The Usual Complaints


f_bolivar_icon.gif f_kayla_icon.gif

Scene Title The Usual Complaints
Synopsis Bolivar and Kayla bicker and complain about all the usual things, a few new things, and generally go about shopping in their customary fashion.
Date April 12, 2019

Pick a supermarket. Any one. They're all much alike.

"I thought the organic revolution started eleven years ago," Bolivar tells the row of tomatoes.

Naturally, the tomatoes do not appear perturbed by his fighting words, huddling for strength in numbers behind gleaming armor of ridged and perforated plastic. Their green tops bristle at him peevishly. The burnt man stares down at them, equally unimpressed by the bold-weight, sans-serif declarations of ongoing change and edification across their tops. "If they haven't fucking won at this point, you'd think they should have given up by now."

He is not actually talking to the produce, of course. That would be crazier than Jason Bolivar Rodriguez-Smith has been in— a long time. You can't talk to tomatoes. He's talking to his dog, actually, the fine lady with her cosseted spaniel curls, waiting at his ankle. Realizing she is being spoken to, Logan Rose peers up at her master, then at the tomatoes in question. They are in a super market. The organic section.

"Maybe it doesn't matter to you," he says, scratching his flame-ravaged ear with blunt nails. "Carnivorous harpy." Rose blinks. The tomatoes are baleful. The hum of refrigeration and bright white fluorescent lights sounds fretful in the stalemate. "But with the sale, there's only a twenty cent difference and the hippie health benefits might be worth that. I dunno. Which ones do you think she'll like?"

This sort of thing happens every time Kayla decides the time is ripe for a departure from some habitual staple. In this case, she's gotten sick of basil Prego right out of the bottle so they are going to try something from scratch; an endeavor which Bolivar was initially encouraging of, but doubts assail him now, confronted by miniature annoyances.

The rubric by which Kayla makes her final decisions in food purchases is simple… at least to her. Bolivar can be excused for not having figured it out by now; the interface between health-conscious nurse, it-doesn't-matter-because-I'll-fix-it-anyway healer, and why-should-I-pay-extra-for-that ex-refugee isn't smooth or regular in any dimension.

The shopping cart clatters across uneven tiles; Kayla tuned it out a while ago and so doesn't complain about it this time. She did that earlier. Bolivar's contemplation of tomatoes earns him a slight frown; you're still here why? The woman looks at one pile of tomatoes; looks at the other. Picks one up and tosses it casually to her housemate. "That one," Kayla declares. The healer and refugee outnumber the nurse today; twenty cents wins over organic. This time. Never mind that she makes more money than she ever bothers to spend; old habits die hard.

"I don't suppose you got the mushrooms yet."

The shopping cart is very annoying, to be fair. Her complaining had met commiseration. Granted, it was either commiseration or commensurately cranky rebuke, but as long as he had options it is probably of some sort of importance that Bolivar chose to ally himself against old mortar and rust-rickety wheels.

He can hear her coming from three hundred million miles away. The wheels are less than half of it.

"They had different kinds of portobello," he responds, somewhat defensive. His boots squeak the floor as he falls into step behind her and her mad little engine of already-selected groceries. "Black gills, gray gills, and brown gills. And they were all fucking different sizes, but the same price per ounce, and there was some moron twenty-year-old Samaritan who was going to look it up in Wikipedia for me on a Palm Pilot. I don't understand why we're doing this.

"Neither of us know anything about cooking-cooking." 'Cooking-cooking,' as opposed to 'cooking'; distinction made primarily by fourteen-year-olds. Nevertheless, he grudgingly admits to having acquired: "The spices."

His left hand straightens out sideways, deposits the baggies into the children's seat of the shopping cart. Bolivar also rips a plastic bag free and peels it wide for the accumulation of tomatoes.

Kayla drops tomatoes into the proffered bag with nothing resembling care; they're going to get cooked down into mush anyway, right? Cranky rebukes are more than fine by her measure; it's how they interact, after all. "I should probably be offended by that remark," she points out acerbicly, "given that you ought to know better by now.

