Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Alton One: Capsule 3

"Dinner last night was great," Rick said into the receiver.  "I really appreciate what you did for me yesterday."

"What do you think that was," Missy said.  "Was that really a U.F.O.?"

"That seems to be what they think in the Shoreline Daily News," Rick said, holding the paper out on his couch.  "There's a picture of a man looking up at the sky, and there's a U.F.O. up there.  It's clearly what we saw yesterday."

"I wonder if it's real.  I wonder what the experts will say.

"It says here that they blew it off as a weather balloon," he said.

Carrie started crying.  She and her sister were sitting on the couch next to Rick watching Cinderella on the television.  It was late, like past 10 p.m.  It was way past their bedtime.  He was so rapt in conversation he forgot to put his kids to bed.  Yet now Carrie was setting of her alarm.

"I gotta go," Rick said.

"I understand why.  I can hear the little sweat heart," she said.  "Bye.  And take care of yourself."

"Goodbye," Rick said, and clicked end, and set the phone on the side table.  He picked up Carrie and took her to the rocker.  "I want to rock too, Clarice said. And she climbed up next to Rick on the rocker.  He sat there, watching Cinderella.  After a scene a commercial was on, and Rick could hear deep breathing.  Carrie's head was limp on his shoulder.  And, just then, he felt a thud on his side.  Looking down, he could see Clarice was also out.

He slid Clarice's head carefully so it was resting on the arm of the chair, and got up with Carrie.  He carried her to her room, turned on the white noise of beach waves, and kissed her cheek.  He tucked her in, and covered her with her blue Cinderella blanket.  He closed the door and picked up Clarice.  He took her to her room, kissed her cheek, and tucked her in.  He turned on a fan on top the dresser, and softly shut the door.

A petite man with a pale, white face and black tights was standing in the middle of the living room. Startled, Rick screamed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Alton One: Capsule 2

Rick Shane set Carrie in the sled, right in front of a smiling Clarice. They both smelled of the suns screen he rubbed over their exposed parts.  They were both decked out in their pretty bathing suits.  Around them were a variety of beach toys: two yellow buckets, two yellow shovels, a bag of snacks, towels, and sun screen.  He grabbed the string and started tugging the sled through the hot sand.  With his toes he dug in hard in the sand with each step, and half way to the beech his feet were sore and burning.  He moved fast.

If Marie were alive she'd see to it he remembered his sandals.  If she were alive he'd probably do a lot of things different.  If she were alive she'd be with him, perhaps carrying Carrie.  And if she were alive, she would have made sandwiches.  She even made sandwiches better than he did.

He listened as the girls innocently played, oblivious of how hard their dad was working at tugging them through the sand.  He admired them for that innocence, maybe even envied them.  Is he going to hell now for envying his two and four year old daughters?  He smiled at the thought.

It was a scorching hot day, near 90, and the sun was shining in a clear blue sky.  There were hundreds of people decked in their bathing suits scattered all over the beach, the playground to his left, and some scattered around their cars in the parking lot.  A teenage boy with the most perfect body lay with his arms over his head on his beach towel, showing the world his armpit hair and his six pack abs.  His body was brown, tanned by hours spent soaking rays.  Next to him was his girl in her bikini, sporting her perfectly tanned teenage body.  The world must seem so simple to them.  Oh, how he envied them, as he tried to pass by without kicking any dirt.

An older, morbidly obese lady a t-shirt meant to cover her body, yet failing as her apron hung out from under it, staining his vision, haunting his mind.  He looked around her for a path to take to the beach.  As he looked over her head he couldn't help but look into the sky. There was one cotton ball cloud overhead, and to the left was a line of exhaust where a jet was guiding through the sky.  And along the skyline of the water he could see the dark outline of a sailboat.  And immediately above that, in the sky, he could see an object.

"Daddy?" Carrie wailed.  He turned and saw that Carrie had decided to lean out of the sled.  She was half in and half out, more out than in.  He stopped pushing the sled, and watched as his daughter fell the rest of the way out.  She looked up and was smiling despite the sand that was now on her face.  She sat on her butt.  "Bucket," she said.  "Bucket."

Rick smiled.  He picked her up, brushed her off, and placed her back in the sled.  Despite interrupting her plans, she was still happy as happy is.  Clarice helped her daddy by putting her arms around Carrie.  "I'm helping you," she said.  "I'm helping you, da da."

"Thank you so much," Rick said, and started his march around the fat lady again.  Before long he wended his way though the sun bathers and a group of kids tossing a Frisbee and found an available spot in the sand only a few yards from the water.  Someone had tried to build a sandcastle by the water. Although it had been washed out by waves, he could still make out where the castle was and the moat around it.

