Going-out Day

Going-out day was coming up. Just twelve days until they would toddle out to re-discover the world.

He thought, what should I do about my beard? He played with it during the thirteen months, twice shaving it off to begin again. No matter. It wasn’t the beard that dissatisfied him but the foundation underneath it. The sagging on display. As for his hair…oh.

She brought out her clothes. Examination of style and fit was conducted. Her shoes followed. She thought about what to do with her hair. A lot could happen to hair in thirteen months.

They made tentative plans. Cautious. Visits to new old places were broached. Small dreams of where they could go and what to do were nurtured. They would still wear masks. Of course. Wash hands. Avoid contact. Socialize outside.

She marked her calendar. Hairdresser. Dentist, hard times in cautious ink on the calendar, the first mark on its fresh pages. He planned a day in his mind. Beer with friends. He’d not seen them in thirteen months, except one of them. Two who were there before would not be there.

A lot of life happened in thirteen months. It was a heavy weight.

Mom’s Call

I’d just been saying to my wife, “Getting hold of Mom is so hard.”

“Why?” She was peering over her glasses, typing on her computer. She’s always doing that – or reading or bathing (much time is spent in the bathtub reading) – so I’m not bothered by bothering her.

“She doesn’t text, or answer emails. I don’t think she checks her email every day or even every other day. She says she’s going to call back, but she doesn’t. She leaves a number but she doesn’t answer it. It doesn’t even go to her email.” I shook my head, dismayed by the recitation. Mom lives a continent away. Visiting her is a challenge. It’s rural on both ends. Rural meaning, no airports within an hour. Rural, meaning the flights to the nearest airport means travel days that begin and end in darkness on either end.

I’d just been saying/thinking these things when the phone rang. Suspicious of telemarketers – they’re focused on car warranties right now (meanwhile, I’m receiving solicitations about being cremated or getting my hearing tested in the mail) – I checked the number. “Mom’s number,” I said, answering the phone.

Hello was exchanged and I began my opening remarks. “How are you? I’ve been calling since you last called but I don’t get any answer.”

“Your father is dead.”

“Really?” Suspicions reared up. “You told me that three times before.”

“Twice. The other time was him.”

“No, he told you that he committed suicide.”

“It was a note.”

“Still, you called me and told me Dad was dead.”

“I thought he was.”

“That he’d killed himself.”

“I thought he had.”

I left the office to wander the house, a nervous habit I had when talking with Mom. “Even though there wasn’t a body.”

“I thought he was being thoughtful and had gone off and killed himself in the woods. He’s really dead this time.”

“Is there a body this time?”

“Yes.”

“I think I need third-party verification.”

“Your sister is here.”

“Which one?”

“Debby.”

“Debby? Really?”

“Yes, she came up to see us. She and the boys drove up. The got here last Thursday. She’s staying in the spare room. Her boys are staying with Jean. I think Jean got the better deal.”

“Probably.”

“Do you want to talk to her? She’ll tell you that your Dad is dead.”

I stopped at the living room back window. A blue jay was screeching in the back yard. Our black cat watched from atop a sunny knoll. “No, I don’t trust Debby any more than you.”

“I understand.”

I changed hands and thought. “What about my other sisters?”

“They’re not here.”

“Have you told them?”

“Yes. Jean is at work. She’s coming over when she gets off, after she picks up the boys. The boys are going to school from home. Rooming.”

“Zooming.”

“That’s what I said.”

“Is anyone there with them?”

“Yes, of course, Dibo.”

“Is he sober?”

“He says he is. Jean doesn’t have any alcohol in the house any longer. Dibo drank it all. She won’t let him buy more.”

“Where there’s a credit card, there’s a way.” I was quoting Mom from her previous calls.

“She took his credit cards away from him.”

“What about Jan?”

“I don’t think Dibo is drinking any more. He quit smoking, too, except for medical marijuana. He lost a lot of weight but now he’s gained most of it back.”

“Did you tell Jan?”

Mom hesitated. “No, I didn’t tell Jan.”

“Why not?”

“She has other things that she’s dealing with.”

“What?”

“Well, she got into an argument over a parking space. Apparently, some words were exchanged. Anyway, some people filmed it with their phones. Now they’re calling her Karen and she’s in jail for assault with a shopping cart.”

I sighed, trying to think of a response. I heard water running on the other end. Talking followed. “What’s going on?”

The talking continued. So did the water sounds. “Mom? Hello, Mom? It’s me, your son. You’re on the phone. Hello?”

