Do OverRyan deserves a second chance for a happy life, a “Do Over”; his parents wrecked his first chance. Fate has stepped in and Ryan is back in his five year old body and once again in his boyhood home and surrounded by his family as they were then. Only this time he has a lifetime of memories intact, and he isn’t taking crap from anyone. Join him on a journey as he heals his family, friends, and himself. “Do Over” is a Comedy/Drama.
Ryan exited the Emergency Unit of Mercy General and stepped into the cold night air. He walked in the direction of the visitor’s parking lot; he had driven himself there when the vomiting hadn’t stopped after a week. He was weak and felt nauseas; and although he hadn’t eaten anything in several days and was dehydrated, he was not hungry and he was not thirsty. He was exhausted, unable to sleep more than an hour at a time before the dry heaves would wake him. He looked pale and sickly, in stark contrast to the former days of his youth and physical appeal. Under his coat his abdomen was distended; and painful. Within dark circles, his sky blue eyes were bloodshot and yellow; his blonde hair thinned and brittle.
He had left the hospital against the advice of the doctors; they wanted to do surgery to remove his stomach, the diagnostic tests had revealed the cancer that had grown to the size of a softball. But Ryan hadn’t gone there with the intention of staying longer than a few hours. He had thought he would be given some medicine to end his nausea and restore his health allowing him to return to his constant search for a worthwhile life, one of happiness, of maturity and peace. His life had always been difficult enough when he enjoyed good health; the idea of now having to live with this added obstacle was unacceptable to him.
He paused to vomit the contrast solution he had drunk for the CT scan, not all of it had been processed. Too dizzy to stand, he kneeled on the cold pavement, steadied himself with a hand on the ground. The productive spewing brought him temporary relief; all week he had suffered with the dry heaves, feeling as if his stomach itself was trying to escape. He wanted to pray, but held his tongue and his thoughts, if God exist he would see him soon enough or he would simply stop being. He didn’t believe God was cruel enough to punish him after death when he had been punished so much here, in hell on Earth, a prison made just for him.
Emotions fought for his attention; anger, despair, fear, relief. Determined to retain control he rose to his feet, walked to his car and got in and started it. The dry heaves returned, again they proved to be tolerable; he would make it home and do what he had to do.
He neared his car and pushed the key fob to unlock the doors and deactivate the alarm system, the interior lights turned on, the car’s interior looked warm and inviting. He got in and reached for the pack of cigarettes that lay in the center console. He could smoke in his car now, something he had never done; what would it matter if he stunk it up with the smell of smoke, he wouldn’t be around to use it much longer. But the thought of smoking made his nausea worse so he pulled his hand away and started the car, the head lights came on and he headed toward the exit.
The headlamps caught the frost covering the lawn as Ryan turned into the driveway of his modest home. The house was dark but for one light burning in the living room. He always had at least one light on in the house after dark to fight off the loneliness and despair. In the few years since Sancquin, and then Kelly died, he lived alone. He missed them, the only true friends he ever had. During the day he could manage to make himself feel that he was part of the world. At night with the lights off and the house dark, the reality that he was apart from the world, that he was alone, always took hold of him. He had his tricks for making it bearable. If he didn’t allow the house to get dark then the day wasn’t over, he hadn’t spent yet another one alone. If instead of getting in bed he fell asleep on the sofa fully clothed, with the television tuned to a rerun of a familiar show from his childhood, he wasn’t a lonely middle aged man, the day didn’t end and he didn’t go to bed alone again and he wouldn’t awake in bed alone. Leaving the TV on anytime he was at home kept the house from being quiet and made him feel less alone, he had the voices from the set to keep him company, and knowing that he was watching or hearing the same program as some of his neighbors surely were; allowed him to feel a connection with them. And during winter evenings he usually kept every light in the house on to combat the blues.
He rented the house when he moved in fifteen years ago; he adopted both Sancquin and Kelly from an animal shelter shortly after. They were two beautiful Labradors, sisters. He wanted only one dog, but knowing the pain of loneliness so very well, he adopted them both so they would have each other when he was not at home. Life with them was good. He always felt a longing for human companionship and intimacy but knew he would never have close friends and certainly never a spouse or a family. He was grateful for his canine companions; he had no doubt they both had beautiful souls.