He watched as Clarice jumped out of the sled, grabbed a yellow shovel and a yellow pale, and rushed to this spot. She sat on her butt in the mushy water of the moat and started digging.  "Come on, da da.  Get Carrie so you can help me."

Rick grabbed a towel from the bag and spread it out for the girls.  Then he did the same for himself, although he suspected he wouldn't have much of a chance to lie on it. The girls wouldn't give him a chance to relax and soak up rays.  The main goal today was to spend time with his birthday girls and relax in that way.  His goal today was to forget that his wife was in an accident; to forget that an 85-year-old man smashed into her as she was waiting at the intersection.  His goal was to forget seeing her lifeless body on the hospital bed.  His goal was to forget that there was no life insurance.  His goal was to forget his stupidity.

Within a half hour he had refurbished the sand castle, and somehow convinced his daughters to keep their shovels off it.  They were making smaller castles of their own design.  They encouraged their da da to work on the BIG sand castle. Once he felt satisfied he sat on his own butt, and closed his eyes, listening to the soporific din of waves.

After several moments of relaxing as such, he stood up, shed his shirt, tossed it onto his towel, and stepped into the water.  Clarice stepped in the water next to him, her but covered in wet sand.  Rick picked her up, and turned and, with a major effort and a grunt, picked up his baby.  They were both so heavy, so it seemed.

"I can help you," a female voice said.  Rick turned around and saw Missy Perry, the secretary at Shoreline health where he worked the past ten years.  "I can take Carrie if you want."

"Hey, that would be awesome," Rick said.  Now he was conscious of his aging body, and held Clarice so that she was blocking, so he hoped, his 12-pack abs, as so he liked to call his aging abdomen.  "Da da," Clarice wailed, "I'm falling." He shuffled his older girl back to where she was, exposing all his upper body.  "No one cares what your body looks like," Marie's voice shot through his head.  "Most guys on this beach look worse than you, and they don't care.  So why should you?"

"So you getting by okay," she said, as the two trudged through waves into deeper water.  "We all are praying for you and missing you at the office."

"I want to go REAL DEEP!" Clarice shouted.

"REEE DEEE!" Carrie repeated.

"Things are going great," Rick lied.  "I'm doing great."

"That's good.  You've been through so much."

"I'm glad you're here," Rick said, changing the subject, "It gets kind of heavy lugging two kids out here.  They love the water."

"I can see."  Carrie was hugging Missy's neck firmly.  Clarice, on the other hand, was leaning down at the water, slapping it.  As her butt was under water, and then her belly, her slapping was getting Rick wet.  He said nothing, enjoying the fact that she was just so happy.

"Rick, look!" Missy said, pointing at the sky.  "I swear that looks like a U.F.O."

Rick looked up.  "It's a flying saucer."  Rick looked around and saw that just about everyone on the beach was looking at it, many with their mouths hanging open.  The fat lady, the one he trudged around on the way to the water, the one with her gut hanging out, had her tongue lolling out the side of her mouth.  There was a lot of hymning and hawing, and "Oh my God!" one lady shouted. "What in the world is that," another said.  "Could it be?" another asked.

"Splash water with me, Carrie," Clarice said.  "I love water. Splash. Splash. Splash.

Rick looked back and saw the object had to be a space ship. It hovered over the horizon, outside the covering of that huge white fluffy, cotton ball cloud overhead.  The sun shining brightly off it hard to make out any of the specifics of the ship.

An audible gasp from the bystanders on the beach rang out over the sound of waves as the space craft disappeared in a flash, and all that could be seen where it was was the clear blue sky.  Rick looked around, observing how people, young and old, fat and skinny, all decked in their suits, some in the water, some on the hot sand, were still gazing at the sky, probably hoping it would return.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Alton One: Capsule One

His name is Rick Shane.  He was lying in his bed, staring at the ceiling fan, watching as it moves round and round and round, swooshing ever so slightly.  With each revolution of the blades the string, dangling from the light, swaying by the motion, clicked as it bounced off the light.  Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.

He can't help but to think of Marie, and how many times the two of them lay in this same bed watching this ceiling fan in action, usually emulating into a discussion.

One such discussion involved how many kids they wanted.  It was a unanimous decision there would be four kids scampering through the little house on  201 N. Columbia Avenue in Shoreline, Michigan.  There would be four kids to take to Lake Michigan on warm summer days.  There would be four kids to dress up in their warm clothing to take sliding on the hills by the state park on the lake.  There would be four kids.

He could feel the tear trickle down his cheek.  Yet before he could get lost further he felt a soft hand on his left hand.  "Daddy, are you gonna get up?"  It was Clarice.  He blonde hair was all fluffy and messed up from sleeping, and she looked so pure and innocent.  She kissed her daddy's hand, and smiled.  Yes, it was one of the three smiles he would never forget.  A smile that glows bright in his minds eye in the late hours of work when he's forced to listen to stories from children that would haunt most men.

