6.19.2013 Journal Prompt

Photo by James Jowers
Photo by James Jowers

June 19, 2013: “Damn him.”

7 thoughts on “6.19.2013 Journal Prompt

  1. Lindsay

    Damn him! Damn him to hell and back in a handcart!’

    Margaret stamped her feet and looked up at the sky and those curses that were in her head took flight like frighted birds and soared upwards. ‘Fuck him!’ An hour and a half late and the more fool her for still being outside the store with its see-yourself-in-the-glass windows and carefree manikins dancing in summer dresses and a lady in the shop looking at Margaret every five minutes and looking with concern.

    ‘He’d be late for his own funeral,’ Chester’s mother had said, and it was a joke she was making one Sunday when the family were fifteen minutes waiting for him at table and the food growing cold and a skin thickening on the gravy. ‘He was late into this world,’ she said, ‘and he’ll be late going out of it.’ And she laughed.

    Margaret had laughed too. Then, she had. Being with Chester was something new then and his lateness was something that could be laughed at. So they both laughed, Margaret and Chester’s mother, even when he fell into the dining room sending his apologies tumbling ahead of him and then excusing himself again to wash the oil from his hands. He’d been tinkering with the car, even though there was nothing the matter with it, his head under the hood and the clink clink of tools and Chester singing, away in a world of his own.

    It was something everyone laughed at to begin with. His friends made jokes about it and made allowances, too, as friends will. They bought him watches for his birthday and a clock that spoke the time with a woman’s voice, and they booked alarm calls with a phone company in town. They did all this thinking it was about time and that if Chester could only know the precise time then he couldn’t be late.

    But it wasn’t that. Chester was always looking at the watch on his wrist, a Kienzle Selecta with 17 jewels, checking the staccato flick and flick of the second hand counting through the day, and he had a certain pride in its accuracy. ‘You pay for what you get,’ he said. ‘And you’re only on this earth the one time so might as well be in a position to notice and appreciate every single second.’

    And he did. Somedays he just lay on the grass looking up at the clouds hanging heavy in a sunless sky and his lips were moving, as though he was praying under his breath. A little closer and Margaret heard that Chester was counting. When she asked why, he told her that he was living every second. She laughed then, just as she’d laughed before.

    That’s why he was always late. Something always caught his attention and, as he said by way of explanation, life was too short to be missing things. The irony was lost.

    So Chester was probably watching his own reflection in a smoked-glass office building, noting the way the wind pushed back his hair; or maybe the play of light in the jet of a fountain had caught his eye. and the small rainbows made there flung in all directions; or seeing the swirl and swing of a girl’s skirt as she walked gave him reason to pause, and he might have followed after her and been singing to himself in time with the step of the girl.

    Margaret would have laughed again if this wasn’t important, if this wasn’t a matter of some seriousness. She’d thought it was something he could understand. She’d thought he, more than others, would have been able to understand: she was late – more than a month late. And they had an appointment at a clinic and the secretary on the phone had said they were fully booked at first and then had rung back with a cancellation.

    ‘Damn him!’ she said out loud.

    The lady in the shop and on the other side of the glass looked on anxiously, aware that something was wrong with the girl pacing in front of the store window.

    1. What a wonderful story, Lindsay. For once, lateness has a twist of fate in store for Chester. Let’s hope he loves losing himself in the baby’s every living second as he has thus far in his life.

    1. Lindsay

      Judith, what a fantastic compliment. I am so happy that you read my stuff; that you learn from it is brilliant. Thank YOU!

  2. He promised her he’d meet her at 5:30 at Macy’s, right by the revolving door. He’d come right after work, he’d said, and they’d go look at the dress. She could try it on for him and he could see for himself that it wasn’t too low cut and revealing. It was, after all, the perfect dress for the dance and a girl never got to be a Homecoming Queen more than once in her life. All she needed was his approval—and some money, of course.

    Because he was her father after all, even if he wasn’t married to Mother anymore and lived in an apartment complex with a swimming pool and drove a silver-colored sports car. He kept telling her how important she was to him, and how hard he had to work to keep making the support payments, and especially with college coming up and he fully intended to pay for four years more than the divorce settlement required just so she’d have the opportunity to have an education and get a good husband.

    The dress, she told him, was a special request. She hadn’t ever asked for anything extra before, not even when she needed braces on her teeth or when she needed money to go to Washington, DC with her 10th grade class. She’d never said anything to him: she and Mom had just gone ahead collecting bottles and doing extra babysitting and whatever it took to pay those expenses.

    Of course, both of them were afraid of his temper when he got angry and swore and threw things, so they wouldn’t ask for much and they did everything they could to avoid arguments: they had an unspoken agreement to never tell her father any of the things he didn’t want to hear.

    But the dress was different: there was no time to save pennies—suddenly the dance was this weekend, and she would be on the float waving at everyone and be called up on stage at the dance and the football captain would place a crown on her head. It would be the night she had dreamed about all those years she crouched at the top of the stairs listening to her parents argue and scream hateful things at each other, yelling about the terrible responsibilities of raising a child when they would both rather be free of the consequences of the mistake they had made in thinking they knew what love was.

    And it was 6:00 and the store was closing. The women were turning off the lights inside, and here came the janitor to lock the door. The streets were empty—everyone was home having dinner and she was still here, leaning against the darkened window, waiting.

  3. Sad, – long after she forgets the night of the prom years from now, she’ll remember that feeling of being forgotten by her father on what was supposed to be a special time together. I so remember waiting for my father to pick me up from a ceramics class when I was about eight years old which was held at the community center after school. And yes he showed up, and always did, but there’s that time of day when dusk is falling quickly, and after all, you are only eight years old, and it is getting colder and colder, and what if Daddy doesn’t come?

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