“I have a headache,” I told Clark, and came upstairs.
It was nine o clock and the kids were asleep, and I didn’t have a headache. But I didn’t want to sit downstairs and watch Clark get drunk on screwdrivers while watching old Seinfeld episodes, and then have to come upstairs and try to have sex while his penis stands at half mast no matter what I do.
It isn’t me. I have no doubts about that. It’s the booze. We aren’t as young as we used to be and after the kids are out, Clark can’t put the glass in his hand down. I guess I don’t care much anyway, anymore. I just don’t want to spend twenty minutes flogging and sucking a soft penis then trying to stuff it in while it wilts and bends. Then the excuses and the pity party. Having to make him feel good about himself while my vagina crawls up into my uterus. Might as well skip the whole shebang, and head upstairs with a book, and escape.
Dad and I are shooting brown rats at the Putnam County Dump. I’ve got me a .22 Long Rifle while Dad has a Winchester 70 with a scope. We keep a tally of the rats we shoot ’cause that makes it a bonding experience. So far, I’ve plastered six of them while Dad’s shot seventeen. We’re shooting good ’cause there’s a harvest moon out and we can see them like it was daylight. And Dad’s been swigging Johnny Walker to keep his hands from shaking. A couple belts of Johnny Walker turns Dad into Daniel Boone.
My first divorce is a hippie divorce. We have few worldly possessions other than our record collection and our philosophy. We remember who bought each of the records, but the philosophy has no origin we can identify. We don’t fight over the wire spool, our major piece of furniture, or our Sears portable stereo. Since we never got around to having children, there is no custody fight, except for the dog, a black and white beagle mix my wife rescued from the pound. When he brings home the blackened carcasses of chickens and other animals, she says they are gifts for me. She claims he loves me best. You take him, she says. No, you take him. We agree on a visitation schedule carefully planned with intervals for cleaning and disinfectants. I consider running away when it is my turn, but he runs away before I can. I know he survives to terrorize another neighborhood and sire a pack of vicious little dogs. One day I expect the pack to come for me.
I can only see the top of my daughter’s head from where I sit. She is cuddled up to her furry orange pillow, her hair pulled into a wobbly knot.
“I heard you talking to Alena,” I say.
“Yes.” She tosses on the narrow couch.
Like I was saying, with the holidays just around the corner, I was feeling in a somewhat generous mood. I took a ten from my wallet and handed it to the guy at the counter. The library’s been awful good to me, I said. Please accept this as a token of my appreciation. It’s the least I can do. As I headed toward the exit, feeling good about doing the least I could do, the man called out, Excuse me, sir, but you gave me a hundred-dollar bill. Not remembering the last time I even had a hundred-dollar bill, I turned and said, Well then, I guess that’s the most I can do. With that I left, prepared to forge on with my muddled life. This whole thing started just over a year ago. My wife, I’ll refer to her as X since she no longer deserves a real name, decided she had had enough of me. She took off to Colorado to be with a pot farmer she had met on some online dating site for unhappy spouses – ifatfirstyoudontsucceed.com or something to that effect. The last thing she said to me as she was walking out the door was, Sorry, Jack. I just don’t get you anymore.
Out there, it was a storm rioting, the type that Marion faced when arriving at the Bates Motel, and I was sitting in this stranger’s freshly vacuumed Mitsubishi with my muddy, turn-out-not-to-be-waterproof hiking boots, him telling me how he hadn’t been home in nearly two decades. That, back there, he had a wife still mourning his death. That his daughter wasn’t the little princess she used to be, but married recently and was pregnant now with two little princesses herself. His voice a warm drone against the rain that was drumming against the Mitsubishi’s metal frame. I was just happy that I was in there, and not stuck at the last lonely gas station, biding my time with overpriced Cheetos and overweight truck drivers.
Maybe it was the mini-roller coaster in Coney Island.
The one before the crazy spinning turbo that had fucked up his back with an unexpected jolt.
Maybe it was the…