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Drowning (Part 1)
The drive had not been near as bad as Joel had feared; a little rain, a little hail here and there and that was it, nothing close to the blizzard his brother Aaron had experienced on the same roads last year when coming up to visit. Aaron always had the bad luck it seemed, but it wasn’t quite something that Joel envied him for.
He drove up the narrow street, squinting his eyes and struggling to make out the street names. He’d lived here the past 7 years and still couldn’t navigate without the street signs to guide him, which admittedly weren’t much use on days he forgot his glasses, such as today.
He finally managed to discern one of the signs, (Carrington Way), and turned left onto a path that was even narrower than the street, and not half as well paved. He made another left, this time into a gravel driveway, and suddenly a large Victorian style house rose up out of the trees and brush. He parked next to the cobalt blue ford he had bought his wife for their anniversary last year, his way of making up for forgetting it the year before that. He had actually forgotten it again last year and originally bought the car for himself, but it was either good luck, or just plain good timing he bought it on the day of their anniversary. His wife had been ecstatic, and told him over and over again how surprised she was he had finally bought her a replacement for her old suburban. Joel was surprised too, but he didn’t dare let Sophie know.
He opened the door to his own car, and carefully stepped out onto the muddy gravel, his shoes making sloshing noises as he walked up to the brightly painted porch, which wasn’t so bright when it was damp from rain. He unhooked his house keys from his ever handy carbiner, and swore loudly as they slipped through his fingers and fell to the ground with a loud thunk. He bent over and picked them up, and was about to stand up when something caught his eye. There was a muddy footprint next to the spot where his keys fell. It was slightly bigger than his own and looked to be from a boot, so he figured Sophie’s brother John had popped in earlier today, who was supposed to be paving a driveway later this month in place of the gravel. He stood up, about to place the key in the doorknob, when it swung open.
“What were ya cussing so loud about? You probably woke half the neighbors you know, you ought to be ashamed!” Looking up at him was his mother in law who appeared to be in the act of leaving “Are you tired boy? You look tired.A drive into town exhaust you? I always told Sophia she should never have married a writer, she should’ve went with the Wilkins boy across the street, you know he became a firefighter, don’t you?” Joel was spared from answering when Sophie appeared behind her mother. “That’s enough of that Mom, come on and get in the car so I can drive you home before the weather gets too bad, and then you’ll be stuck with us for a week.” His mother in law looked mortified for a moment, and started toward the car as fast as her hip replacement would allow her.
Sophie stood on her tiptoes, and kissed Joel on the cheek. “You’re late hon, what took so long?”
“Well,” Joel began, but he was drowned out by his mother in law none too politely asking if they could get a move on. “I’ll tell you when you get back. I wouldn’t want to keep the old crone waiting,” he said, casting a dark glance over his shoulder. “You know, I named the murderer in my story after her? Its perfect, except your Mom doesn’t need a knife to kill people, she only needs to nag and nag until I’m ready to hang my self from a bridge.” Sophia laughed, (“Whats so funny up there? Hurry your *rse up! I’m freezing”) “Tell me about it,” She said, and kissed him one more time. “I’ll be back real quick, I promise. Don’t try to cook dinner and surprise me either, I still remember the last time!” She warned and then said “I have Lasagna in the oven, but it won’t be done until after I get back.” She kissed him again, and went to the car before the old lady could start in again.
Joel watched them leave and went into the house, wiping his shoes on the matt behind the door, but still managing to track mud onto the wood floors. It’d be a good idea to mop the floor before I forget, he thought, or Sophie’s going to be p*ssed. The thought of his den with the old armchair and ancient oak desk was more convincing than the thought of mopping however, so he walked up the stairs, taking care to avoid all the shoes and boots that were set on the steps. He sat down in his armchair, booted his laptop up, and opened the Mercury News website, and glanced at the headlines. One caught his eye. “6 year old latest Detroit Murder Victim”. He double clicked the headline, and read the article, growing more and more disgusted with every word. This was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. But it didn’t surprise him. Having faith in humanity wasn’t something he was very good at anymore, and perhaps had never been.
He sighed and closed the browser, opening up a blank word document, staring at the screen, the cursor blinking and waiting for him to write something. He loved writing, but starting something new was always hard. The first words were critical to him, and the story depended on if he liked the way he started it. That being said, he closed the laptop, and got up. He couldn’t write right now, he was hungry and cold, d*mn what the thermostat said, there was no way in h*ll it was 70 in the house.
He made his way to the stairs and climbed down, nearly tripping over a boot and almost breaking his neck in the process. He turned around and gave the stairs the finger, feeling a little better, and trudged into the kitchen, the cheap linoleum he promised Sophie he’d replace with tile making cracking noises as he walked across it. He rummaged through the cupboards for a while and, finding nothing, turned to the refrigerator where he was promptly surprised by a homemade cheesecake which to his dismay had a note on it that read “Don’t even think about it” in his wife’s familiar, loopy handwriting. He finally settled on a tub of mint ice cream in the freezer, and grabbed a spoon.
He wasn’t really that hungry, he was just eating because he was bored, he reflected to himself. No doubt that was unhealthy, as he’d heard so many times, but he stayed slim no matter how much he ate, and being addicted to food was a lot better than being a raging alcoholic, like he heard some of his favorite authors were.
His spoon scraped the bottom of the cardboard tub, and he set to work polishing off the rest of the ice cream before Sophie got home, when he remembered she had said there was Lasagna in the oven. Throwing the container in the trash on his way, he walked over to the oven to check on dinner. Sophie had set the temperature, but neglected to turn the oven on. He pressed the start button, laughing a little. Sophie just had too many things on her mind sometimes; she kept forgetting other little things, like turning the oven on.
There was two hours on the timer, and he was bored again. He grabbed a can of cake frosting, and went back upstairs to his study, the first few words of a novel floating around in his head.