He rustles his way out of bed, slips on the same shirt he wore the day before, and the same navy blue sweat pants, and picks up his older daughter.  "How old are you today?" he said, looking at her bright smile as he walked down the hall to the living room.  "How old are you, pretty?"

"Four-years-old," she said in her high pitched voice.  "Today is my birthday.  Today I'm four-years-old, da da."

He set her down and she quickly went to work, playing with the Barbie dolls she played with the night before.  Rick could hear a voice, and he knew right away it was Carrie calling out from her crib, behind the closed door.  Only she wasn't calling for him, she was merely talking, or, as Marie would say, thinking out loud.  "Carrie is one of those little girls who verbally communicates every thought that goes through her mind," Marie would often say.

"How old is your sister?" he said.  "How old is your baby sister?"

"Carrie is two-years-old," Clarice said nonchalantly as she continues playing, making no effort to look up.  "Come on, Barbie, it's time to make a cake.  Come on, honey, it's going to be a BIG day today.  We're going to have a birthday party.  Come on, honey, we have work to do."  She was talking to her dolls, and not Rick, he decided.  She was so cute.  Her mom would have loved to be here on this morning.

He opened the door a crack and peered in at Carrie. He was immediately overwhelmed by the smell of poop.  She immediately looked at him, and giggled.  "Da Da," she said, "Doah."  He pushed the door open and she put her arms up.  He picked her up. She squeezed him tight, leaned back, looked into his eyes, and kissed his cheek.  Her smile was huge. It was a smile that would be engraved in his mind as long as he lived.  You can't forget a smile like that so early in the morning.  You forget all the bad stuff, and moments like this you remember.  If he had a dime for each time he said that to a kid he'd be rich, he thought.

The phone rang.  He rushed to the desk to pick it up.  It wasn't on the desk.  It rang again and again.  "Where's the phone?" he shouted.

"Here da da," Clarice was holding it up.  He grabbed it, and said, "Hello."

"Hi, Rick," it was his mother. "Can I talk to the birthday girl."

"Absolutely," he said, handing Clarice the phone back.  She was all smiles.

She put the phone to her ear, saying nothing, and listening to whatever her grandma had to say.  Rick could hear his mother's voice from the phone, but couldn't make out any words.  That is, until she started singing happy birthday.  That was a tradition of hers an every birthday.

Rick went into the kitchen, opened up a loaf of bread, grabbed four pieces, and stuffed them into the toaster.  He clicked the lever.

"Da Da?" She was standing by his side, holding up the phone.  He grabbed it.  He said, "Hello."

"I just want you to know that I think you ought to go back to work now."  That was mom, always blunt.  She just said whatever was on her mind, regardless of the appropriateness of the moment.  The last thing Rick wanted to think about today was money, because money made him think about not having a house to go along with not having a wife.  "I know this probably isn't the best time, but I don't know when a good time is.  Your house payment is due next week, and you don't have any money to pay it."

"I know mom," he said, trying not to sound melancholy, although he knew he probably failed.  He was so happy she was helping him with his finances, because that's something Marie did.  Rick had no idea any passwords, and felt completely out of the financial loop.  He realized as soon as she was gone how much she did, and how much he probably took for granted.  "I talked to my boss yesterday and she says I can come back whenever I'm ready."

"Rick, you're not going to be ready no matter when you go back to work," she said into the receiver.  "I know it's hard, I know."  She didn't know, he thought, yet left it alone.  "I know what you're going through.  I understand.  And maybe being around your work will help you get your mind off all that's going on in your life now.  Maybe that's the best therapy."

She was right about that, but he wasn't going to tell her that.  He loved his mom, but all he wanted to do now was somehow end this conversation.  "Mom, I have to get dressed so I can take my girls to the store. I have to get birthday presents.  I promised the girls I'd let them pick out there own present today"

The toast popped up.  He opened the refrigerator.  "How are you going to pay for them," she said.  "You can't just charge everything."

"Well, for now that's what I'm going to do," he said, grabbing the butter, and shutting the fridge.  "I have to get going, mom.  I love you."  He grabbed a plate from the cupboard, which was already open.

"Just remember, I'll watch the kids for you.  That should never be a problem for you.  I will watch those darlings anytime you need it.  And I love you too, Ricky."

He hung up the phone.  He watched his kids playing so well together with the Barbies.  He buttered the toast, and put on a layer of strawberry jam, a favorite of the girls.  Once finished, he turned around and just stood there a while watching his little girls happily play.