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Story Title: It Was Time
Not just alone in the commonsense use of the word, but alone in its truest and most literal sense. He didn't know why he felt this way, he just did. It was strange.
Cal lay there a moment. Still. Watching. He swung his legs over the side of the bed. Switching the alarm clock off stopped the shrill and piercing insistence that he awake. Slipping his feet into the flannel slippers his children had given him for Father's Day, he stood and shuffled off toward the bathroom, his boxers bunching up around his waist. And then he stopped.
Looking out the kitchen window slammed the nightmare of yesterday into his head, reality and remembrance a cast iron skillet that demanded his attention through his skull. His vision swam and his head throbbed in time with his heart.
He should not be here.
That, and he was alone. And not just at home either.
So they would no longer be the loves of each others lives - or the lives of all their neighbors and friends who had watched them grow-up, graduate highschool, marry and have their three beautiful children. Did this give her rights to them that he did not have? Why were they not allowed to stay in their own beds as she walked out the door of his life?
Why didn't Sara realize that they were finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel? Sure, his job in corporate law had taken up a lot of hours. But everyone knows that a law associate has to have a lot of billable hours.
Now, finally, he was going to have some free time. But now... she was gone. And so were the kids. Damn it! There is just no winning in this life.
He finished tying his tie and went to answer the text. Law waits for no one.
He wrestled his tie off and threw it on the bed. Walking back out to the kitchen, he grabbed a broom and dustpan and cleaned up all the glass in the bathroom. He paused for a moment to look at his cracked reflection in the mirror.
"Time to pick up the pieces."
The broken man in the mirror didn't answer.
Cal dumped the glass into the kitchen trashcan. He was returning the broom and dustpan to the closet when his inner-self won its struggle with his emotions and telegraphed him of the change. Cal walked back into the bedroom and picked up his cell phone. Holding it like a dead mouse, he poised it over the toilet, closed his eyes, and released.
He looked down and watched as the device bubbled for a moment, gasping for breath as its display dimmed, then went dark.
Calvin Hobbs, it seemed, had finally found himself.
Calvin kept staring into the toilet, looking at his cell phone. A thought popped into his head that made him want to laugh and cry at the same time: "How am I going to call anyone?" He went for laughing, but ended up with tears in his eyes anyway.
Cal could not believe the question and retorted, "You have no idea".
"Drowned your cell phone. Now no way to call the family. All alone" came her reply.
Cal was stunned how could she know what had just taken place in his bathroom just minutes before.
"Broken man, all alone" were words that Cal did not want to hear.
Turning he shout for her to leave him alone but he was meet with a toothless grin, "Oh No dearie, you needed me".
"Are you crazy?" Cal uttered.
"Are you crazy?" She answered.
He went around the car, walking a totally different direction, so that she could not intercept him. Damn. Her shopping cart sat right behind his car so he could not back out the drive.
"You want to move your cart?" he asked, but she did not answer. She just kept walking toward him.
"Look, Lady. You do not want to mess with me today. You really do not want to do that. Why dont you move your shopping cart and just go on into town. Go on." he said.
Mother's, even crazy ones, can have that sixth sense and know when something is wrong with their kids. Cal had not seen her in more than a decade and the years had worn on her. As she pushed her cart down the sidewalk following the manicured lawns of the big suburban homes just outside of downtown Chicago...she knew their paths would cross again soon.
Suddenly he knew what to do. His mind couldn't comprehend or process it, but he was telegraphed from his soul once more. “I'm going to the Amazon. I am going to live naked and free.” He thought that if you did something interesting like this, his family would admire him and think “What an interesting and adventurous man he is.”
He wanted an adventure, he wanted to be free. He wanted to know himself, to find himself in his mothers eyes. He wanted to not only be with his family, but share in their experiences. And so he set home to make the arrangements. He would drink the ancient potions from the gardens of the mystics and the Amazons and travel into his innermost self
But once again, Cal was wrong. As he arrived at his home, he was greeted by a woman standing quietly on the porch... it was his wife.
"Hello yourself, you dirty dog. You dead-beat piece of road kill. You good for nothing, worthless, sonofa filthy, dirty, rotten..., rotten..."
"Screw you, you ape! Where's my sister? I havn't seen her in months. She finally left your no-good butt, didn't she? She should have left you years ago. I knew you'd never amount to..."
Cal shot her.
Right between the eyes. He had to. He knew from experience that she would not shut up.
Stepping over her body, Cal unlocked the door and walked into the house to find his passport. He needed to leave.
It was time.