Changing hands, I walked the house, listening and thinking.

Mom finally said, “Your father’s up. I need to make him dinner. I’ll call you later, okay? I love you, bye.”

She hung up before I replied. Pressing the phone’s off button, I walked back into the office where my wife continued typing.

“Was that your Mom?”

“Yes.”

“How is everything?”

“Dad is still alive. Debby is visiting, Dibo is straight, and Jan is in jail.”

“Same as last time.”

“Yep.” I sat in my office chair and swiveled it to the front window. A heavy sigh rolled up out of my chest. “Some day she’ll accept that Dad divorced her and the others don’t exist.” I always said that. It never happened. I just went along with it all.

“Phone calls will be a lot shorter.”

I stared out the front window, wistfully watching a man and woman walking a dog. They seemed so normal. But so did Mom. “Yes, they will.”

Car In A Dream

He awoke with a fast start. Pulse still hammering, heart palpitating in his chest, he kept still, eyes wide open, focused on the dark night around him, waiting for his eyesight to catch up.

Common sounds asserted themselves: others snoring throughout the house, including the dog on the floor and his wife beside him in the bed. Wind was kicking around something loose on the house, reminding him that he’d need to hunt the object down before it broke free. Something to do when daylight arrived, after the other winter chores were completed, something to complete while the sun shone and he paced himself until spring.

Sleep was not coming back soon. Lightly he unfurled the heavy blankets and quilts, untangled himself from his wife’s grasp, and slipped free. An icy floor met his soles. Shivers jumped through his body. Eyes finding form in the darkness, he eased out of the bedroom, past the old dog, and out into the kitchen.

A tabby was settled on the kitchen counter, watching him with still eyes. Drifting to the window, he peered out past the curtains and glass while he scratched the cat. It purred happy in response. He’d dreamed of cars again. The car in this dream had been from about 1980, although he thought he was living in 2021 when he dreamed it. Just speculation about that, as those dates felt elusive. He knew the car, though, green and low, was not like anything seen in this century. Cars were still to be invented. He shook his head at that. Cars were still to be invented, but seemed so real… If the car was from 1980, that was still one hundred twenty years away. Scratching his face, he prepared to return to bed.

He awoke with a fast start. Gaping at his familiar bedroom, he settled onto his side with a long sigh. He’d dreamed again that he was living on a farm in eighteen sixty. Breaking free of his wife and the cats huddling against him, he slipped out of bed and moved through the house. Night lights embedded in the walls helped guide him as he made his way to the garage and flipped on its lights. His BMW M1 reflected the scene in its gleaming green surfaces, including himself, staring at the car. For a moment, he saw himself as another person, the old farmer? And then another — the man from 2021?

Shutting the garage lights off, he returned to the house. Cats had followed him and now demanded food, attention, or both. Touching his wrist, he woke his Backhand. “Show me today’s dreams,” he said, amending, “from the last two hours.” The dreams paraded by until the green car arrived. “Freeze.” He drank it in. “Enlarge the driver’s face. Clarify and sharpen.” He squinted as it grew in size, trying to decide if it was him, the man from 1860, or the guy from 2021.

Were they — he — all the same?

He closed the dream. Either something — worlds — were coming together, or something — the divide between worlds? — was coming apart. Maybe something else, like his sanity, was coming apart. Padding down the hall, ambivalence slowed him. He wasn’t certain he wanted to return to bed, wasn’t certain if he wanted to return to sleep. For to sleep meant to dream, and he was becoming worried about where his dreams might next take him.

A Meeting of the Time Travelers’ Political Party

Sometime in the future.

“We’re still awaiting results. The past is changing, but the results are still coming in.”

“More importantly, we still exist.”

Murmurs of agreement went around the gathering; the general consensus before they’d begun this endeavor was the greatest proof that they’d succeeded in the past was that the party didn’t exist in the present.

A west coast reps was the Planning Committee Chair. Calling for order, she continued with her report. “We unleashed COVID-19 at the end of 2019. Sadly, but as predicted, this had the desired impact. Travel was reduced, leading to less armed conflicts as division between neo-fascists and the rest grew. Many refused to wear masks, as predicted.” She gave a nod toward another rep, who briefly beamed in acknowledgement. “The economy suffered as the working poor had their incomes cut by substantial amounts, leading to dissatisfaction that guaranteed Trump would lose the 2020 election. A vaccine was found, with limited impact, also as predicted. Likewise, Trump’s administration failed to plan ahead, as predicted.”

