man said as he pulled the black swatter out from behind the couch.
“How did it get back there?” the woman also chuckled.
“No clue.”
“You want to get the fly?” she asked.
“You go for it. I’ll clean this up.”