COLUMN SIXTY-ONE, JULY 1, 2001
(Copyright © 2001 The Blacklisted Journalist)
COULD BE TODAY
The man came home from another hard day in a litany of hard
days. He parked his rusting, 1987
Ford pickup and shut off the engine. He
sat in the cab listening to the engine tick as it cooled.
He lit a cigarette and puffed it slowly, savoring the hot, dry flavor.
‘Time to be getting inside before someone thinks
there’s a problem,’ he thought.
He opened the Ford’s door and heard it groan on the hinge
as he had heard it groan for the last two years. He had never had it fixed because he felt that the truck
spoke to him through its steel joints. His
back and knees had been making the same noises for about as long…
On weekends, he would wash the Ford, then spray some WD40
on the door hinge. “There you are
Jimmy,” he would tell the truck in a soothing voice. “A little therapy for ya.”
He gave his truck a male name. After
all, why should all vehicles be named after women?
Truth be told, women had never done that much for him.
“Maybe I should have listened to Bukowski and bought a
Chevy. Maybe then, things would
have turned out different,” he thought, shutting the door. He dropped the finished cigarette on the ground and stamped
it out, leaving a black scar on the cement driveway.
It was getting near suppertime. The sun blasted down on his head. He looked up into the blazing ball of fire, let it sting his
retinas, narrow his eyes to slits, willing it with his mind to fall from the
sky, burn him to the ground. How
long he stood there, it was hard to tell. He
snapped to, shaking the spots from his eyes.
Next door, Martin Holly watered his lawn, pretending not to
notice his strange neighbor staring at the sky, the strange neighbor that spent
more and more time sitting in his truck, despite the heat of August.
Their eyes met. Holly new he’d been caught watching him.
“Hot out,” the man said, pointing at the sun. The man
was tired, his thoughts felt scratchy inside his head, like sticks in mud on
Holly dropped his hose and headed for the safety of his
house. You never could tell with
nuts like that.
He stopped at his front door to take his work boots off
before going inside. His wife met
him at the front door wearing her “Kiss The Cook” apron. He hated that apron. She’d
bought it at Eaton’s six years ago and wore it every time she cooked a meal.
One evening, she had met him at the door wearing nothing
but the apron. They had sex right
there on the staircase behind her. It
had been hot and passionate, if not short and to the point.
He had pulled out and come all over the apron.
He had never done that before and she told him that it had really turned
That had been part of a time now long gone.
Now, whenever she wore that apron, he remembered the day, the heat of her
insides, the cramp of orgasm, pulling his dick and he never wanted to be near
the apron or the person wearing it. They
rarely talked, except when she needed something, or wanted him to do something
for her. Truth be told, she talked, he listened, carried out the
“Take your boots off, I just vacuumed the carpet!” she
She had become quite the bellower, lately.
He could recall a time when her voice was softer, gentler, a voice that
had turned him on over the phone. A
voice that went with a person he could kiss and fuck on the stairs.
He held up the boots.
“No need to yell,” he said.
She huffed and walked off into her kitchen.
He followed her as far as the counter where he dropped his green plastic
lunch box, before heading into the bathroom.
After he had closed and locked the door, he walked up to the mirror and stared at himself. There were lines where there had never been lines before. Grey hairs were moving in around the temples. He had been counting them daily, checking in every day and taking
use up so
much of your life?'
were three new ones on the left, four on the right. What did that make, 48, 50?
“Where did I go? I
forget who I am today,” he said out loud.
He noticed the crow’s feet crept in around the eyes when he spoke.
“When did you use up so much of your life?” he thought,
this time keeping it inside, where he knew the characters and the plots.
Somewhere in the backbeat, he heard a door slam.
The fifteen year-old boy, his son, home from school, or getting high with
his friends. What did fifteen
year-old boys do with themselves? He
His wife’s footsteps thundered toward the front door.
He heard her repeat the shoe speech to him.
Her reward on that front was typical of the boy.
Suddenly, a banging on the bathroom door.
His head spun toward the sound as his heart leapt into his throat.
He saw spots, a double helix around the door handle.
“Dad, get outta there!
I gotta piss!” the boy yelled. He
shook his head. The boy was
developing a mouth on him. Hard to
be sure where he might have picked it up. He
opened the door and let the boy blast past him before walking out.