Having gone to a hospital emergency room alone, having gotten the serious news of his cancer alone, and driving alone along dark cold streets, left him too numb to cry. He felt it was pathetic that there was no one to call to ask for help, no one to share the news with. Of his four siblings, numerous cousins, nieces and nephews, he maintained relations with none.
He made his way to the front entrance. The key turned the lock and he stepped inside and at once felt a bit at ease. “At least,” he thought, “I won’t die in a hospital.” He always felt safe in his house. It was where he was free of the pressure of wearing a false smile and being constantly on guard against people prying into his private life. He had managed to survive in his career and even enjoy some success in it, in spite of his co-workers thinking of him as strange. He had, over the years, filled his house with things for physical comfort. He owned a top of the line mattress for mid day naps he would sometimes take on weekends, he had large television monitors connected to a satellite dish that brought him programming from all over the world, a comfortable living room set and a fully equipped kitchen. One bedroom was a mini gym with a tread mill, a weight machine and free weights. In the den was a baby grand he had purchased a month before, he had begun to teach himself to play and was enjoying it, he had thought a creative outlet might prove to be a way to express himself.
He owned the house now; no one would come looking for him. He went to the kitchen and turned the sink’s facet on cold. In the cabinet above the sink he found a box of sleeping pills, he peeled the foil away from two pills and washed them down with water. He went first to the thermostat that was on the wall in the den and turned it down as far as it would go. Then he went to the laundry room and flipped the furnace switch to off.
He went to his bedroom, opened the closet door, reached in and lifted a shoebox from the shelf.
From the box he took it, the letter he had written a few years before. It wasn’t addressed to anyone. It was written with the hope that when he passed on someone would read it and understand him. There were reasons why he had no friends, why he was a loner. He wanted to be understood, not judged. But what he had written turned into a venting of his feelings and thoughts more than an explanation. He kept it because just to think of it helped calm him sometimes; it helped him to understand himself, to forgive himself.
Throughout his life he blamed himself for mistakes, and he wasn’t allowed to make mistakes, when the odds are stacked against you cannot afford mistakes. Eventually he came to realize that he shouldn’t blame himself. It had all been too hard. He forgave himself and instead blamed the universe. There was no free will; free will was a lie. But now it didn’t matter to him. Soon nothing would matter. He considered burning the letter, but again he thought, “What does it matter?” Nothing would matter soon, nothing.
The house was the only one on his street. The family of the guy he had bought it from had owned several surrounding acres from when the population density was light. As the neighborhood grew in population developers approached them to purchase the land for a shopping center. The family sold enough land for the shopping center to be built, but held onto a half acre on which sat their home. The guy’s parents lived in the home until the father died, then his mother lived there alone for ten more years until she too passed away. That’s when he rented to Ryan.
When Ryan had first arrived for an appointment to see the house he was concerned about noise from the shopping center. But because of how the house was situated behind the stores, and because there were no parking spots behind them, noise was never a problem. At night it was extra quiet. He was also concerned that vandalism would be a problem since the house was isolated, it was the only one on the street and between it and the yards of the houses on the next street over was a line of trees and shrubs; but the guy had assured him that his mother never had a problem. And of course Ryan didn’t want neighbors, he was worried that he would not fit in with those that were married and had children. He didn’t want the questions he was subjected to anytime he met new people. “Are you married?” “Do you have kids?” “How come you never married?” So he rented with a one year lease. At the end of the lease period the guy wanted to sell and Ryan wanted to buy.
He opened every window in the house now, and turned on the television and tuned it to a familiar show. He lay on the sofa and closed his eyes. He was drowsy, and he felt relieved that his stomach was still working well enough to process the pills. There was no wind or even a breeze, the house would stay warm long enough for him to fall asleep in comfort. He had confidence in his plan, it wasn’t new to him, past episodes of depression had led him to concoct it long ago. It was Saturday, so there would not be a mail carrier coming by the next day, no one would discover him and possibly save him. He would have time for his plan to work. During the night he would peacefully freeze to death in his sleep.
