Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, tranquil Long Island in the current year still looks about the same as it did years earlier. Neighbors on Fowler Avenue in Lynbrook have come and gone yet the monotony of suburban living rules on. But amidst white noise of neighbors landscaping, family minivans cruising down the street, and the sneakers of joggers pounding on the concrete, a loud commotion crept through all of that. Not loud to the point of disturbing but enough that it is noticeable from outside closed doors. This could only mean one thing, the monotony with another day of being neighbors with the Barone family.
"But Ray you used to take the kids to the zoo all the time before they left for boarding school!", Debra said in a serious of retorts to what seemed like a never ending argument over Ray not wanting do anything fun outside the house now that the kids are away at school. Debra's arguments were rather concise, while Ray's responses have been lazy and reaching.
"You know I have allergies to animals!"
"That was with your brothers dog Shamsky, like 15 years ago!"
The argument, although humorous and stressful at the same time, was just another bit of Debra's married life to the corny, sometimes unhelpful yet adorable Ray. It was no big deal, they were going to get through this like they did through every sour moment.
Ray resumed his point, or whatever it was that he was trying to do. "Honey, here's the thing with zoos…..It's not really about the kids…. I took them there because…. you see Robert was trying to ….." Exasperated trying to form a legitimate reason to stay home his voice became even more nasally finishing his with "Oh, come on honey the game is on!" and collapsed on the couch by the weight of defeat.
Debra, standing with her arms folded let out an unamused sigh. This was nothing out of the ordinary, but over the years of being married she's learned a few pointers along the way that she knew she had a way to meet somewhere in between with her goofball.
"Sure Ray, you can sit on the couch and watch your game and indulge in a bunch of salty snacks. I just thought maybe you could….., well… indulge in … me a little." Debra began to crank up the heat, knowing exactly what she was doing.
Ray's response to the hints were not as instant as Debra would expect, that is until she sat on the couch and fully embraced her husband. His attention to the game playing on TV began to wane, and his eyes appeared to grow bigger in size as his jaw could not resist to form a pleasurable smirk in anticipation of what he thought was most certainly to come next.
"I thought you loved spending time with me" her voice growing sultry and enticing.
"I do honey" Ray weakly replied while darting his eyes between her and the TV still in his visual range.
"And maybe we could spend time doing, well, tons of things."
It wasn't until after this phrase that Ray's eye contact solely stayed on Debra and all he could let out is a stuttered "Uhhhh…."
"Come on Ray, let's go do something crazy. Let's make the day extra special" was Debra's final sentence sealed with a wink only to hope for the best.
Inside Ray's mind was as if it was a control room with all the workers saying "All systems go! and basic needs of food or oxygen were moot"
"Yes! Yes, honey! Spend time! Let's go", Ray shouted with each short phrase increasing in excitement and volume. He was certain that Debra was ready to go upstairs with him to their master bedroom, himself ready to sprint to the stairs.
"Good, then were going to the zoo." Debra laid an affectionate slap on Ray's cheek just like her mother-in-law Marie would do, and it immediately sent him back to planet Earth. Ray felt his engines hit a hard break on the road and was even more bemused to receive a slap he knew too well from Debra of all people.
"Well that wasn't the kind of animal things I was hoping to be doing", Ray lamented.
"Oh please Ray, we'll see the the same things at the Zoo that you do."
Ray pondered at this hypothetical statement. He wondered, "Oh so i'm going to be like your big powerful lion?"
"No I was thinking more of like a sloth, except instead of a tree you hang on a couch. And when you actually do move its for food or mating!"
"And, and, and….", Ray quickly stuttered, waving his pointer finger as fast as his talking. "to move away when two very older sloths come near our tree uninvited with home-cooked meals, hmm?"
"Oh so why do I have to be a sloth too?" questioned Debra.
"No no no nonononono don't do this!" a frightened Ray replied quickly. Ray was unsure of whether or not he highly offended Debra and was reluctant to wake the "cranky, uptight yell-machine" in his beloved wife.
"I'm just kidding!", Debra calmly stated while opening up her arms for a hug. Ray, relieved but still a little worrisome was receptive of her hug.
"There's one thing that is true about us though, even if we are a couple of wild animals", teased Ray.
Ray then proceeded to perform a common feat of telling Debra that he was truly in love with her through a silent charade. He pointed at him, then at Debra, made a heart shape with his index fingers, and finally pointed at her lips then directing his point to his lips.
Debra accepted the invitation to kiss gracefully and the two came together in a loving, passionate embrace.
A minute into locking lips Ray pulled back with his eyes widened, his face looking disturbed.
"Oh what, now honey are you going to…."
"Wait a minute", Ray interrupted. "I'm sensing a disturbance in the force"
Without skipping a beat Marie Barone followed by her wisecracking husband Frank immediately entered the living room after Ray's prediction.
"Hiya, dear!", Marie said lovingly yet cunning. Ray always expects a trick up her sleeve every time that she is over.
"We've been here for more than ten years and still figuring out these door locks, aren't we honey?", Debra asked while giving Ray a sarcastic friendly pat on the back.
Ray shuffled his feet while moving his hands around in his pockets. The regular interruptions of his parents coming from across the streets were seemingly comedic to everybody, but it definitely had a weight of stress on Ray and Debra's marriage over the years.
Despite that they still come together as family through all the elements. Ray never expected getting tired of the cycle at any point in the future, and certainly didn't expect his parents to still be this active years later.