Rep. Bacon, Chair of Predictions, said, “They’re egregiously predictable, which makes for the situation of that time even more unfathomable. They’d consistently demonstrated no concern for human life or welfare, eschewing all principles in favor of increasing personal wealth among the wealthiest. It doesn’t make sense. It — “

“It is human nature,” said the Human Nature Chair. “Let’s not have another polemic.”

“Also predictable,” another rep called to a brief burst of chuckling.

The Planning Committee Chair resumed. “COVID-19 variants have been introduced as we speak. Given the failures to wear masks, plan for proper vaccination in advance, resistance to and distrust of vaccinations, and rallies and protests on behalf of the defeated president, a surge in cases and deaths will be seen in 2021.”

“But will that be enough?” another rep asked.

All eyes turned toward the Chair of Predictions. He pursed his lips. “We don’t know. It remains to be seen.” He put a hand up. “That’s not meant as a joke. If it doesn’t have the desired impact, well…we do have greater variants lined up.”

Thoughtful silence reigned for several seconds. “Is the asteroid still in play?” a rep asked.

The Chair of Predictions nodded. “Yes, but we’re holding onto it as our trump card.” He grimaced. “No joke intended, again.”

“So it won’t be deployed until…?”

“That’s right,” the Chair of Predictions said. “Twenty twenty-four.” He bleakly smiled. “If needed.”

Trying

Nursing a coffee

nursing a care

marshalling thoughts running

like cats

here and there

trying to make a semblance of sense

trying to move into the present tense

on the outside I look to be comfortable and free

on the inside I hope no one else is like me

wrestling emotions cause they’re stealing my soul

wrestling hopes and dreams, writing down goals

another day living, another day spent

another day wondering where time and energy went

Perspective

He said, it’s just an accident, it’s just a death. Nothing to worry about, not worth the mess.

He said, everyone gets sick, it’s nothing to fear. Nothing to worry about, it’ll all come clear.

Then, when it was his own family who died, he said with a sad face, who could’ve known that this could take place?

The Finds (2)

“Shit! Shit!” Scratched, exhausted, and dehydrated, Bruce fell to his knees and stared. There was no air yacht. There was nothing but an empty field of lightly waving weeds. “Shit.”

Trotting ahead, Jasper the dog paused to look back at him. Bruce let himself sink to his knees. That whole climb up, he’d been going through ideas about what an air yacht looked like. Between those ideas, he’d rested, questioning if there wasn’t a better way to get up the damn hill, and entertained ideas about the couple and their demise. Seemed weirder as he thought about it. As weird, the dog didn’t seem to care. The dog, in fact, appeared to have the best grasp of events.

Now, up here at almost dusk, knees quaking, back aching, stomach rumbling, Bruce wanted to spew. Stupid of him. Stupid. Jerking weeds out, he tossed them aside in anger. “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.” So erudite. His teachers and parents would be proud. Maneuvering to sit, he pulled out his water. The dog was still watching him, like he was waiting. “What?” Bruce called. “What?” Now he’d have a dog following him. Getting food and water for himself was enough struggle without adding a canine mouth to feed. Fuck. He should have never gotten involved. Should’ve just kept walking. That would teach him to be humane to another. Never again, no, never again.

Standing, he remembered the fob, peered around, and dug it out of his pocket. Nothing special, just one of those made for keyless entry to cars. Light gold, it had three buttons, none marked. What the hell, he decided, pressing the top button.

A series of short tones sang through the air, then the side of a vehicle appeared. Vehicle? Forty, fifty feet long…yeah, “A yacht,” he scoffed. “What the hell?” Gawking as Jasper trotted toward it, Bruce stumbled forward. The thing was tall, like three stories (levels?). Lights were on. It had a porch running most of its length. Steps led up onto the porch, where there was an open door. Jasper was just going through that.

“What the hell.” Suspicious, Bruce put a hand on the old man’s gun and exercised a slow three sixty of the area. No others were around. It was cooling as the sun turned red and drooped toward the horizon, less like it was done and more like it was giving up. Yeah, what the hell.

Pulling the gun out (may as well, in case he needs it) (and hoping he didn’t shoot himself — he really wasn’t comfortable with guns), he sucked in a few deep breaths and strode for the vehicle’s door.

The Waiting

December is upon us as I wait

for spring to begin (it might come late).

Winter is nigh, as I dig in,

waiting for summer to come and begin.

The year is closing as I start this day,

hoping for change, trying to make a play.

December is upon us, and I never knew

the full strength of the sun

in July and June.

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