Ryan stirred in bed, birds sang outside the open window, and a warm late spring breeze blew lazily into the room and washed over him. He heard and sensed movement in the room, and opened his eyes to see a young boy a few feet away pulling on a shirt he just pulled from the bureau draw. Ryan’s eyes widened and before he knew it he said “What the ****?” in surprise of what he saw and then immediately heard his older and bigger brother yell, “Mom, Ryan said a curse word!” Ryan heard his mother call up the stairs, “Ryan, did you curse?” His head turned toward the doorway and he whispered, “Mom?” His eyes rolled in their sockets as he studied the room, then fixed on a spot on the floor as he remembered the night before.
“I must be asleep and dreaming,” he thought. “Maybe I’m near death.”
“Ryan! I asked you a question, answer me.”
“No, I didn’t curse,” he said in his five year old voice. He placed the inside of his hand around his neck, over his Adam’s apple, and cleared his throat in an attempt to regain his deeper voice.
“He did so! Now he’s lying too.”
Ryan shot a glaring look at his brother who he recognized right away. “Shut up you little *****,” he said as he sat up on the edge of the bed. He cleared his throat again.
Visibly surprised by Ryan’s forcefulness his brother said, “Mom! He just called me a *****!”
“Tommy keep your voice down, and don’t let me hear you say that word again. And I heard you Ryan. You’re grounded after church today. Now get up and get dressed for it. “
Tommy leaned his head though the doorway to watch his mother walk back into the kitchen. When she was out of sight he stepped close to Ryan and asked in a whisper, “What’s a *****? Are you making up words?”
“A ***** is you,” Ryan whispered.
Tommy stuck his face close to Ryan’s and said, “Once you’re not grounded and you go outside tomorrow, I’m going to kick your ***.” He flicked his middle finger hard off Ryan’s nose and Ryan heard and felt the sting of the snap simultaneously. With his left hand Ryan smacked away Tommy’s hand and then thrust his right one into Tommy’s chest and shoved him backward. Tommy fell onto the floor up against the bureau. He had a look of shock on his face. When the shock passed he said, “Oh you’re dead.”
“Not yet I’m not,” Ryan replied, “hopefully soon though. And this is my dream; so you’re not going to kick my ***, I’m going to kick yours.”
Ryan got off the bed and intentionally stepped on Tommy’s hand as he moved to the bureau and pulled open a drawer, it hit Tommy’s head.
“Watch it!” Tommy scowled.
Ryan stuck his face in Tommy’s face and said, “Boo,” causing Tommy to jerk his head back and it bang against the draw a third time.
Tommy rubbed the back of his head and studied Ryan. “Your dream? You’re not dreaming; you’re awake. And once you realize that you’ll be afraid of me again. And I’ll beat the crap out of you.”
Ryan gazed at the angelic face that lay beneath Tommy’s bright blonde hair. He knew the temper and evil that hid behind that face and popped out whenever it was alone with Ryan. He said in a light hearted way, “I look forward to you trying.”
“Tomorrow,” Tommy snarled as he got up, shoved Ryan back and left the room.
Ryan pulled a black shirt with tan stripes over his head and then studied his small torso and tiny legs. He stepped into a pair of black pants. He studied his small hands and small feet as he pulled on mismatched socks, one black and one grey. He sensed he knew what age he was, it was just about the time his mother stopped dressing him and he had to dress himself. He ignored the matching socks that lay in the drawer because he vaguely remembered a day like this when he wore the same shirt and pants to church and had mismatched his socks. He didn’t feel he needed to match the socks just because he knew how; if he was dreaming he was in his boyhood body and in his boyhood home, he could wear mismatched socks like a boy of his age might. That day decades ago his brothers made fun of him for wearing black with black and for mismatching his socks. It bothered him then, since he felt if his mother was not going to dress him anymore she should at least make sure there was something appropriate he could wear. He shared the bureau with Tommy and another older brother, they usually woke before he did and had first crack at the clothes, and by the time he looked in the bureau drawers there was usually extremely little to choose from. Even though he got their hand me downs they still wore the clothes after they were declared his, so he felt he owned no clothes. The siblings had to wait for their birthdays or Christmas to get a new pair of pants and Ryan had to wait for his birthday or Christmas for the hand me downs to be presented to him as gifts.
