Read. Write. Repeat. Aspire to be a Janitor.
Like any other night, Tommy walked out of his back door to sit on the patio. Gin in hand, he leaned back in the weather-worn rocking chair and reached into his jacket pocket to retrieve his cigarettes. The sun had set hours ago and the neighborhood sat there snuggled in the woods– smoke rising out of each chimney.
He didn’t know the people that lived around him; nobody ever came knocking to borrow a cup of sugar or to invite him to barbecue on warm summer evenings. Tommy was fine with that. He wasn’t much of a people person, anymore. He was quite content sitting at home alone in his big house with his thoughts and Sibelius echoing through the empty rooms.
Setting down his tumbler, Tommy grabbed the tattered book that was on the table and opened it to where the bookmark told him what he was supposed to read next.
“Jesus wept.” Looking over those two words again and again, he drifted off thinking about the first time he read that verse. For years, he had been trying to find that faith he claimed to have as a child. Tommy used to hope for the time he would leave this earth for the glorious beyond. His hope slowly faded to a silent desperation. That desperation was for nothing more than the existence of a God.
He startled himself back into focus when he heard those very words coming from his mouth. The pages had carelessly flipped further into the book; so when he looked back down, the words became a different passage. “that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”
Years ago, Tommy sat on a barstool in a wine shop, listening to a young poet perform. The poet looked withdrawn into himself, but his voice burst forth with fervor and fresh emotion, yelling at certain points and whispering at others.
Tommy turned the Bible to the inside of the back cover where he had written four lines to make up a stanza. They were the last words the poet spoke before he left the microphone to stand lonely, by itself. When Tommy slid into his car that night, he snatched up his Bible from the passenger seat and copied the epitaph down,
‘”For all the things you have taught me,”
I say as I begin to cry,
“You never had the chance to teach me
How to say goodbye.”‘
Tossing back the remainder of his gin, Tommy stood up to stretch. Kicking some of the leaves that had blown onto the patio, he stood at the top of the steps that led into the overgrown backyard.
As he lit one more cigarette, he heard the next door neighbor’s screen door creek open and spring shut. A porch light came on and silhouetted a man. Tommy could barely make out his form because of the naked boughs that made a privacy fence between the properties.
“Amber!” the man yelled out. “Amber! Come here.” The next door neighbor did this every night and every night, Tommy would try to imagine what the dog looked like. He thought it must be one of the most stubborn dogs because the man would yell for at least five minutes before he turned the light off and went back inside.
Turning around, Tommy opened his back door and stepped into the warmth leaving his neighbor outside calling for Amber.
The man beckoned for his wife to come in. Amber stood there in the driveway, looking back at her husband. She stepped backward, shrinking slowly back further into the dark night– much like she had done when her life came to an end ten years ago.
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