Thursday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are educate, object, silence.

A Time To Reflect
“He’s sitting out there without a goddamn hat on,” mother screams, sloshing the large tumbler of vodka – cleverly disguised as iced tea with a teaspoon of iced tea powder and couple of squeezes of lemon from a yellow plastic fruit facsimile – that's clasp in her bony fingers.

“He’ll freeze to death. Goddamn kid doesn’t even have his gloves on for chrissakes.”

“What you want me to do about it?” father says, the Birchwood tip of a fresh Hav-A-Tampa cigar clenched in his teeth. Father’s voice rumbles around the cigar, itself a wagging finger in brown.
“You think he listens to me? Listens to anyone?”

They’re screaming at one another and although I can’t actually hear it, I feel it. Radiating out of the kitchen, through the bay window and into this darkening December afternoon.

Yes, I’m sitting on mother’s park bench by the bird bath and I’m doing so without benefit of a cover for my head. And yes, my Dakine wind-stopper gloves are stuffed into the pockets of my Patagonia down sweater, itself a beautiful pumpkin color, the object of desire of many of my classmates who know of fashion solely based on Old Navy commercials.

I didn’t even bother to brush the snow off the bench. I just needed out.

The parental units blare and bray at decibel levels that make your teeth hurt. School’s the same way. The uniformed, the uneducated, thinking that now they’re in a place of higher learning that all of a sudden they have an opinion – and a voice.

I mean, chrissakes, you’re born into this life screaming and spend the rest of your life trying to find that one quiet spot to think.

Today, this is mine to reflect. A snowy spot in a suburban backyard, the day pushing toward dusk during the holidays.

Things are about to get dramatically louder around here. The letter announcing my expulsion from our state’s land-grant college will be in today’s mail. In it, my parents will be informed that I have no grade point average. All classes incomplete.

Oh, it started OK, I guess, in the fall. I mean, professors tried to educate me on all matters of things and I really tried to listen. I took copious notes for the first couple of weeks, attended all my classes.

I tried to make friends. I tried to talk to girls.

I guess you could say I regressed. There wasn’t one point, really. It just seemed to happen.

There was the day in Folklore 101 where the Nigerian grad student and I got into in the hallway, arguing the merits (or lack thereof) of graffiti in society and folk culture.

Then came the oral report, the one I was asked to reconsider, the very one where I went on to describe the historical assets of graffiti on society and folklore, using the word “fuck” 27 times to make my point. Cat-calls and cheers from those in attendance that day not withstanding, next came the yelling match with the dean, grad student in tow, trying to extricate myself from Folklore 101.

Things just kinda snowballed from there.

I retreated to my room, ate delivery pizza and drank tap water for chrissakes, just looking for the solitude I though I needed. Days went by, weeks. Dirty sheets and scruffy beard growth and quiet. Oh, the depth of the lonely quiet that washed over me in waves.

Well, enough of that. I hear the mailman pulling up to the house. No use putting this off.

I jump from the bench and scoop up pink Nerf football the dog likes to carry around and toss myself a pass. I sprint into old man Cashman’s yard, past the bare honeysuckle bushes, and spike the ball into the snow.

Raising my arms into a touchdown stance, I do a little victory dance, lower my hands to my jeans and pull father’s old service .45 from the waistband. I put the muzzle under my chin, pull the trigger.

Funny, the last thing I’m thinking just happens to be the most profound: Nobody realizes that it isn’t all the screaming, all the noise – in the end, it’s the silence that’ll kill ya.


Steve Green said...

Oh, hard stuff, I never saw the ending coming, but in retrospect maybe I should have, the guy finally bowed to the pressures, and sought the absolute quiet that he craved.

In a way I can relate to this poor fellow.

On a lighter note, Happy Christmas Thom.

Virginia Moffatt said...

Well paced & bleak with a terrific ending.

Happy Christmas!

VL Sheridan said...

This one hurt. I could feel myself wince as I got to the end. Well done.

Deanna Schrayer said...

Virginia said it best I believe - bleak. So very well written, as always Thom.

Now I've gotta go make cookies with the kids to pull myself out of this quiet I sought...

Monica Manning said...

I was riding along, enjoying the trip, grinning and snorting at a few lines, then the ending plowed over me. I'm still trying to catch my breath.

eyeography said...

Very well written..
So many guys do this nowadays...
The last lines you wrote are superb... :)

Jae Rose said...

Well this shut me I am re-evaluating silent, lonely pillow or noise of life - thank you..just a brilliant piece of writing, measured, careful...As the others say, the ending literally comes like a curve-ball..Jae

Susannah said...

Phew! What a piece of writing. I always enjoy how you bring your scenes to life, I hear the voices and see the action. This one too...

Deborah said...

At some point with your writing I become unaware of reading and just start to watch the scene unfold ... brilliant!

Janet Aldrich (tec4) said...

Being on the outside and knowing there's no "inside" for you ... not fitting in (and his parents sound horrific). It must have felt like there was nowhere else to go ... well written.

dolorah said...

Didn't see the ending coming. I was pulled in by his internalization, feeling sorry for him; then horrified ad he pulled out the 45. Wow.


pia said...

New York so becomes you. Loved the whole thing especially the last line

Melissa Sugar said...

This is well written. It is powerful, dark and while I suspected tragedy I really did not see the end coming. He just really needed silence and you have done a brilliant job portraying such a character in this short piece.