Two5 from eric, p.1
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       Two.5 from Eric, p.1

           Eric Smith
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Two.5 from Eric
Two.5 from Eric

  By Eric Smith

  Rev 1.0

  Copyright Eric Smith 2011

  This is a work of fiction, and all names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


  Beat Up Old Recliner

  Here I am, sitting in a beat up old recliner, the only piece of furniture in a mostly empty house. I’ll be fifty years old next month. I take another drink of my beer and I think about that for a few minutes, letting it roll around on my tongue, savoring the taste of the word fifty along with the beer. I’m not sure which is the bitterer of the two.

  The house wasn’t always empty, but the fact that it’s empty now suits me. This old house and I are a lot alike. I haven’t the energy to buy anything else even if I cared. Its emptiness seems to reflect the emptiness in my heart, the hole where good things used to be. The overgrown lawn could be my face, a face that hasn’t seen a razor in a week.

  There was a time when I was happy, just like there was a time when happiness filled the house. It filled the house with the sounds of a family, the sounds of a little girl running from room to room playing with a Golden Retriever puppy. That was my daughter Carly, and the first dog that we ever had as a family. The dog is long since dead; she died almost twelve years ago when Carly was fourteen.

  I remember thinking at the time that there was nothing worse than watching the realization of death sink into my fourteen year old daughter’s eyes. It seemed like the world was a little bit greyer after that. Like someone had bleached the color out of it in spots.

  The house seems to remember everything that I do. My eyes turn towards an empty kitchen but instead of seeing the pile of dirty dishes in the sink or the three trash bags that I’ve been too lazy to carry out, they see a barely eighteen year old Carly standing at the counter, her mother and I waiting patiently behind her as she opens a letter of acceptance to Washington State University. The house and I both remember the way she screamed and jumped up and down. My shoulders can still remember her arms around me just like my cheek can remember the kiss she left there.

  I think that when you’re young you assume that everything will work out for the best. As you get older you realize that nothing but undesirable things, things that make life difficult, happen on their own. You have to work hard to have happiness. No one ever tells you that, or, maybe they do and you just don’t listen. That’s probably more the truth of it, like so many things people tell you in your youth and you blow off because you don’t seem to understand. Because those things don’t fit into the image of the world as you know it, a world where everything is possible and dreams come true. No one wants to think that they will end up in a nice cubicle job working nine to five for thirty years when they are ten. Carly wanted to be an actress.

  I worked hard to be happy; we worked hard for it, Donna and me. We were married for twenty six years. I let that number role around in my head for a time the way I had with the number fifty. Twenty six years is a long time, especially today what with divorces so common and everything else. We had a good run, that’s for damn sure. Hell I think I’ll drink to that, and so I finish off my beer.

  Now I sit here in the chair with the empty bottle in my hand, staring at the glass, the brown glass. It could be clear, it could be something light. But instead it is a dark brown, barely transparent enough to see through. It is the color of shit; it is the color of my life.

  Slowly I lever myself out of the chair and walk into the kitchen. I open the door to the dirty refrigerator that smells of too old meat and get another beer. Turning to go back into the living room my eyes fall upon the stack of papers lying on the counter. There is no order to them, they are a jumbled mess like a half raked pile of autumn leaves. Donna hated that. The piles of things I would leave around. She would never berate me into going through my stacks of paperwork again though.

  Somehow I feel like I should be happy about that, about never having to listen to her tell me what to do again, but I’m not. I miss it. I miss it like I miss the smell of her hair. I miss it like the way I miss her smile.

  Donna’s words come back to me now as I stare at the pile of assorted bills and grocery store flyers and miscellaneous junk. I hear her telling me that she loves me but she can’t be with me anymore. That everything is wrong now and that she wishes she didn’t hate me for Carly’s death.

  But she does. She hates me more than she has ever hated anything. She hates me maybe more than she ever loved me. I can see it whenever she looks at me. I can see it in the way her shoulders bunch and the muscles in her neck tense like two people pulling on different ends of a rope when I enter the room. Maybe I deserve it. Maybe it’s justified. Maybe it just is.

  I know what’s in the pile of papers. Donna took almost everything that was ours and that was quite a lot after twenty six years of life together, but she didn’t, no she couldn’t take that. She didn’t leave it to hurt me, but it did just the same. It hurt like a knife in my chest being twisted by some dark, sadistic God to think about it.

  My fingers seemed to move on their own, attached to a hand and then an arm that also moved of their own accord. I started pushing some of the papers aside. I wasn’t really going through them, just pushing the top ones off to the sides, one paper at a time, creating a bigger pile of useless leaves all across the counter.

