Render Me Fearless

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Jeff's wife feeds on his timid nature as he contemplates how to tell her he's retiring.

Submitted: January 05, 2008

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Submitted: January 05, 2008



“I’m retiring,” Jeff said dejectedly.  “I’m sick and tired of being treated like dirt.  After all these years working like crazy to make them money, I’m fity-four and it’s time to move on.  Do something fun.  Something I like.”  His voice drifted off.

Jeff looked up at Davis.  A long string of drool hung from Davis’s mouth like a stage rope attached to his collar continuing down to his gown.  His eyes were clouded over from cataracts that had built up from years of being in the sun without sun glasses.  Davis was 82 and had suffered a stroke six months ago.  Since then, he’d barely said two words together that made sense.

“I haven’t told Marla, yet.  It will be a real shock to her, but I’ll figure out a way to break the news.  She’s grown very accustomed to me being out of the house."  Jeff leaned back in his chair and looked at the ceiling.  "But it’s time and I know it."  He took a deep breath and sighed, "I think they know it too.”

Marla was Jeff’s wife.  She was a stern woman, the alpha dog of the Jeff-Marla team.  Rarely did Jeff make a consequential decision without clearing it with her first.

“It’s time for Mr. Jennings to go potty,” the nurse said as she briskly walked into the sterile room.  The nurse’s unwitting link of Davis’s formal name to the childish scatological term made Jeff smile.  Davis had gone by “Mr. Jennings” for as long as Jeff knew him.  Even his late wife, Grace, used to call him “Mr. Jennings.”  Davis was a well respected business man during his career, followed by twenty years as mayor of a small town named Green Valley in Arizona.  Green Valley was made up of ten thousand retirees that lived on 99-year leased property from the Native American tribe.  The tribe hadn’t broken the code on launching billion dollar casinos yet, so leasing land to retired mid-Westerners was the best income they could make.  There was even a golf course that sucked water from the man-made lake to create an oasis of green in the rocky desert.

Jeff rose from his chair and looked down at Davis who was slouched to one side in his wheel chair.  “Davis, thanks for the stimulating conversation," Jeff smirked.  "Your thoughtful consideration of my situation and honest feedback has been illuminating,” He was feeling very witty.  Mr. Jennings had always made it clear to everyone, including Jeff, that Marla had married well below her station in life. 

“Who’s looking down at whom now?” Jeff asked as he glared at the old man.  Davis’ gaze continued off into infinity.  The nurse looked at Jeff quizzically as he left the room.


“Jeff, where’s the cat?” Marla yelled from the kitchen, as if Jeff should know where the cat was at every moment.  The house was modest, but not small by any means.  And the cat could be anywhere from the basement to the attic.

Marla was fifty-two and, because she didn't wear much make-up and didn't dye her pulled-back hair, she looked over sixty.  Her piercing black eyes cut through her withered cheeks, as if they were snipers hiding behind gray curtains.

“How am I supposed to know?” Jeff replied, alertly looking around the room where he was reading the paper.  Jeff had been enjoying how his 220-pound frame sank into the plush mint-green sofa as he read the gossip column.

“Well go find him.  It looks like he ate a Hershey’s Kiss and I want to make sure he’s OK,” she said.  Jeff realized that when he had snuck a few Hershey’s Kisses last night in the dark, he must have dropped one.

“OK,” he mumbled, as he got up from the couch and headed downstairs.  He always started in the basement.  It was dark, cool and he liked the solitude.  Marla rarely came down in the basement, except to feed the cat and change its litter.  Normally, they had two cats in the house at a time as pets, but the last one had been eaten by coyotes when Jeff inadvertently let the cat out one night as he went outside to put a letter in the mailbox.  Marla had sent Jeff out the next day to look for the cat and Jeff found the kill site near the pond down the hill.  He had covered the matted fur and remains with grass and sticks and vowed to himself not to tell Marla.

Jeff went in the back room, where seasonal decorations were stored on wooden shelves.  He looked down at the litter box and saw some fresh cat turds that looked like tootsie rolls with shiny foil mixed in.  Marla normally sifted through the litter 2-3 times each day and she must not have made her mid-morning pass.  Jeff pictured her with her strainer scoop, sifting through the litter like she was on some kind of archeological dig.  He shivered.

Jeff looked back at the thousands of dollars worth of Christmas, Easter, Halloween and other decorations for the house which were eagerly awaiting their scheduled event.  The Easter decorations had just been put away and the Ohio winter was near an end.  Jeff gently placed the Marla's witch hat from Halloween on the three foot Easter Bunny figure.  The hat was too big and fell over the bunny’s head completely.

Jeff trudged back upstairs to the main level and into the sun-washed kitchen.  The cat was lying lazily on the floor licking its paw while Marla put away dishes from the dishwasher.

“It would have been nice for you to tell me that you found the cat,” Jeff said, knowing how futile sarcasm was with her.

“Why don’t you go do some work at Dad’s house?” Marla said in an exasperated tone.  Jeff suspected that she had figured out that it was him that had dropped the Hershey’s Kiss.


© Copyright 2018 Stephen Ames. All rights reserved.

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