The words broke the long silence and immediately snapped Cal back to his Tuesday afternoon session. His eyes continued pouring over the designs on the carpet. It was a little trick, tracing his gaze along the intricate patterns to calm himself. The therapy within the therapy, he thought. It was all he could do sometimes to cope with the feelings of confinement that consumed him within the cramped corner office, now streaked with dusty shafts of late autumn sun.
Dr. Julius Freitag sat across from him, with his notepad open, all to ready to continue cataloguing Cal's mental frailties. Call looked up, his mind reeling, struggling to hold it all together as he mumbled a response, "She doesn't."
Dr. Freitag studied him, smiling with some small measure of smugness, pleased with his own professional acumen. Cal noted it, another subtle reminder of life's indignities. But he knew he needed to grin and bear the good doctor's boundless ego.
He remebered her cart from earlier in the day. As he slowed down he saw the red woolen scarf and her toothless smile. She waved...why did she look familiar now, and not just because she had blocked his car the other day in the drive way.
Although he had slowed enough to recognize the old woman, Cal was not paying attention and drove his Corvette right into one of the bride columns. His head bounced off the steering wheel and then lay in the center with blood dripping from the corner of his mouth. His eyes were shut, and her face came to him from her younger days. He recognized her now, as he was transported to another time...and not the Amazon.
She reached into the car window and called 911 from Cal's cell phone.
"Please, get in."
Cal seated himself in the back of the vehicle. "Who are you?" he asked again.
"It is difficult to explain. We are collectively known as the omniscient third person. We are the voice of direction. Some call us narrator. We are the voice of the pasr who speak now. We are one but many. We are old and young. We are male and female. We are not here, yet we are everywhere. In short, we direct your life."
"You! I have you to thank for my life of endless backstory and soliloquy. My life has no plot and reads like a soap opera. It is fragmented and run-on. It begins with a coordinator and ends in a preposition. My subjects do not agree..."
"We are under a lot of pressure. There're time and word limits..."
"That's a load of crap! I haven't eaten or slept since Sunday. Who's in charge here?"
"There's the one who calls herself creator, but I doubt you'll find her sympathetic. She herself has set a limit to your life."
Stunned, Call sat in silence.
The woman stopped her shopping cart in front of him. "Here you go" she handed Cal a dirty handkerchief. From her cart she pulled out a ticket. "You need this now".
Cal looked down. He was holding a one way ticket to the Amazon Rain Forest. He looked up and his mother was slowly making her way up the street.
Cal watched his mother walking away with all of her belongings, minus one thing now. He couldn't speak, couldn't say a word. He looked down at the tattered ticket, the handmade "ticket to the Amazon Rain Forest". He remembered making it for his mother, after they had watched a program on television, and her saying "I wish I could go somewhere like that." As a child, he'd promised her they'd go there. That was a long time ago.
Dr. Freitag's words snapped him back once more. Tuesday afternoon, 3:30. The dusty shafts of late autumn sun. "No. No, I guess I didn't... but I wanted to."
"You don't even own a gun, do you?"
Call shook his head, the absurdity of the situation taking hold, and finally calming his mind.
"No, no gun." Cal fiddled with something in his hands absentmindedly. A passport.
Dr. Freitag jotted something in his book before pausing to choose his next words, "So, who do you think the woman was, at your door, when you arrived home?"
Cal shook his head, bemused, "I don't know, I think she was a sales woman or something."
Cal thought back, the object he'd removed from his coat wasn't a Glock-17, but a new cellphone, to replace the one he'd "drowned" earlier in the day.
"Are you familiar with the term "projecting", Cal?"
Dr. Freitag's question roused Cal once more from his exceedingly contemplative state... He met the psychiatrist's stare...
He grabbed h cash from underneath the dresser &took off
It started to rain. He nudged the cabbie - what's the hold-up, he thought? The cabbie turned around.
But wait, there was an accident...
The sound of sirens jarred him back to reality. Assessing the damage, Cal looked around. The city, noisy, the smell - someone could and many do, become lost among the strangers. As lights flashed and the horns of angry motorists blared, Cal assessed the damage. Bloody and wet, on the side of the road he saw the well-worned stuffed animal covered by that familiar red scarf. "No, it can't be," he thought, as he closed his eyes, afraid to further assess the damage. Emergency personal filled the scene, obscuring the view except for that one foot pertruding beneath the city bus. Was that shopping cart tobbled over and tangled, a lifetime of goods, wares and possessions scattered about the roadway? The stuffed animal looked vaguely like Cal's childhood friend, "imaginary" of course, taking the place once his mother went away. His beloved tiger. Was that a gleam in the ragged animal's eye as it spied the commotion beneath the bus?