He looked up from his feet and into the open closet. There on the bare floor he saw a pair of shoes that he recognized as his. He stared at the scuffed and dirty interior walls of the closet and he stared at the empty wire clothes hangers and wondered why they were there, he couldn’t remember ever seeing clothes hung on them. There was the wood bar that spanned the length of the double sliding door closet; he and his brothers used to hang from it like it was a monkey bar. The closet shelf was barren. As if foreshadowing his life, Ryan’s shoes were alone in an otherwise empty closet. He felt a pang of loneliness and so he looked away.
Another breeze drifted in through the window and drew Ryan’s attention to it. He stood to walk to the window and gaze out it, wanting to see if the view from it was as he remembered. But as he took a step he realized he stood two feet below the windowsill. It was an unusually high window for a residential home. He always theorized the builders of the development made the windows high so that people in the neighboring house or on the street couldn’t see in. Or maybe anticipating that young families would move into the homes, the builders felt the high windows would mean children would not fall out the windows and hit the ground outside, no need for window gates. Growing up he had always wanted windows that were lower and he had longed for the day he would be tall enough to look out them. Now he hopped up on the bed hoping to be able to see out, but still all he could see was the tops of the tallest trees and the sky.
It occurred to him that he was awfully calm about and accepting of the situation. “Must be the sleeping pills,” he thought.
He hopped off the bed, went to the closet for his shoes, and then sat on the edge of the bed to put them on. When he lived this day forty five years earlier, he had to ask someone to tie the laces because he didn’t know how, and not knowing how to tie his laces was something his mother would disparage for him when he still couldn’t manage the task a couple of years later. He decided to tie them himself and head downstairs to see what his dream had in store for him, but as he stood memories of his childhood flooded his thoughts and anger welled up inside him. So he decided instead he would wait there for his mother to call him to get in the car and he would not respond. When she came to the room to force him out, he would sit their defiantly. She had ordered him around throughout his life, eventually enslaved him, she would not get away with that now. Ryan knew that when he was aware that he was in a dream he could control that dream as he wished. In this dream he would seize the opportunity to confront his mother at an earlier age than he did in life. When he tells her to go **** herself he won’t feel the slap of her hand, and when she calls his father to beat him with the belt he won’t feel the sting of it. Instead he’ll feel the satisfaction of slapping her, his little hand will strike her as though it were the size of his fully grown hand, and when he beats his father with his father’s own belt it will be with force powered by the strength of mature muscle fueled by rage.
He heard footsteps on the floor of the lower level and his sibling’s voices as they exited the house. He sat there for a few minutes before he heard her climbing the stairs. She crossed his peripheral vision as she walked passed his door and into her bedroom and he heard her pull open a nightstand drawer and fumble things around in her search for something. When he heard the draw close again he braced himself and stared blankly at a wall. She entered the room and said, “We’re leaving for church now. Are you ready?” He turned his face to her and opened his mouth, ready to summon as deep and commanding a voice as his little body could produce. Then he saw her face, and in it he saw that she was lost. The look had always been there, but when he was a small boy he could bear to interpret it only in his dreams. Now with the dreaming mind of a grown man he could readily acknowledge that look for what it was, she was a child in pain. No words passed Ryan’s lips, his rage turned abruptly to pity for her, and sadness.
He stood and stepped out of the room and gazed upon the lower level of the house, he had last been in the house thirty years before and he was surprised at the clarity with which he remembered it. He took hold of the hand rail of the stairway, took his first step and almost fell. He laughed at himself for being so silly; it’s a dream after all. He’d need to be sure to keep reminding himself of that so that the dream wouldn’t turn into a nightmare. He didn’t want the last thoughts produced by his brain to be unpleasant; he wanted to leave this world peacefully. With that thought calmness came over him.
At the bottom of the stairs he paused to look up at his mother standing beside him and he asked, “How are you this morning Mom?”
