Leading Feet

May 23, 2008
By Brian Meyer, Buffalo Grove, IL

He hurled himself out of the car, the gravity always seems stronger here, and his shoes scrapped the walkway to his front door. The night was hot and humid, a fine fog was developing on his glasses, hazing his vision. There was no wind to offer a soft relief, to steer him in the right direction. Stan’s feet lead him in while his mind was reeling back.
Just go back in the car, she doesn’t know your home yet, you can think of an excuse.
It’s too late now, and the car is almost out of gas.
The brick walkway had caved in on itself after some animals had burrowed their way under it. Stan assumed they were dead, he hasn’t seen them and there is no escape. The fallen bricks cast deep shadows from the light thrown from the porch lights in front of the house. This way is the only way into the house, the garage didn’t work, the motor died due to disrepair.
He hid behind the door, not daring to open it until he knew nobody was on the other side. He listened for any sign of life. Nothing. He tried to find his keys in his pockets. Stan hates his pockets, he doesn’t like anything that is in them, his phone, money, pens, and a credit card, none of it is necessary and they all weigh him down.
He heard his keys jingle and cringed at the jolly tone, hoping nobody else heard. He crunches his key into the door and turns it so the only sound that was heard was a faint click of the lock coming out of place. He eases the door inward, making sure not to hit anything on the ground, but before he realized, the door gets pushed open and drags Stan into the house. The hot air knocked him off balance as it uncomfortably pushed him aside to cool itself in the air conditioning.
Nothing had changed, everything stayed in its place. There are boxes that lay open only half filled with clothes and trinkets. Large piles of useless crap that seemed worth fighting for at one point. Only a little light trickled through the front window and made the shadows creep up the stairs.
Stan closes his eyes, he has been through here before, and memorizes his way to the kitchen. He takes two steps to the left to avoid kicking the stereo and turns his body sideways so that his shirt doesn’t catch on a hanger that is leaning over the side of a box, being grasped by an old dress.
The sound of pounding hearts and bounding steps follow Stan from the basement, the sound of two people not wanting to get caught. Stan snapped his head in every direction he could think of to see if there was a quick path out, but the only way was the back door that was hard to unlock quickly.
It was too late anyway, the basement door was already open letting the a pale blue light pool out. The lights flashed on before Stan could see who was there, even though he already knew, it is always them, rarely is anybody let into the house. Stan felt like a cockroach that got caught stealing, and it took about thirty seconds of pain and silence until he could see the scene around him. An empty wine bottle stands on the center counter, with three beer bottles protecting it.
“When did you get home?” Stan’s mom broke the tension with her high pitched voice, a pink Aerosmith shirt and cut off shorts.
“Uh, just now,” His hands started to tighten hooked on his pockets, the outline of his tendons just creating ridges from his knuckles.
Stan’s mom tried hard not to stumble as she walked toward him. She threw her arms out for a hug, almost hitting Stan in the face. During the embrace Stan’s mom whispered in his ear, “Say hi to Tim.” Her breath reeked of alcohol and cigarette smoke.
As she let loose to return to her side of the kitchen Stan exhaled, “Hey Tim.”
“Hey man,” Time is twice the size of Stan’s mom in both width and height. His job as night security at a warehouse has him coming over at inconsistent and late hours. Tim only takes two steps to reach where Stan in standing, the smell of cigarettes precedes him and Stan flinches backward with his hand creating a buffer.
“How was Dad’s?” Tim stood up as she said it, he took a half of a step backward, this was not his place.
“Fine,” An acceptable answer considering the conditions.
A second bottle of wine was in the corner by the sink, waiting to be recycled. Stan was standing by the yellowing refrigerator that was covered in pictures of people that don’t live here.
“Excuse me, I’ll be right back,” Tim excuses himself to go out back and have a Marlboro, the cigarettes of cowboys, of men.
Stan started to go the other way, toward the stairs, to his room, “Good night.” He was almost off of the kitchen tile.
“Stan, what’s wrong?” She knows the automatic response, but she asks anyway.
Stan slowly turned around to see the kitchen table, consumed in mail and useless paper. The table is a lonely place, outside of any purpose, under a single light, that never is above a dim glow. The table has not been used to eat in years and the chairs have all become coat hangers.
“Nothing, I’m fine,” Stan went to turn back around and get out of the kitchen. Now is not the right time for a confrontation, she is entertaining. He resumed his quest for solace and comfort.
“Well, good night”
“I bet you will” Stan had only taken one step, his hands still not letting go of his pockets.
“Stan, come back,” She can never quiet muster a commanding tone.
“What?” Stan’s veins start to show on the backs of his hands. If he behaves now then she will slack on the rules, like she always does.
Her eyes started to reflect the florescent light that clicked every time a fly got trapped.
“We need to talk.”
“About?” Stan looks around for something interesting, anything else. The sink is full of glasses, not as many plates, and twenty knives. The dishwasher underneath the sink has a green light that says it’s clean has been on for a week, nothing new.
“You and your dad. He is not the best person to be hanging around all of the time, you still need to be with me, you are supposed to live here, not just sleep here.”
If Stan had not habitually bit his nails then his palms may have started to bleed, he has heard this before. He looked past his mom and saw Tim outside finishing his cigarette, he flicks the butt into Stan’s fire pit. Every other week Stan has a fire and his friends always complain about the choking chemical stink that radiates from the fifty butts that are in there.
“Okay,” He turned as the back door opened, she would be too distracted with him to notice.
As he walked away, he just wanted to turn and tell her the truth, to tell her about her vices. The drama manifested itself in his shoes as his foot hit the first step up to his room his hands relaxed and his veins emptied and dissipated. Stan’s mind was slowing down with his heart rate. He focused all of his energy into disappearing into the shadows and be forgot by those who reside in the house, by those who lie when they call this house a home.

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