After a summer of camping trips all around California, Utah, and Nevada, the stuff on the shelves in the storage shed out back looked more like leftovers at a thrift store. Keefe Kegan, a born-again “neatnik,” decided to tackle the mess, but not wanting to do it himself, Keefe invited his wife Daira to participate in the fun event. “It’ll be fun,” he said. “Think of all the treasures we’ll find out there.”
“This is what I’m thinking,” Daira said as she stepped into the family room dressed in paint-stained jeans and a faded blue t-shirt. “I’ll help, but only is you turn off the game.”
“After one more play.”
“Nope.” She grabbed the remote from his right hand. “You’re the one who wanted to do the cleaning. I agreed only because you promised I’d be free to go shopping when we finished.” She turned off the television and opened the door to the back yard. “Come on. Times’ wasting.”
Keefe followed. She looks good even in her worst clothes, he thought as his eyes drifted down his wife’s well-built body.
“Where should we begin?” Daira’s eyes scanned the garage. From rafters to the floor, detritus took up space.
“Top down.” Keefe set up the ladder. He zipped up the rungs and opened the first box to inspect the contents. “Winter boots, gloves, hats.”
“Nope. Don’t want them.”
Keefe held one up. “This is our wedding book. Shouldn’t we keep it?”
“You can if you want.”
“Okay,” he said as he placed it back in the box. “How about baby clothes? Why in the heck do we have them anyway? We don’t have any kids.”
“Remember when we thought I was pregnant? There was a baby shower.” Daira whispered. “Give them away.”
Keefe scooted the box to one side. “Maybe you’ll get pregnant again. Better keep them.”
Daira wiped tears from her eyes. “Whatever.”
And so the day went. One box after another, one pile gone, another kept. Keefe parted with some camping gear that he hadn’t used in years, some old fishing poles of his dad’s, and a down jacket that no longer fit. Daira got rid of clothes that were out of style, a carton of garish dishes her mother thought Daria might like, and some paintings that she started in her teen years, but never finished.
By late afternoon, they were filthy with dust, drenched in sweat and exhausted, but the garage was back to its pre-summer state. They washed their hands in the garage sink.
“What should we do about dinner?” Keefe asked.
“I’ll get the phone while you figure out dinner,” Daira said as the garage door creaked shut.
“Sure.” Keefe brushed his dust-covered hands on his jeans and then his fingers through his hair, removing leaves and dirt that had fallen.
“It’s for you,” Daira handed him the phone as he entered the house.
“Who is it?”
While Keefe talked to his friend, Daira searched through the freezer and pulled out some hamburgers and buns. Keefe would barbeque them later. Just as she began shucking an ear of corn, Keefe returned.
“Elias is starting a limo business. He’s out front with one he says is a good deal. He wants us to check it out.”
“Is he looking for money?”
“Probably. What do you think?”
“I’m dirty and tired,” she said as she leaned against the sink. “You go.”
“Just a minute.” Keefe’s forehead wrinkled as he listened to Elias. Daira heard blah, blah, blah, straight from a children’s cartoon. “He says he values your opinion. He doesn’t care what you look like.”
Daira learned long ago that Elias was as tenacious as a shark, so there was no point in arguing. She took off toward the front door, wriggling her fingers in a “let’s go” sign at her husband.
As Keefe passed the computer desk, he dropped the phone in its cradle.
In front of the house sat a bright red stretch limo. Elias stood beside an open door dressed in a chauffeur’s uniform. Giggling like a little girl, Daira scooted into the dark interior. After slapping his friend’s hand, Keefe did the same.
“Make yourselves comfortable,” Elias said. “Check out the refrigerator.”
“The leather is so soft I could fall asleep and take a long nap.” Daira slid toward the front of the passenger space.
Keefe found a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator and held it up. “should we open it?”
“I guess. But don’t give any to Eias.”
After popping the cork and pouring champagne into two glasses, Keefe offered a toast. “To us.”
They tapped glasses and sipped simultaneously. “How much money does he want?” Daira asked.
“Don’t know. Darn, this stuff tastes good.”
As exhausted as they were, it didn’t take long for a buzz to set in. Daira nestled close to her husband, finding that special spot in which her body fit nicely with his. With Keefe’s arm draped over her shoulder, it wasn’t long before romantic notions trooped through her head. “Have you ever done it in a limo?” she asked.
“No. Can Elias see through that glass?”
“Who cares,” Keefe said as he kissed his wife.
As the limo glided along a road that neither of them cared about, the kissing deepened and the temperature rose. Clothing pieces fell off, hands groped, and lips swelled. They were oblivious to anything but themselves, and so they failed to notice when the limo stopped.
“Slide over,” Elias’ cheerful voice sounded.
Daria pushed away and held her t-shirt across her chest. Keefe, intent on the object of his desire hadn’t heard his friend. He thought she was playing a game, and so tore the shirt from her hands and flung it to the far end of the limo.
“Idiot!” Daira hissed. “Go get it.”
“Why?” Keefe gazed into her eyes. Shocked by the glare coming his way, he leaned back. Only then did he hear the muffled sounds of movement, “What’s happening?”
“Surprise!” A chorus rang out. Now seated around them were their best friends: Josh and his wife Nancy, Pete and Marisol, Kimi and her partner Spirit, and Elias’s wife Helene.
“Happy anniversary,” Elias said. “It’s a come-as-you-are party. I just didn’t realize that you two would be the entertainment.”
“What are you talking about?” Keefe said as he zipped his jeans. “Our anniversary was six months ago.”
“I know, I know,” Elias said. “The thing is, back then I couldn’t figure out a way to make it special. Ten years together is worth celebrating. When I got a chance to take the limo for a test drive, I got this great idea and called out friends.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Daria’s eyes traveled from one friend’s face to another.
“I know you hate people making a fuss, Daria. Once we decided to have a party, we all swore to keep it a secret,” Elias said. “When Keefe told me you were cleaning the garage, I called everyone and told them to wear jeans. If you notice, none of us are dressed up, except for me, but I’m the chauffeur. See?”
It was hard to stay angry as Elias. Daria smiled, as did Keefe. “You could at least have warned us before you opened the door,” Keefe said. “That was hecka embarrassing.”
“I called over the intercom, but you two were way too busy back here to notice,” Elias said. “Now it’s time to party! Champagne, everyone!”
Keefe opened the refrigerator, and took out another bottle of bubbly. He opened it and poured glasses for everyone. Toasts were offered and laughter filled the limo. Elias dropped a CD into the stereo and soft music floated in the air.
Elias’ wife unwrapped a basket filled with cheese, crackers, and salami. Deviled eggs appeared, as did lumpia, veggies and dip, and shrimp cocktail. There was even a pre-sliced cake with tiny candles.
Stories of embarrassing moments were shared, with one friend attempting to outdo another. Laughter filled the crowded limo.
As dawn broke, Keefe offered one last toast. “To my wife, to my friends, and to Elias, for his bizarre party idea. This has been one terrific evening!” After clinking his glass with his wife’s, he bent over and said, “To my come-as-you- are wife. I’ll love you forever.”