Several years have passed, looking back it’s hard to figure how many. Memory sometimes is a fickle beast when it comes to measurement of time. I drive home from the pet store in my new pick-up, thought I might lessen the blow of buying this with getting a puppy. I swear I’m smarter than I look. Cynthia sits on the porch swing as I drive in, she stands to inquire about the strange truck driving up. When I park she’s already down the stairs. “You didn’t!” She shouts. “I did, but I have something…” She doesn’t let me finish. “It wasn’t all our savings was it?” I pull the puppy up and hold it in my right arm as a close the door. “No, we still have money. I really needed it for work, but I got you something.” She walks over and takes the puppy from me. “This doesn’t change the fact you’re a fuck wit!” She walks inside but leaves the door open. The lights from the house shine perfectly on my mistake.
It took two days of sleeping on the couch for her to let me back into bed with her. Though Sara, the puppy, got to sleep in between us. I am not going to lie and say I only got the puppy because of the truck, I was hoping that it would, which it did for some time, cool her want to start a family. The next morning we pull the weeds in her garden, and no that’s not a euphemism, her garden was doing great, but so were the weeds. With a stiff back and hands covered in thorns Cynthia decides we should walk down to the beach with the puppy. So we walk down the slanted edge to our own secluded beach, however, I still had to carry Sara when the walk became too difficult. We ran around the beach with Sara until the sun goes down. I carry the wet dog back up the hill and set her in the bed that Olive and Cynthia put together. I get us two beers from the fridge and we watch Cynthia’s favorite program. She falls asleep with her head on my lap as I twist her hair around my fingers. The show ends, I move her head, and I sit up to turn off the television. I turn around and she’s already back to sleep. I carry her up the stairs, as I set her in the bed she sleepily mumbles that I smell like a dog. I kiss her on the head and take a shower, unknowing this was going to be the last good night for awhile.
She leaves for morning mass before I even wake, I move to put my arm over her, but the space is empty. I get up and dress in my Sunday best, which is a ragged t-shirt and torn jeans. Their so comfortable it’s hard not to believe in a god. I make a hamburger for breakfast, and throw a little bit of ground beef on the floor for Sara. With a bottle of whiskey and a beer, I eat my burger outside as Sara sits staring for some more. I finish the sandwich and beer and sit sipping the whiskey. I don’t know how much time passed, but enough for the bottle to be empty and for me to be out of cigarettes. I set my butt into the bottle and lean back in the chair. I watch as Sara tries to catch grasshoppers, which was amusing as she had the coordination of a puppy. The screen door snaps shut as Cynthia walks outside. She walks to the post for the back porch and leans against it. “How’s church?” I ask her slurring. “It was nice.” She says in a distant voice. She turns around with a slight smile, my blood seethes as I know that twinkle. “It would be nice for Sara to have someone to play with.” I knew what she was getting at but try to drive the conversation away. “So another dog, I want to wait until she’s a little older.” She stomps her foot. “No, why can’t you ever be an adult about this. You said until we get our lives together we would have a child. Then when we get things together you blow our savings on that truck. Enough is enough, do you want to have a child or not!” She’s yelling, so I yell too. “My life isn’t together, I’m not ready, it, just won’t fucking work, ok!” I finish by stomping my foot into the table, it breaks in the middle and my foot gets stuck. I fall to the ground and shake off the table as Cynthia watches this debacle. I stand up in a huff, stagger a little then shout. “I going to get some fucking cigarettes.” I stumble through the house and grab the keys to my pickup. I start it and try it again even though it was already running. The starter squeals as Cynthia comes barreling out of the house. “Fuck!” I think. I put the pickup in reverse and begin backing out. Cynthia catches up and grabs the mirror. I roll down the window still going in reverse. “Let go damn it, let go!” I yell as she takes hold of the door. I speed up, the truck whines as I try to reverse faster. “Please stop Karl!” She yells to me. My foot pushes hard on the pedal, angry, the anger I didn’t know I possessed anymore. I give her one last look as her fingers slip and she falls from view. I stare into the dust that I created looking for her. My heart drops out of my chest. “What have I done…” I think as the pick-up hits the embankments and scrapes its way to a stop. I stagger out of the passenger side and run down the road. “Oh god, oh god, oh god.” I say as the worst of thoughts come to my drunken head. As I make my way back to the house the dust settles and I see Cynthia picking herself up. Her arm is bloody as she looks up to me. “I’m sorry, let me help, I’m sor…” She pushes me with all her might and I fall to the ground. “Fuck you!” She shouts. Turning around she runs back into the house and slams the door behind her. I follow her but I am stopped at the door, I try the knob and it’s locked. I go and sit on the porch swing. Dusk disappears and night comes. I fall asleep as the world spins and rocks.
Like the sound of a distant knock I open my eyes to Cynthia tapping me on the head. Noticing I’m awake she sits up straight. “Sleep well?” she asks. I sit up and begin apologizing for my actions. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I’ll quit drinking I swear it, not one more drop, not…” The sound of Jaspers truck door closing breaks my pleads. “Oh yeah, you’re late for work.” Cynthia says going back inside to get changed for work. Jasper walks up to me as I stand up. “Rough night?” He asks, already knowing full well it was. “You could say that.” Jasper turns around to get back into his pick-up as I try to wipe the hangover off. He honks his horn at me. “Come, come on boy! That-at pick-up ain’t going to move itself.” I run into the truck.