Now he was back in the world again.
He stood in the hall, not daring to move, as if he was standing on the
ledge of a high building. From the living room, he heard the television blaring loud
enough for that nosy bastard Holly and the rest of the block to hear.
His wife refused to miss the talk shows.
Maury, Sally, Montel, Jerry, she watched them all.
Oprah Winfrey and Jenny Jones were commercials to her.
“Is this all people have to do?” he asked himself.
“Aren’t our own lives full of enough misery?
How can you watch people cry and argue?
What’s the use?”
He could hear his dinner being prepared.
Something fried again, sure as shit.
He turned away from it all and went into the bedroom, shutting the door
behind him. Inside, it was quiet
and blessedly cool. The lights were out and the blinds were drawn.
In his solitude, he pretended, as he always did in moments of peace, that
he was in a shady grove, a peach orchard, maybe.
He took his clothes off and went to the nightstand,
scratching his testicles. They felt
heavy, warm and limp in his fingers. How
long had it been since they had done anything together?
Too long? Truth be told,
maybe not long enough. He didn’t
even masturbate anymore. What would
turn him on? He couldn’t think of
He pulled open the drawer and removed the large handgun,
then went and sat on the bed. He
stared into the barrel, as if into a wishing well.
“Maybe today,” he thought. “Could
He rubbed the forward sight against his leg and closed his
eyes, dreaming of the sun, of bringing it down on the Earth, his own personal
final solution, complete death for all and total freedom.
He’d done this many times, but his hands had always turned traitor, put
the gun away before anything could happen.
“Maybe I’ll tell her I’m going out to Sookey’s
tonight,” he reasoned. His wife
hated Sookey’s, a truck stop bar out on Highway 97, where he and Bukowski
often got drunk. It was the one
place he knew he could go and she wouldn’t want to tag along after him.
He felt something and opened his eyes.
He looked down and was surprised to see an impressive hard-on.
“I didn’t even know that still worked,” he thought with amazement,
then filed the information in the Old-Age file.
The pistol looked up from below the erection blindly.
The automatic was a big gun and heavy, but the clerk at the gun shop had
told him that it packed a punch. Idly,
he wondered why people didn’t shoot themselves with two guns, one on either
side of the head. He hefted the gun
and began caressing his face with it. With
each brush of the sight against his skin, the erection grew tighter, more
urgent. Release was becoming
“Could be today,” he thought again.
He said it aloud, just to be sure.
“Could be today. Could be today.”
The door flew open. His
wife came flying in, bringing the noise and racket with her.
Arguments from the TV, food smells.
“What the hell are you doing, Gary?” she bellowed.
He looked up and saw her. Felt
her. Remembered the day on the
stairs. He dropped the gun to the
bedroom floor and stood up, the erection poking out ahead of him.
“Gary!” she shrieked.
He grabbed her by the waist and pulled her close to him.
He kissed her, his tongue forcing its way past her teeth.
She felt stiff in his arms, wooden and cold.
She broke free of the kiss and shoved him back onto the bed.
is burning! For God’s sake!”
“Could be today,” he said, jumping up to pull her down
on the bed with him.
She struggled against him, but he pinned her down.
“What the hell are you talking about, Gary!
Let me go!”
He shoved up her skirt, ripped her underwear aside and
penetrated. He thrust into her,
grunting with the effort and something changed in her breathing, her face became
flushed and she began to move her hips in time with his.
“Could be today,” he said again, drunkenly.
A thin stream of drool spilled out of his mouth and landed on her breast,
making the nipple hard. He felt her
heat surrounding him, felt her hot breath on her neck.
Then, the cramp, the release.
He collapsed on top of her, spent.
From the world, he heard laughter, smelled burning meat.
For a moment, he thought the sun had finally touched down to rest.
“God, Gary, get off!” she said, pushing at him.
He rolled off and onto his back.
“What’s gotten into you?
You’re acting so weird lately,” she said, fixing her skirt.
But she was already gone, off to catch dinner before it was
ruined, catch the last minutes of the talk-show Gods preaching their final
He got up and picked up the pistol from the floor.
He had tried, with her, with all of them.
He put the gun to his head and thought of the sun one last time.
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