"I do too know something." The bag is taken from Bolivar, its length twisted closed, green-papered twist-tie summarily wrenched around the bundled plastic and the whole thing dropped in with the spices. The cart clatters down towards the aforementioned mushrooms, which Kayla eyes just like she did the tomatoes. She doesn't know anything much about mushrooms. Indecision, however, isn't really her style. "We'll get those." Why? Because. That's why.

The beleaguered tomatoes are placed in the cart between milk and cereal and oatmeal and tiny marshmallows that are supposed to make their remaining hot cocoa appealing enough to finish all of it off before summer gets here and makes hot cocoa undrinkable. Bolivar ushers the dog along. Both trail after Kayla with what passes for neutral expressions on their faces.

Given it is Bolivar and Rosie, 'neutral' isn't very. Rosie still looks like she got into the soda pop teeth first, Bolivar sort of hungover. Or burnt. Neither is particularly relevant. He does know better: she knows something about cooking-cooking. So does he. They are grown-ups. For real. Illustration of such maturity: no offense taken.

He feels dully sympathetic toward the mushrooms. Wait until they see the cleaver she bought last week.

"Suddenly the Martha Stewart impression," he says, dropping his attention back into the shopping cart. His scarred hand paws around until he locates the spinach bags, verifies that the appropriate quantity is there. "Pete not giving you enough work?"

Everyone else can be forgiven for not figuring out what they know well; the fact that they can bicker casually with one another plays no small part in why these two survive living together. Or they could be forgiven — if either was inclined to care enough about everyone else. There's only a few who matter.

"Giving me enough work?" Kayla rolls her eyes to the ceiling, shoves the cart inelegantly along down the aisle. Any grace in her own motion is neatly canceled out by attitude. "I'd like to see you try and manage my work for a day." Except not because that would just be weird. And she'd have to deal with everything he did wrong later.

The woman snorts. "If you keep complaining I'll make you eat nothing but rice and lima beans all week. Rose and I will eat the spaghetti. I'm sure she would appreciate it." Cue instant interjection, as they walk down the aisle of chips and crackers; business intruding upon companionable arguments. "What crackers do you want this week?"

"Animal ones," Bolivar responds. Importantly, he adds, "I don't understand why they don't give the monkeys pants anymore.

"Saltines and oyster ones to go with the chowder." They have like three million cans of various kinds of chowders. While they do not know very much about mushrooms, the canned stuff does them okay most of the time. Which sort of goes back into why they couuuuld have just stuck with Prego, but—

They've been over this. "Don't complain about my complaining!" he says, in imperative terms that he does not particularly expect to support his case. "You complain when you're cooking anything with a time-consuming recipe. Because you're bored, and that makes sense anyway: why should you spend money and energy and time to be bored? Best answer—

"You shouldn't.

"And pasta will make Rose even fatter." Bolivar finds the animal crackers first. His favorite brand. Somewhat sweetened, but not very. Coincidentally, they are also Logan Rose's favorite brand and probably why she has started getting rather chubby as of late; her metabolism is not what it used to be. Never you mind about all that. The spinach and chickpeas are ingredients for the cure. "Anyway, what the fuck happened last week with the thing?"

She'd missed the Police Ball. Explained only a few monosyllables why, hastened out of the house with her dress discarded across the bed, much to his annoyance. Unbelievably, this vagueness is not a taunt, though doubtless the tiny elderly couple down the aisle is beating their hasty retreat because it sounds like one.

"I can damn well complain about your complaining if I want to, given that you're complaining about me," the healer promptly retorts. She can be just as imperative. There's no actual heat in it, of course; interpreting that is second-nature for Bolivar by now. She lets him pick out the animal crackers; grabs a box of ranch-infused Wheat Thins for herself.

"That's a pretty good way to put it," Kayla grumbles. "Peter — as fucking usual — lined up a bunch of things that needed to be done and managed to plant them all in the same timeframe. This is what happens when he agrees to everything without talking to me first — which you know he only does half the time; what does he think my job description is, anyway — and just who is the only person that can fill in for him on half of it without notice so that everything actually gets done?"

It actually takes two breaths to say all that; not bad at all. She's had lots of practice. Leaning on the cart handlebar, Kayla skips two aisles and moves to the next. Soups. They have lots of soup. Beans, though. Good in salads and casseroles.

