Just As He Always Had

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
... the anesthesia of the safely familiar.

Submitted: January 30, 2010

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Submitted: January 30, 2010

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The house was empty, void of everything a home should hold. He sat in his dingy underwear at the kitchen table, staring blankly into a cup of lukewarm coffee. The ceramic mug was chipped around the circumference of its lip, leaving no comfortable place to drink from. It was still dark. He began his days before the sun began it’s and ended them long after. It was quiet, only the hypnotic tatter of rain against the sagging and roof. It had rained everyday for nearly three months. Bowls and pans of different sizes were scattered intermittently throughout the house, collecting the evenly spaced drips from the ceiling. His dog, his beloved dog------ blind with cataracts------ lay asleep at his feet.
The same breakfast he’d eaten for years warmed slowly over the only working burner on the range top stove------ left-overs from the night before, pork steaks, potatoes, bruscel sprouts, bread. He split his portion with the dog, just as he had split everything with the dog since its birth thirteen years before. They slept together at opposite ends of the soiled mattress in the corner of the living room, shared the bathtub on Sundays and Wednesdays, split their meals, and divided between them the joys and sorrows of their dull life together. The dog had been a gift from an old friend upon the death of his dear wife. He had loved his wife with all his being, as if he had been placed on this Earth only to love and care for her. Now------ there was only the dog.
The man finished his breakfast leaving what was left on a plate in the corner by the refrigerator that hadn’t worked in years. The refrigerator now served as a filing cabinet of sorts, a place to store his T.V. Guides in chronological order, his correspondence------ mostly bills and junk mail. He liked the junk mail, looked forward to it even. It proved to him that he existed somewhere in the world beyond his home and work, even if only as a name on a mailing list. He quietly dressed himself in the warmer of his two pair of coveralls, careful to not wake the dog. He paused at the front door as he was about to leave, looking over the rot a ruin that had slowly become his existence. The coffee cup, still full, sat untouched at his place at the table.
He walked to work in the rain that morning just as he always had. His coveralls, tired and worn, were no longer able to deny the rain and wind. He felt as though he had been wet for years, weighted down by some invisible burden. He pushed on------ evenly measured steps, a calculated pace that would put him in front of the time clock at precisely 7:15. He walked by majestic homes, dignified in the obscurity of the fog filtered light. He passed by families, rushing off to lives fill with details they couldn’t possibly appreciate. He passed children, waiting at bus stops, blithe and innocent, ignorant to the tragedy that would inevitably bestow them. He didn’t feel envy or contempt for these people. He didn’t fell self-righteous. He felt nothing.
He punched his time card that morning just as he had six days a week for thirteen consecutive years. As the minute hand crept along, the workers slowly began to disperse throughout the factory, extinguishing cigarettes, filling coffee mugs, wrapping up their conversations before the morning buzzer sounded. No one said good morning to the man. No one winked in silent approval; no one smiled in affection nor nodded in acknowledgement. He worked through his breaks and ate his lunch alone. He spent his day behind the blade of a ban saw, cutting the same “L” shaped pattern into an endless stack of aluminum sheet metal------ a numbing monotony that would suffocate even the most jovial of souls.
He walked the same course home that evening, stopping at the market for the requisite pork steaks, potatoes, bruscel sprouts, bread. He talked to no one and payed with exact change, just as he always had. He passed the same houses on his, now warm with the glow of evening routine------ homework at kitchen tables, the news on televisions, dinner on stoves. As he labored along, he thought dimly of the night that lay stretched out like an eternity before him------ he would kiss the dog on its head as he entered, wash his hands and face, prepare the same meal they eaten for years, and sharpen his father’s antique hunting knife until precisely nine p.m.------ just as he always had. His eyes fluttered and drooped at the thought, the anesthesia of the safely familiar.
He unlocked each of the three deadbolts and entered the house with his boots in hand. The odiferous must of mildew and rot inflamed his nostrils and moistened his eyes. He noticed the dog under the table, strangely still. Somewhere inside he knew. His body trembled at the thought. The man lowered himself to the floor, his joints popping under the burden of his weight. On calloused hands and tender knees, he crawled closer for a more thorough investigation------- the furry chest still, the limbs stiff, the expression eternally blank. The man sat upright in his chair at the table, shaking, his face buried in his leathery palms. His last living love lay dead at his feet. All the agony and injustice in the world seemed to team together and concentrate their forces at the point under the table where the dog lay rigid and silent. Tears spilled from between the many fingers.
Even in his ineffable distress, the only complete thought that passed through his mind was that he must get up and prepare his dinner------ pork steaks------ potatoes------ bruscel sprouts------ bread. Just as he always had.


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