LIFE IS TOO SWEET FOR THIS LEVEL OF IDGAF
We’re here too short a time to shuffle grumpily to work, we’re missing opportunities. Donny scowls at Mrs. Levinson when she asks him to cash her check in small bills; while I’m grumbling, tearing up the updated rate sheet, Maura aims a kick at an empty box someone left in front of the vault—guys, why are we living this way? Lenny can’t even think about Wealth Management anymore, he’s got tumors squirming inside his organs like maggots through old meat. We don’t deserve to be luckier or live longer, but maybe we are and maybe we’re going to. The wind is low today, the sun is like the kiss itself of heaven so why can’t we feel it.
The saddest thing isn’t that Lenny’s gray face can’t manage a cracked smile, that on his off days his bald head ducks behind the curtain when we wave from his porch. It’s that this pain-wracked mask is his brave face, the very best, which is what Lenny wants to offer, he can give us.
We’re stressed, we’re burnt out, it’s understandable. When Upper Management says, “This is a challenging economic environment, we’re trying to manage expenses,” the expense they’re managing is us. If the numbers bend the wrong way, Donny gets sent home with his three pairs of boots from the breakroom closet, his family pictures in a shoebox; Maura leaves pissed, tears in her eyes, car keys in her fist, with a check for two months’ severance. The Crawford Office employees love each other, we come together when customers are jerks, but Management can split the family whenever they choose.
It’s only Lenny now, but who are we to think we’re exempt? Tomorrow it might be my heart or Donny’s headache thing he’s meaning to check into. Donny’s sweet husband Tanner, who draws him red hearts on everything, might crash off a cliff, his slim hairy limbs scattered and splintered below. Imagine sweet Maura, who keeps everyone laughing, doing her laundry when the furnace blows up, in seconds her body a heap of melting freckled skin and fat.
The slow salt truck that holds us up on the way to the office, splashing puddled water that blackens the snowy yards—we need to forget about it. Take that road we’ve always wondered about, Log Cabin Lane. Pull off anywhere and take a picture, an ice-crusted pine, snow bending the spruce limbs. Post it to our IG, never mind how many Likes it gets, move on with our morning. Let’s already be thinking of the book we tucked in the spare office, our lunch walk, the candy bar we’ll buy for a treat, which photo to take on our way home, maybe the sunset’s final embers over frozen Carroll Pond, because soon enough Time will pull over the covers and all will be darkness.
It doesn’t take much to make a Saturday plan. I’ll cuddle my kittens before I leave; Donny and Tanner, give each other a kiss on your way out the door. Maura, be ready, we’ll pick you up at one. If he’s up for visitors we’ll go to Lenny’s, help his frail body up the hall to the kitchen table where he’s planting bean seeds in tiny pots, help adjust their position beneath the grow lights, afterward tuck Lenny back in bed, tell him happy stories we’ll have to make up as we go along, each healthy one of us taking our turn to warm his icy hands in ours.
Timothy Boudreau’s recent work appears in Reflex Press, Cease, Cows, and MonkeyBicycle, and has been nominated for Best Microfiction and a Pushcart Prize. Timothy Boudreau’s collection Saturday Night and other Short Stories is available through Hobblebush Books. Find him on Twitter at @tcboudreau or at timothyboudreau.com
Cover Design by Karen Rile