Today’s the Day
by Augusto Corvalan
“Eight, ten, seven,” the old mouth spat out, dried spittle making a trail across his wrinkled cheek. “Those are the numbers Dave.” The dying man’s frail chest rose and fell at an accelerated rate, uselessly trying to pump life through the body’s veins. “They’ll be lucky for you, Dave. They’ll be lucky. They’ll help you like they helped me, the magical numbers,” the old man said, trailing off, whispering nonsense.
* * *
Fourteen straight-backed chairs. Three lawyers. Ten estranged relatives. 7:00 a.m.
“And for all of the above reasons, we at Angel & Blackwater, representing our clients, refute the will of the late Dave Aires, Sr.,” the lawyer said, the rest of the table nodding in approval, all except for Dave Aires, Jr., who sat alone at the far end of the table. “You will find, Mr. Aires, that the court will side with our clients. It is suggested that you drop any contentions and accept the aforementioned deal.”
Dave stood, looking about the room. Strong-jawed men in pristine blue suits stared back at him. He remembered seeing many of the same faces with bloodshot eyes and heavy growths, whispering for money at Christmas parties. Even now, when the faces sported the satisfied look a glutton wears after finishing a mammoth meal, Dave only saw his father helping their tittering bodies into his car after Thanksgiving.
“I didn’t know everyone would bring their lawyers, so I guess I’ll be representing myself,” Dave said, standing up timidly. “First of all, I will contest any and all charges even hinting that my father had a mental illness. I will not stand for his name to be slandered, especially by people from his own family. Secondly, he might have signed over his house to you when he was incoherent...”
“Allegedly,” one of the lawyers whispered.
“But he was fully conscious of the decisions he made and the assets he allotted in his will. Having said that, rest assured that my lawyer and I will not hesitate in taking this matter to the courts if that proves to be necessary.”
“Dave, be reasonable,” an old aunt pleaded, her dangling folds of skin adorned with makeup of vivid colors. “Your father would not have wanted his family bickering about money.”
“My father would have wanted his son, the one who took care of him, to have the things he left behind. If you want to be reasonable, then how about returning all of my childhood things to me.”
“Now, Dave, we can’t do that right now. Your father gave us his house and everything that was in it.”
“Of course,” Dave mumbled. His knees trembling, he sat down again and stared at the floor.
* * *
One stagnant company. Three stacks of paper. Two fourth-quarter reports. Two hours late.
Dave dashed to his cubicle and sat at his desk, flipping his tie out of the way. His hands desperately groped for the mouse and keyboard, ready to file report after report.
The meeting with his family had not gone well, but Dave was still happy. He knew today would be the day that would change his life. Today things would change. Today was Dave’s day, the best day of his life.
The keys crunched under Dave’s fingers, like twigs under heavy boots, filling the empty document. Perhaps today would be the day he got promoted. Maybe he would get a raise. Dave would even be content with his indolent co-worker being fired.
“Hello Dave,” a cheery voice said.
“Hello Mike,” Dave said glumly over his cubicle wall.
“Listen Dave, I got a presentation with the boss in like half an hour and I still haven’t done my fourth-quarter report. Do you think...?”
“I don’t know, Mike. I was out all morning and...”
“I would really appreciate it Dave. Plus, we always have to watch each other’s backs, right?”
Dave didn’t answer in the vain hope that Mike would just leave. It was, after all, his lucky day.
“Fine, Mike,” Dave said, taking the sheets of paper that Mike was handing him.
“Thanks a million.”
Every day, Mike had some task that Dave had to do for him. Usually Dave tried to rebuff Mike’s effort, but after listening to his incessant pleas day after day, he would give up and take his co-worker’s left-over work.
He had been hoping that today would be different, what with it being his lucky day and all. There was still time though, Dave hoped. It had to be different. His father had promised him it would be different.
Four numbers. One ticket. 106 million dollars.
Standing outside a superstore, his face aglow with the light from dozens of moderately priced televisions, Dave clutched a lottery ticket, protecting it from the falling rain. His father had won the lottery two consecutive times using his ‘magical’ numbers. Now Dave was hoping to do the same. He waited in tense anticipation as a blonde man announced the winning lottery numbers in a monotone voice. His father’s lucky numbers weren’t among them.
Any other day, Dave could have accepted his loss. But today was supposed to be his day, the day when miracles happened, when his life turned around, when he would experience wondrous events. Dave assured himself that there was still plenty of time left. Yet as the sun dove for the cover of the horizon, streaking the sky with fantastic shades of blue, orange and red, the prospect of a life-changing event happening seemed dimmer and dimmer.
* * *
120 grams of orange juice. 60 grams of scrambled eggs. 130 grams of tomato soup.
Dave raised the silver spoon to his wife’s mouth. Her face tensed for a moment before taking the egg bits. It had been two years since the incident. Dave blew on the soup before offering it to Leila. She had gone into a sort of catatonic state, refusing to speak to anyone. Dave met her blank stare, hoping to find some signs of recognition. He had long ago given up on her recovery. Still, this was supposed to be the day — the best day of his life.
The inhuman scream that escaped her mouth after feeling a bump as she backed out her minivan was the last noise Dave had heard her make. She had shed no tears at their son’s funeral, spoken no words. Her mindless expression did not change as the awkwardly tiny coffin was lowered onto the earth.
Dave was sure that today was going to be the day when she woke up from her fairy-tale dream. Sometimes, alone at night, Dave envied his motionless wife, living inside her head, away from the cruel world. He had decided long ago that it wouldn’t be that bad living amongst your psychedelic dreams, staying out of touch with grief and disappointment.
Perhaps today would be the day when Dave mustered the strength to leave his wife, leave the old life she represented and start anew. He could go to Ireland, where his family hailed from, and freely explore that beautiful country. He would meet a kind woman there, quirky enough to be interesting. They would live in a small cottage, working the land.
Dave tried to shake off his childish fantasies but the thought that anything was possible today kept popping into his mind. Washing off the tray of leftover bits of egg and the cup of undisturbed orange juice, Dave tingled with anticipation at the prospect of a rebirth. His father had told him so. And there was still time for it to happen.
* * *
One bullet. Six chambers. 0.436 inches.
Dave could remember, in vivid detail, the day his father had taken him fishing. Dave caught odd trinkets and a pair of small, slimy fish. By the end of the day, his father had caught 8 bass, using 10 different baits, each of them weighing roughly 7 pounds. His father had thanked his lucky numbers, as he always did when such surreal events occurred to him.
As Dave sat on the edge of the lumpy couch, Leila staring at the television screen, memories of his father flashed before his eyes. He thought that the night of August the 10th, 2007 would be a special one. He had pictured himself celebrating a glorious victory of some sort, or receiving a heavenly gift. Dave lifted the heavy revolver. Leila continued to stare into the distance. She did not seem to hear the tiny, musical clicks the revolver emitted, almost like a cricket chirping for a mate, as the chambers spun at dizzying speeds.
Dave thought she might stop him as he placed the revolver into his mouth. He thought perhaps that this being the day that was meant for him, his wife would wake up and save him from peril. There was still time though. And even if she didn’t, there was still a good chance that Dave would come out from his little experiment unscathed.
It was a necessary experiment though. Dave had to believe that the best day of his life was not wasted. He had to believe that it all meant something. There was no more time left.
Copyright © 2008 by Augusto Corvalan