Exiting October and entering November, anticipate and reminisce the holidays we remember. Three quarters till thankfulness and half-past Halloween, fall into that grey area that lies in the in-between. Is it just scary thanks with a dose of grateful fear, or will you look and relate finding much more here?
From the passenger and back seat two smiling faces peer out at him, accompanied by small waving hands; waving his own in return his face mimics theirs. There’s a farewell toot of the horn as the car pulls out of the drive. Dropping his hand as the small station wagon rounds the curve, he turns and goes back inside. Closing the door there is a pause as he revels in the rarely heard silence of the house.
His wife and two children will be gone for the evening, acting upon her desire to check out Halloween clearance sales. Normally he would accompany them on such an outing, finding deals and enjoying the fun, but as of late his other half seems to linger. She insists on visiting multiple stores and seeing everything available; spending literal hours in each, a process which he finds rather exhausting. After a long day he wasn’t in the mood for it and understandingly she resigned to let him sit this one out. Now with the house all to himself he considers what to do…what to do.
Seeking the coveted, hard to obtain pleasures of a life married with children, he strips and slips into a worn terry cloth bathrobe, preparing to relish the uninterrupted pleasures of the 3 S’s. The worn linoleum is cold beneath his bare feet as he starts the shower, letting its steam warm the room. Ah, to shave without anyone needing the sink or peering at him from their porcelain perch. To sit, relax and relieve himself without knocks and cries of “Are you finished…I need to go!” To enjoy the long rinse as the warm waters soothe his body with nary a flushing to interrupt the temperature.
Crème and razor in hand, he steps to the sink but his body has other ideas. There is a pressing matter as one S seeks to precede the others. Thus the king of the house sits upon his ivory throne. Reaching back to the tank’s top there are the recent Sunday funnies reserved for such a momentous occasion. Flipping through, he takes pause at one of the strips. His mind flashes to the collection of comics he and his wife have acquired, with plans to create a collage and frame them. Another glance at the strip and smiling he thinks – “That’s a keeper!”
Slowly gravity begins to tug at the corners of his mouth. His eyes go saddened and dim. Shoulders slumping as his hands slip down between his knees and let the paper fall to the floor. “That’s a keeper? Oh my God is this what my life has become?”
Rising he steps out into the hall then onto the living room. The faces of plastic animal skeletons and strings of spider-lights watch as he surveys them in sorrow. The outdated game system is strewn out in front of the equally obsolete flat-screen because they can’t afford another…maybe at Christmas? His stomach churns at this pathetic thought. Crossing the faded kitchen tiles which he never has time to replace, past the stained counter tops and cabinets filled with off brand cookware and mismatched dishes, he exits out into the backyard.
The “work shed” what a joke; there’s barely enough room in the rusted 8 x 10 structure for his flea market-bought riding mower and yard sale push, let alone any work. But weren’t we thrilled to find them? Beside this the children’s wretch of a weathered swing-set; they deserve better than he can ever give them. At this a tear trickles down his cheek. He stumbles through his poor attempts at landscaping…it’s the soil…it’s no good…or is it him and just something else he cannot do right? Falling to his knees in the knee high grass he looks to the heavens, debating on beseeching a god who is too mysterious to answer.
His mind races searching for a solution, peace, answers, a way out… thoughts drift to the bureau drawer. Beneath holed socks and worn elastic underwear lies a potential escape. But is he too much of a coward or will it just be something to add to a long list of failures in his opinion?
Returning, back inside now, he goes to finish what he started, before starting to finish anything else. There, through the shower’s steam, he finds himself already there. He sees him sitting slumped and motionless on the toilet-seat. Did he… is this… Oh heavenly God NO! This is truly a fitting end to a life less ordinary to be sure, but which fate is worse? – To live that life to the fullest or spend eternity in endless turmoil? So this is it, trapped in a whole new manner by unfinished business? But isn’t the body’s last act a relaxed and cleansing excremental one? Making this at least the most proper place to finish the race, but in considering his current physical state shouldn’t his body’s final release have been his own? There are no answers here as there are none there. Life and death happen hand in hand and it is up to us to make the rules of our own.
He sits down inside of himself, discovering he can do this. Which is better? He feels that perhaps his conclusion is not so much a physical act as it is for him to simply decide. He closes his eyes and searches through the nothing he thinks of his existence.
“Daddy we’re home…and we’ve got lots of fun stuff to share…daddy???” He stirs from his stupor, his chest aches and in trying to stand, finds his legs are numb. Supporting himself with the tub’s edge he reaches to turn off the shower. The aging hot-water heater is empty and the water had gone ice-cold. There’s a knock at the door, “Daddy are you finished…I really need to go and mom wouldn’t stop.”
“Just a minute.” He replies. Stepping towards the door he looks down and retrieves the funnies from the bathroom floor. The corner is wet but the one that counts had remained dry. Looking at it again his face rises to the occasion: “Yeah…that’s a keeper.”
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