Together they walked out the front door of the house and he saw the old Ford Falcon filled with his four older brothers and his father. He walked tentatively to the rear door of the car, put his small hand on the handle and pushed his thumb against the button to open the door. But his thumb was not strong enough to push the button in, so he placed his left thumb on top of his right and pushed them both and the button went in and he heard the door pop open. His brother Jimmy pulled the door closed by the inside handle while through the open window Tommy said, “Sit up front stupid.” His father turned around and to Tommy said, “Don’t call people stupid, especially not on Sunday on the way to mass. And you better behave yourself in church today, all of you. I don’t want to hear a sound from anyone until you’re out of the car.”
Jimmy was the second oldest child. He had blue eyes and light brown hair which he kept parted on the left. He always sat upright and always walked with his shoulders high and back. He related to adults more than the other boys did, he sought their approval and to get it he played the part of the good boy, the boy expected to enter the priesthood. He didn’t make friends easily with kids his own age. Ryan didn’t like him very much; Jimmy often made fun of him for the very things that made Ryan a five year old. Jimmy liked to act like he knew so much about grownups and Ryan didn’t.
Upon seeing Jimmy and the smug look on his face when he pulled the car door closed Ryan recalled one evening when Jimmy quizzed him. “What do grownups do when they go to bed at night?”
“They sleep,” Ryan answered.
“No. See you don’t know,” Jimmy gloated. “I know because I’m older than you. You’re still a little kid. I’m a young man. And you didn’t know that grownups kiss in bed. I’m smarter than you.”
“No you’re not, you’re just older. You were born first, is all. That doesn’t make you smarter. You just know things I haven’t learned yet.”
Ryan had been a sharp kid. He reasoned well. He learned quickly that he wasn’t in the care of the brightest people. He never tried to seem superior to them, it was the opposite as a matter of fact. While Jimmy had been a good brother in some ways, he had been overall an annoyance to Ryan. Even when Ryan left his teen years Jimmy was still treating him like he was a little child to be pitied and tolerated. While Ryan understood that Jimmy did this because he was insecure, he didn’t like it. When Jimmy and their mother double teamed him so to speak, both dismissing him as a child to be seen and not heard, he resented them. It took him longer to understand the mother’s motive for doing so.
Next To Jimmy sat Tommy and next to Tommy was Joey who was two years older than Ryan. He was very bright and quiet. He also had blue eyes and brown hair, his hair was frizzy like an afro. Growing up he interacted very little with Ryan, and when they did interact it was usually unpleasant for Ryan, because like Jimmy, Joey called Ryan immature and he berated him for it. Eventually Ryan grew tired of trying to win Joey’s approval, so he avoided him instead.
The oldest brother, Patrick, sat behind his father. Like his brothers he had blue eyes. His brown hair was wavy and cut short with the part on the left. He was what Ryan had come to regard as another dim bulb. But he was good at sports and mechanically inclined, and when he was in high school he took a part time job in an electronics repair shop, fixing TVs and radios and he proved to be a hard worker throughout his life. Because of the age gap of seven years between him and Ryan and also because he held a grudge against Ryan for some selfish things Ryan did as a small boy, he never interacted much with him. Throughout their lives they remained distant. Ryan had estimated that if you were to add up the minutes they had spent together as adults the total would be less than a week.
Because Johnny and Jimmy were older than Joey, Tommy, and Ryan; the parents relied upon them to look after the younger ones in small ways, like sitting on the outside of the car seats next to the doors, with the younger ones in the center of the seats.
“Sit between your father and me,” his mother said through the open door to the front seat. Ryan climbed into the car and up on the seat next to his father and looked up at him and was now surprised by the clarity with which he remembered the face of his young father. He had blue eyes and a full head of black hair that would be completely grey if he didn’t color it.
His father had his impatient ex
“Ryan said ‘hi’ to you,” his mother said. “Can’t you say ‘hi’ to your son?”
“Hi Ryan,” came the emotionless response.
“Just like a robot,” Ryan thought, “he accepts commands and obeys.”
His father put his arm over the back of the seat and looked out the rear window as he put the car in reverse and backed down the driveway and onto the street.