As he waits inside the cab I put the chains on. I slide through the passenger side and put the pickup in neutral. I wave my hand out the window and he slowly tows me out of the hole. With access to the fuel port, I take the can and put a little gas in her. I must have left it running all night. I unhook the chains and drive the truck the rest of the way. I park it as Cynthia puts her bags in the car, too many for work. I watch her go back inside when Jasper calls me over. “Hey, I know- know it ain’t of my be-bee wax.” He says hanging his arm out of the window. “Learn from Olive and I. It ain’t the fi-fight that is the hardest. It’s how wrong you are.” I shake his hand and thank him for his help. “Just do the right thing.” He says then pulls away. I dart inside and catch Cynthia at the door. “That’s a lot of bags you got.” I say as she looks down at the suitcases then me. “I think it’s best if I stay with the Weatherby’s for a little while.” I try to take her hand but she moves it away. “I’m sorry I hurt you.” I say as sad as ever. “This, it’s nothing.” She looks at the wound on her arm then continues. “You scared me, Karl. I don’t like that. I love you, and I’ll call you when I get back from work. I just need some space.” She hugs me then walks out the door. She drives away, as the distance increases the hole in my chest widens. I pour some food in Sara’s bowl, pull the phone to the table, and wait for her call.
I drank water all day. I’m in the bathroom when the phone rings, I try to finish as fast as possible. I run for the phone with my pants undone. “Hi-hello!” I say into the receiver. Her voice comes out quieter than I wanted it to. “Hello.” she says. “How was work?” I ask her. “It was alright.” I listen to her distorted breaths on the phone. “Well, I got to help Olive get stuff set-up. I’ll call tomorrow.” I sigh. About to tell her I miss her when the connection goes dead. I put the phone down and drink some more water.
Two weeks of phone calls, all the same. She passes me as she drives to work. I decided to walk to the Weatherby’s today. She lifts her hand slightly from the wheel. I wave in return. I turn around and watch her disappear off in the horizon. I try my best to break myself in my work. The sun goes down as I lay under the tractor changing its oil. Cynthia comes out and brings me some water. “You’re going to work yourself to the bone.” She says kicking at my boots, I shift from the surprise knock and tip over the oil pan, spilling its contents all over my shirt and ground. “Shit!” I shout squirming out from under the tractor. “Oh, my.” She says examining my pitch black attire. I remove my shirt and use it to soak up the rest of the spilled oil. “I, I brought some water for you.” She says. I take the glass and drink from it. “Thanks.” I say wanting to touch her. “Well, just be careful, ok.” She turns to leave. “I miss you.” I tell her. She knows she walks away slowly as I try to suck in as much of her essence as possible with my eyes. I finish up, still covered in oil and shirtless. As I stroll in front of the house, Jasper sits on the steps smoking his pipe. “I didn’t real- realize this was a competition. You’re almost blacker, blacker than me.” He knocks the tobacco out of his pipe. “Come sit over here.” I walk over and sit next to him. Luckily my cigarettes were untouched by the oil. “Pretty night.” He says in a cool tone. I look up to the clear sky. “That it is.” I say. “Do you know what the word- word reform means?” He asks. Before I can answer he’s telling me. “Reform, Olive taught me this when I- I was probably your age. You take out all burdens and throw, throw them away. It only works if you. If you truly mean it.” I take a drag of my cigarette. “I don’t mean to be intrusive. But- but boy you got to get your act together.” He puts his pipe into his pocket and walks up the steps. “Now you, you take tomorrow and sit on that.” He walks inside. I get up and begin to take the long walk home. I turn back one time, and I couldn’t say if I saw the curtains move or just wanted to. But I felt like she was watching me as I disappeared into the dark.
The next morning I wake up and feed Sara. I swear she’s tripled in size. As I eat my oatmeal I stare at the bottles on the counter. Their amber and clear liquids feel so appealing. I get up, to pour a glass, “Just enough to relax.” I say to Sara, regardless of her ability to understand me. I set the glass on the counter, pull the cork from the bottle. But the smell, the smell makes me sick. “Its rye, it always smells bad.” I tell Sara. But she stares at me and I stare back. I put the cup into the cupboard and sit back down. “Ah fuck it!” I say to no one. I pick up the bottle and pour it down the sink, then the next, then the next until they were all empty. I rinse them out and set them upside down to dry. Taking a notepad Cynthia left behind I write one mistake on each page then roll it. One for every bottle. I stick the papers in the bottles, secure the cap or cork tight then place it into the garbage bag. I lift Sara in one arm and a bag full of confessions in the other. I carry them down the slanted hill. I set her and the bag down when I reach the bottom. She digs for clams as I throw one bottle after another into the ocean. She may keep her secrets, but sometimes secrets aren’t worth keeping.
I wait by the phone for her to call. It rings, then rings. I get the nerve and answer it. Before she can get a word in I confess my fear. “I’m scared. And I’m sorry. And I miss you. I want you here. I need you here. I’m reformed. I miss you.” I stop and listen to her inhale on the other side then she simply says “Okay.” There’s a click and I put the phone down. I walk to the porch and wait. Time passes when the headlights come shining in the distance. I feel as nervous at this moment as I did when I asked for her hand in marriage. She parks the car and steps out. Sara goes rushing pass me. Cynthia picks her up and Sara licks all over her face. “I didn’t teach her that.” I say unsure what to actually do. “I can tell, she at least knows how to use her tongue.” She says setting Sara back down. “I fucking missed you.” I tell her as she walks up the steps. “I fucking missed you too.” She replies.