"Do you have the ticket Cal?" Cal did not respond. The voice continued.
"Go Cal". Grab the tiger, you'll need him. Grab the tiger and go!" The voice ended and there was a click. A very loud click, that prompted Cal to run forward, push anyone out of the way. He grabbed his friend from beneath the bus, to take with him to the amazon. He ran.
Looking down at the tiger clutched in his hand, he remembered what had happened. His mother and father had gotten into a huge argument, over her excessive drinking mostly. Cal's father gave his mother an ultimatum: It's your family, or the alchohol. At the time, she chose the alcohol.
He remembered it more vividly then ever before. Somewhat unconciously, he took a stroll down to his old block, and walked up the driveway of his old house, now an abandoned wreck. He sat on the stoop and remembered his mother storming out of the house with her bags. Before she got into the car to leave, she turned to him, tossed him the stuffed tiger and said, "Something to remember me by."
He wiped his tears with his now sweaty and dirty sleeve. "Get a hold of yourself," he thought. He couldn't go on like this. He was a shell of the man he wanted to be; a shell of the man he was supposed to be.
He returned to the bathroom, and there lie his phone, still floating in the toilet. The only genuine event was what started off his day. He had been closing in on a breakdown, and it came and went. He breathed a sigh of relief, walked downstairs and picked up his house phone.
As he dialed, he looked at the picture on his living room mantle of his mother, him and his father. His problems started with her departure, but they ended here.
Cal opened the door and there stood his son and daughter but where was there mother... "Dad, Something happened to mom" came from his daughter. "We lookec everywhere and we cant find her".
Through his sobs Cal's son asked, "Can you help us?"
All he knew was that he couldn't be this kid's hero. His plan had been to win back his wife's admiration, not the kids. “I can't help you! call the police!” he slammed the door shut.
Slowly he opened the door, again, and ushered his distraught children inside. The woman on the porch, no signs of her. A sigh of relief. "Come inside," he said. "We need to call the police." And maybe he, Cal, needed to call Dr. Freitag. He looked for the phone, then saw that hand-made ticket on the table. What about the Amazon? How did he get here? Life was out of control? What is he, a father, a failure, a killer? What was going on, and now what should he do?
His children were about to protest when the city bus slammed to a stop in front of them. Cal stood along with his children. The doors of the bus opened and the driver smiled and said, "Get on board. It is about time."
Cal looked up and smiling down from the driver's seat was a toothless woman wearing a red scarf. With a deep breath, Cal pushed the children ahead of him as he boarded the bus.
The bus was pretty full, so Cal found a seat for the kids and stood next to them, holding on to the handrail while the bus lurched forward. He felt good; perhaps better than he had felt in years. He was doing right by his kids, doing the thing he had been most afraid of failing at through his entire adult life. He was being a good father. And he made a commitment to himself right then that no matter what happened from now on, being a good father would be the most important thing in the world to him.
Which made him think of something: where WAS his wife?
"I'm sorry." he said.
"So am I." she answered, rushing over to her estranged husband and forgiving him for all the chaos he had incited. His own twisted, dillusional mental tendencies were punishment enough, she thought.
The next day, Cal, Vivian, and their two lovely children, Montague and Sambastranalia, went to JFK International Airpoirt and purchased four one-way tickets to Brazil. They built a hut beside the Amazon River. It's lovely.
During a rainy evening Cal and his family slept huddled together in their hut. The howling winds make the hut feel like it is about to blow away and the lighting is so close they can here the crack of it on the trees. The kids cry and hold Cal and Vivian tightly. Cal closes his eyes and feels scared. He thinks back to the day that he lost his family and sqeezes them tighter, knowing this could be it. After it all, after he has finally felt happiness; he will lose his family again. Just then the door slams open and a shadowy figure drenched falls to the floor.
They would build a raft. Prompting his family to their feet, he handed each of them an axe (he had purchased four axes from an axe salesman at the airport for just such an occasion). Vivian, Montague, and Sambastriana stared at them in awe, yet somehow knew what Cal intended them to use them for. All at once, they sprung forth from their hut dwelling and rushed out into the jungle. Axes in hand, they began swatting away at saplings like crazed lumberjacks. Cal instructed Vivian to gather fiberous reeds, which Monty and Sammy instinctively began to tear into strips to tie the wood together. With precision and expertise, they constructed sturdy raft in record time.
It was a fine raft.
Strapping his axe to his back, he hoisted the vessel over his head and headed toward the river. He laid the raft on the surface of the icey, rushing water, holding it in place with his right foot as his wife and two children boarded. He boarded last.