  My eyes caught glimpses of the things I shoved aside. A Christmas card from an old friend, someone I’d served eight years of my twenty year Army career with. It was addressed to me, Lieutenant Colonel Justin Simms (Ret.). Thinking about the Army made me cringe, both inside and outside.

  Donna blamed the Army almost as much as she blamed me. In her mind the Army and I were one and the same, somehow we were and are this inseparable entity that had ruined her life and taken away the most precious thing in the world to her.

  My hand stopped sifting the leaves and my eyes focused on the folded letter now exposed at the top of a much shorter pile. The letter was starting to be what was best described as worn. I suppose that’s what comes of sitting up night after night staring at it and drinking, staring at it and crying, then staring at it and drinking some more.

  Carly had announced her intention to join the Army a few months before she graduated from college. Donna had of course lost it and done everything you would expect and more than a few things that no one could have expected to talk Carly out of it. She had been mad at me then but eventually gotten over it.

  Of course my attitude had been one of “She’s a grown woman now” and “she can make decisions for herself”. I knew it was going to lead to a fight with Donna the minute that Carly told us. The first thing that I remembered was joking around with Donna when Carly was a toddler about her joining the Army one day and Donna’s decisively negative reaction.

  I don’t think that Donna hated the Army, but she was never fond of it. Maybe that’s why I walked shortly after my twenty year mark instead of pushing for thirty. I hadn’t done much of anything since the retirement six years ago. I wrote a few articles here and there for Military History journals, I fished a lot. I was simply enjoying being forty three and retired.

  Donna was still working of course but she had cut back to only teaching part time by then so that we could spend more time together. It was nice. I felt like I was getting some of the time back that the twelve hour days and yearlong deployments had stolen from me.

  Our second honeymoon ended with Carly joining the Army. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the change in Donna then, it was subtle. She w
as more . . . hard I guess. She went back to working full time too. I didn’t mind so much since we didn’t talk like we did before Carly joined the Army. Most of the time we could go a whole day without saying more than a few words to each other so she may as well have gone back to work.

  Maybe that is where I fucked it all up. Maybe I should have worked harder to bridge the gap between us then. If I had, then maybe everything that came after would have been different. That wouldn’t have saved Carly but at least it may have saved our relationship. It could have saved me.

  I picked up the letter and walked back into the living room to sit in the lonely old recliner again, beer in one hand and letter in the other. Shit, maybe if I had been home when the Casualty Notification Officer came to the door things would have been different. But I wasn’t, I was fishing again, and I’d left my cell phone in my truck. When I had finished and gone back to the truck, there were fourteen missed calls from Donna over a period of two hours. I called her back. She didn’t answer.

  So I drove home getting more and more upset and worried the whole time. When I got home and entered the house Donna was crying, laying on the sofa almost in a fetal position. I asked her what was wrong and I think she told me, but the whole thing is still a blur in my memory now.

  I do remember her blaming me though. I remember her hitting me when I tried to hold her. I remember her saying that if I hadn’t joined the Army then Carly wouldn’t have and then she would still be alive. Maybe that’s silly, since if I hadn’t joined the Army I wouldn’t have met Donna and then Carly wouldn’t have been alive anyway. But then she still wouldn’t have died on some stupid mission in Afghanistan. And Donna and I wouldn’t both be hurting the way we are now.

  I haven’t talked to Donna in over a month. She stopped returning my calls. She won’t answer the door when I go over to her new apartment. As I sit there in the chair, I look at the small end table beside me. On top are the divorce papers that came in the mail today.

  I turn my gaze back on Carly’s letter. It was the last letter that she wrote before she died, and we didn’t get it until two days after we got the news of her death. She had fallen in love with another soldier, and they had kept it secret until now. She was about to come out, she had to, because she was pregnant.

  My left hand reaches under the divorce papers and comes out with an old pistol. I haven’t fired it in a few years, but I bought it because of the reliability of the model. I know it will fire. Maybe everything really is my fault.

  Afterword: The inspiration for this story came about from a real conversation with my significant other and then my own over active imagination running away as usual. While there is a grain of truth in here, most of it is pure fiction, and I am far from fifty years of age now, at least I like to think that I am.

  What would really happen if this story is some type of prophecy? I don’t know, and I haven’t a clue to tell you the truth although if you believe in something similar to the Multiverse then I would say that this is an outcome that would occur more than a few times.

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