"Wow it has been so long since you guys came over, we should do these things more often!" Ray sarcastically quipped, in a mildly passive-aggressive manner.
"Now Raymond why are you so afraid of the zoo?", questioned Marie.
"I'm not afraid of zoos!", Ray dissented. He continued, "Wait a minute, why is your first question about a zoo? How long were you out there?!" Ray was shifting his head from his parents to Debra to the front door repeatedly in no specific order while comprehending the situation.
Frank began, "Ray this ain't the city. We live right across the street. That's right, we heard."
Ray's stress slowly showed as he was running his fingers through his hair repeatedly, letting out a frustrated sigh of what seemed like many just for this hour today.
Frank continued on, "Is this about something else? I don't know whats the big issue. You've lived with an animal for years!"
"We got rid of Shamsky a short while after my animal allergies, remember?!", Ray replied.
"Yeah and you said he was hit by a car, then I figured it was no other than a car named Raymond's allergies.", came a low burly voice heard from the entrance to the living room. Ray's brother Robert entered the house and put a hand on Ray's shoulder. "Way to go."
Robert's sudden appearances rarely goes unnoticed. It is hard especially when you have a stocky 6'8'' NYPD Lieutenant towering over everybody, especially his little brother Ray. Nevertheless the family banter picked up where it left off when Robert exclaimed, "Hey, nuts!" and proceeded to sit on the couch and pick up a couple of salty nuts, touching each one to his chin before eating it.
"I wasn't talking about Shamsky, Ray." Frank continued from his previous statement. "I was trying to address the elephant in the room"
Suddenly all heads began to move around in bewilderment, eventually all but Frank had set their gaze on Marie. Her eyes widened and then her eyebrows quickly lowered as the realization set in. He glared over to her husband who was chuckling the whole time, saying "I don't like that Frank." She quickly added, "You don't want me to crush you now."
"What you mean "now", how about every night when you roll over onto my side?" Frank immediately swiped back. Marie, having fallen victim to another of her husbands quips waved her hand down to a limp wrist in disapproval and refocused on Ray while a victorious Frank made his way to the kitchen.
"Say Debra, you got any lemon chicken in the fridge, I feel like you haven't made that in a while." Debra looked at Ray, two of her fingers pointing at her eyes than pointing at Ray before following Frank into the kitchen.
"Now dear this isn't the eighties or nineties anymore, Zoos are a lot safer than they used to be.", Marie stated, feeling that she was needed to deliver some sense into her son at this time as if it was her calling.
Robert, now in the conversation, could not help but form a smirk that was wild with enthusiasm. "Ray's afraid of the zoo?", Robert question, his smirk now showing full teeth as he let out a low villainous laugh, feeling a sense of triumph over the little brother he cares about but always been jealous of. "This doesn't sound like the same Ray that had to suddenly take his kids to the zoo after I was doing it"
"That's because I didn't realize how much they were having fun with you, and it made me realize that I needed to try to have more fun with them, even if it meant doing things i'm not really wanting to do. You know, like, everything but watching sports", Ray confessed.
"But still…. you're afraid of animals?" Robert questioned. "Hey listen, you…." Ray began in defense. Marie immediately stepped in
"Oh stop it you two! Doing things you can't stand just for the love of the kids, oh Raymond, that is the sweetest thing!", Marie exclaimed, giving Ray a lipstick-marked forehead kiss.
Robert's smile dropped into a look of disdain, feeling uncredited for helping out his brother in that time as Marie simply celebrated Ray's success. "Just like that everything is looking up for Raymond again.", he groaned.
During this whole time, Ray felt uneasy at today being another day where the whole world was crashing in on him. To him, his family was his world. And the weight of his world was making him question whether or not to let go of that weight and run. Even he was not so sure of what his qualms were about the zoo. In fact it was rare of him to have such an introspective moment like this especially knowing from history his problems would be solved by the end of the day, when the whole day feels like it passed by in half an hour. He even considered going to the zoo himself, so he would have a easier time going with Debra later on in the week. "Could I really go through with it?", he thought to himself.
After taking a break from his thoughts, he tuned into the real world and noticed everybody is back in the living room on the couches bickering about what seemed like everything under the sun while the game was on. Something about Debra's cooking, something about Ray's zoo situation, another one of Frank's marriage grievances. Ray had to squint his eyes to see if what he thought he saw was really there. "When the hell did Amy get here?", Ray nasally shrieked. At some point Robert's wife Amy must have made it to the house. "I should have expected that", Ray said in retrospect. Feeling unheard, he took the remote and ceased the usual tv programming."
"Hey what was that for?!", Frank moaned.
"You know what, I'll show you all, I'll head to the zoo right now.", Ray declared.
Ray took his jacket and walked out of the house. The room was so quiet the sound of the door closing felt more amplified than usual.
"That doesn't mean you have to turn of the game, we were really focused on it!", Frank ironically stated.
Debra thought to follow Ray, but at the same moment, thought about letting Ray do this on his own, feeling certain Ray was going to make it out okay and have no problem whatsoever. Either way she figured to let him figure it out on his own the Zoo is a lot better than what he exaggerates in fear.
Outside the house, He walked to his car, thinking to himself, "This might not be solved sooner than I hoped." In a matter of moments, he turned on the ignition, pulled out of the driveway, and headed out to prove something. It also did not hurt to get away from his neighbors across the street for a while. Ray sat back in comfort as he drove down the street, unaware of what this zoo he is going to has in store for him.