The Gratefulness of Walter

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: October 04, 2018

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Submitted: October 04, 2018



As Walter sat in the bathroom, staring in disgust at the cracked ceiling and the walls covered in chipped paint, he wondered how his wife could possibly have a problem with the bath he drew for her. He looked back at his wife, who had the same look on her face that she always did when he did something wrong. Her feet rested on the shattered tile, where some had started to displace itself and scatter around the bathroom. After studying the tub for what seemed like an eternity to Walter, she finally spoke. “You added too much salt and too little soap. I cannot and will not bathe myself in this!” she turned toward him, “Empty this bath and draw a new one!” As he stood up, feeling demoralized, he responded with the common response he always gave, “Yes, dear…”. As he filled up the bath with new water, making sure it was warm enough, he dreamed of the days when he was single. Not tied to anyone or anything, free to do whatever he wanted. He had dreams, he had goals, he wanted to do something he loved, and now he was stuck at home, filling up a tub and measuring salts and soaps for his ungrateful wife. He felt helpless; he had no courage to go out anymore, he was stuck at home, doing all the chores and all the work.

As night fell over the town, he decided he may as well turn in early, to make his dinner and then go to bed. It was Sunday, and he knew he would have to work tomorrow, making Monday a full eight hours away from his house. He thought about leaving hundreds of thousands of times, but he could never bring himself to it, how would he feel about doing that to her? But mostly, what would happen if she found him? He lived in fear of his wife, and that was something he thought was pitiful and sad. He had cut himself off from his friends to avoid them teasing and taunting him, he rarely talked to another person, besides his wife. He pulled the casserole out of the oven and set it near the window to let it cool, the aroma drifted off the dish and circled the kitchen, creeping into the walls and almost seemed to not want to leave. He then went to the couch, pulled a blanket over himself, and fell asleep.

When morning came, he rushed out of the house, down the stairs that lead up to his house, and climbed in his car. He put the key in the ignition and drove away. His car creaked and squealed with every turn he took. It had rusted and turned a brown, red color. He didn’t dare to ask for a new one, “It can drive, right?” she would say, and he would have to say yes. It could drive, and that is all that mattered. As the road turned into a dusty road, he was thrown about in the car as it bumped and heaved down the road. As he pulled up to the shop in which he worked, he stopped the car and looked out in a mix of despair and joy, he hated running a small business off the road. No one ever came down to his shop, if they did, they were only lost and had to turn around. As Walter walked into the shop, he flipped the closed sign around to open, and walked to his space behind the counter, he flipped on the lights, and waited, but he knew nothing would happen.

Suddenly around noon, a truck came barreling down the road and stopped in front of the shop. A man dressed in dirty clothes came stumbling out.. He was wearing an old and used hat with a logo Walter couldn’t see on the front. He wore jean suspenders, and a gray shirt underneath. He was average height, but sort of fat. He was the typical redneck that lived around the shop, but he surprised Walter when he walked into the store. “Hello, what are we looking for today.” Walter exclaimed, but the man just mumbled. “Do you have any milk here?” the man asked after a while, so Walter showed the man to the back where the milk was kept. “You know what?” the man suddenly asked Walter, and Walter, stuttering, responding with a, “What, sir? Is this not the correct milk? Is this not what you wanted?” Soon the man replied, “No, no, it's fine. You have a wife?”

“Why, yes I do.”

“For how long?”

With this Walter handed the man some milk, and replied slowly as he calculated the number in his head,

“Ten years...yes, ten years. Why?”

“Oh, you’re still young aren’t you?”

“Yes, I’m thirty, but feeling about a hundred.”

Both men chuckled at this remark, but the subject was quickly changed back to serious.

“You getting tired of her yet?”

“Umm, well..” Walter then thought of last night, and all the other nights that had been like that, and replied, “yeah, actually. Say, why are you asking me all these questions?”

The man turned to Walter and looked him straight in the eye, saying, “Don’t mind that, don’t take anything in this world for granted. You never know when it can disappear, if you’re still with your wife, she must be doing something that reminds her of the woman you married.”

After the man had paid, Walter decided to go home, to see his wife, and to tell how much she was appreciated, let her know she was still beautiful and young. As he got into his car, he realized this was the first time in a long time he felt good about going home, it was like the first day he met her, and he quickly drove home.

As he got home, he saw a lot of police cabs and an ambulance in front of his house, and asked one of the men to explain to him what happened. They said that a woman had had a heart attack and was just a second ago pronounced dead. He got a sinking feeling in his stomach, and he asked the officer what house this took place in.

“This one right here,” then he heard the dreaded words, “602, why sir, is this your home?”

Walter smacked his steering wheel and drove around the chaos and to the garage. He then entered the house just as the other officers dragged a large bag out the door, he searched the house for his wife, in denial that this could ever happen to him. He now found himself longing for the days when his wife would make him change the bath, add or take away the salts and soaps, and knelt down next to the bed which she had to sleep in alone in for the last few years, and sobbed.

“Please forgive me, please..” he found himself saying to the bed, pretending his wife was there, “Lord help us all…”


© Copyright 2019 Jack Garvey. All rights reserved.

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