Back to the World
by James Shaffer
Table of Contents|
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18,
19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25
I stomped up on to the porch of the house that had been my home since I was a kid. Easing open the door, I stepped into an empty hallway where my mama should have been, arms open wide. Her favorite hall mirror hung in the same spot on the wall above a small table. I stopped in front of it. The mirror reflected the face of a soldier in uniform, home from the war. The pictures I’d sent home of me and my buddies looking cool and casual in the jungle heat circled the mirror’s frame.
Junk mail and flyers announcing the latest offers crammed the top of the small table. The package I was looking for, the one I’d sent home while I was on R&R between tours, lay at the bottom of the pile. It hadn’t been opened. I stuffed it inside my backpack.
From deeper in the house, a voice from the TV pitched a tired, hard-sell act. I put down my bag. “Anyone home?” I called out. No one answered.
I walked into the living room. My daddy, Tom Piper, usually holding up the end of a bar somewhere, was in a drunk sleep on his recliner. Tonight the bar was holding him. A half-full glass of Wild Turkey tipped sideways in his lap. His fingertips still touched the glass. The empty bottle rested on the side table next to him.
I walked over and snapped off the TV. The sudden silence awakened him. His eyes shot open.
“Hey! I was watchin’ that!” He was surprised, disoriented.
“With your eyes closed?” I asked. It took him a moment to focus. I waited.
“You’re home.” He said it like it was no big deal. He tipped the recliner forward and spilled his drink.
“Damn! Now look what you made me do!” The drink soaked the front of his pants. He stared at the dark stain. It looked like he’d pissed himself. He knew what it looked like. He’d been there enough times.
“Right. I made you drink,” I said flatly, “I suppose I made you gamble too.” He looked up at me squarely for the first time. I knew he wanted to tell me something. He had that peevish look.
“Glad you brought that up. You’re home just in time. Ed Wills is stopping by tomorrow.”
Ed was the local loan shark. It didn’t take me long to do the simple math. “How much you into him for? Ed don’t usually make house calls.”
He gazed up at the ceiling and rubbed his chin like he was trying to make a serious calculation. He forgot for a moment that I knew him. He had no clue. To prove it, he gave up and looked at me with his practiced hang-dog expression. “Enough to make a house call, I guess,” he answered, staring hard at my face, trying to see my thoughts.
Copyright © 2015 by James Shaffer