Kayla's casseroles are really good, too. Bolivar tends to wind up jamming beans into Mex, most of the time, but however much complaining noise he makes, he doesn't really mind dipping his toe into the pool of other ethnic dishes. Lima beans and rice are another thing, really, but that is where his cunning ability to discern an empty threat from a honest anger comes in.

She didn't say 'Jason Bolivar, I will—!'

"Obviously I'm just looking out for you," as far as complaining about her complaining— about— his complaining goes. It isn't that convoluted if you blink a lot. "For a guy who can manipulate time, he still sucks at managing it," Bolivar remarks. "Well: at least nobody fucking got shot this time.

"You didn't miss much: the fiesta was pretty stupid, down to the fucking weird little random aviary of ice statues. I'm sure that was sympathy for a talentless artist who happens to be blowing Arthur on the side.

"There was some Evolved fistfight— dumb kid Varlane threw Phoenix's creepy old uncle out a window, and Gray was so drunk he was trying to make out with the curtain rings. Barrett from accounting was asking for you," he adds, blandly. He pokes through beans with his scarred hand. The ruin of skin grain makes scratching noises against the paper label. He steps back from the shelf to move objects around in the cart, making room for Kayla's next incoming armload.

"Problem is, his ability isn't manipulating time — it's empathy. People with empathy have a hard time saying no." She should know; she used to be one of them. Then she learned how to bury that impulse really really deeply and pretend it never existed in the first place. Pain does that.

Kayla picks out a few assorted cans of beans, plants them somewhere in the cart where they won't crash down on things. "Sounds like any other day in the office; why bother with the grand ball? Barrett can take his nitpicking and shove it. I don't care how much my attitude bothers him, the paperwork is always in order and on time; he can quit trying to find errors that don't exist. Which is all that's about, even if he won't actually come out and admit it ever."

The line of Bolivar's mouth wobbles up and down. The rest of his face manages to stay very still, which lends the whole expression the uncertain superficiality of a poorly crafted CGI doll. The scarring bracketing the left edge of his face twitches slightly with a spasmodic clench of his jaw.

"Actually," he says, with a very important and significant pause here, about as subtle as a sledgehammer taken to a gong. He lays the spinach bag down on top of the small platoon of bean cans with a crinkling of plastic. He tugs the spill of his coat panel back and steps around. "I'm pretty sure that isn't what his nitpicking is all about.

"I'll be sure to let him know next time that his caustic charm… isn't." Bolivar's eyebrows hike up his forehead briefly, philosophically, a shrug of his face. Closing a hand on the edge of the shopping cart's wire cage, he swivels them toward the coffee and tea aisle. How to phrase this?

"Isn't," he decides.

"Isn't," Kayla agrees firmly. And that's the end of that line of conversation right there — or she will 'Jason Bolivar' him. Probably dust off the full and complete surname, too. For added nonverbal emphasis, and also because they're nearly out, she drops a bag of rice in on top of his spinach.

If Jason Bolivar Rodriguez-Smith were to be approached aloud in such terms, then there would be a lima beans and rice week for sure. It is far better this way, without Barrett from accounting. He hates accountants anyway. He hates everybody. The sole exception being the one who just squished his spinach.

"What the fuck!" he says crossly, reaching down to pull his beleaguered vegetable packet out from underneath the corpulence of grain. "You probably crushed some fucking stems and bruised things. I'm going to switch this." He may still be a hero cop and sworn to serve and protect, but giving some civilian damaged vegetation to eat while he makes off with the crisp and whole stuff is a forgivable and extremely minor lapse into self-interest, surely.

Logan Rose's toes click enthusiastically in a tiny pretzel squiggle as she tries to figure out where exactly her master is turning off to. Over there, apparently. Her course straightens out, following obediently; she glances over her shoulder once, the whites of her eyes showing briefly as she strains to peer back at Kayla, sweeping her tail through the air, once, in salutation.

"Don't try the fucking weird coffees, okay?" Bolivar's voice emanates backward without looking. He is waving the spinach for no reason whatsoever; he knows perfectly well that Kayla isn't looking at him despite that she's listening. She's probably looking, however briefly, at the ceiling. "I'll meet you at checkout!"

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