The church was packed as usual with standing room only, Ryan and his family arrived early enough to have gotten a pew half way back from the altar, he was silent as he took in all the faces of those he knew to be long dead. He wondered if perhaps this was some step in entering the afterlife. But he also saw many faces of those he believed to be living as well, just much younger versions; so he thought it was just an accurate account of the past that he was creating in his dream. He postulated that the mind dreams more vividly when it is freed of all of life’s concerns. That or it was an effect of the sleeping pills.
He smiled reflexively when he saw a school teacher that had always been kind to him. He saw many children around his own age, but recognized none since he hadn’t met other kids until he entered kindergarten. It was hot in the church and people fanned themselves with hymnals and whatever else got the job done. Ryan realized he wasn’t moist at all, he recalled that he never perspired on any part of his body, not even his forehead, until his second year of junior high.
Sitting in the pew and looking straight ahead now, he saw only the back of the pew in front of him and the shoulders and heads of the people seated in it. He noticed how the grain of the wood was in sharp focus. He reached for the rack that ran the length of the back of each pew and held the held the song books; he lifted a book and opened it to a random page. His mother took the book from him telling him that it wasn’t for children, “It’s for grownups,” she said and put it back in the rack. Ryan told her he would be gentle with it, he wanted to see it just for a moment. She asked why, and he responded that he just did. She must have seen something in his eyes that told her it would be alright and she held his gaze as she handed him her song book. Again he opened it to a random page and stared not at the words, but at each individual letter and punctuation mark, they were so sharp that to Ryan it looked like the ink was raised, the edges of each letter clearly defined. He gently brushed his fingers over the print and felt nothing but the grain of the paper; he could not feel the ink, so wonderful was the vision of his young self that the grain looked like tiny craters.
And the smell! He had forgotten what books smelled like; decades of smoking had left him with a fraction of his former sense of smell. Loss of sense of smell was part of the reason he smoked; as a result of smoking he was less sensitive to the foul odors of others; their body odor; the emissions from their backsides; their overpowering breath. In the days when smoking was allowed in the office buildings he worked in he would light up a cigarette whenever anyone he didn’t care for the company of overstayed his or her welcome, the smoke would usually drive them away if they weren’t smokers themselves.
The reasons he started smoking included the fact that he felt he was already smoking whether he had a cigarette in hand or not. Both parents smoked and neither gave thought to how it affected their children. He recalled long car rides with the windows closed and the heat on, the car filled with a haze, his eyes stinging and his lungs tight. He didn’t hold it against his father as much as he did his mother. When he was in his father’s car and old enough to realize that the smoke affected him, he would open the car window. His father would take note, and after a last drag of the smoke he would crush it out in the ashtray and open his window as well. It was an entirely different matter with his mother; always cold when she drove in winter, no doubt due to the decreased blood circulation caused by the years of smoking, she would have the heat on full blast and the car windows rolled all the way up.
Ryan recalled how even when he was reached an age north of when he was able to clearly communicate basic desires and ask for the considerations he deserved he was constantly rejected completely by his mother. On one occasion when Ryan found it difficult to breath in her car he asked her to open her window a crack. Her response was, “Crack your window.” “That makes it worse,” Ryan replied, “it just makes the smoke flow passed me as it goes out the window.” “Then leave the window closed and shut up.” “This is the last time I’m getting in your car,” Ryan said as he rolled the window down half way letting smoke out. “I said to crack it, you little bastard, not open it all the way.” “It’s not open all the way, its half way. I’ll roll it up in a minute after some smoke has cleared.” “Don’t be smart with me. Now you can just close it.” Ryan rolled the window up to where it was open about an inch and left it there. “I said CLOSE THAT WINDOW!” she screamed in his ear. “I can’t breathe. Put the cigarette out,” he said. “Close that window now and shut the **** up or you can get out and walk home, **** Face.”
He looked at his mother now, her hair was put up and pinned beneath her ladies hat, it was a color between brunette and red. Dressed for Sunday mass, she was as pretty as ever. She was beautiful, the kind of beautiful that made heads turn, the kind of beautiful that made men hit on her even when she pushed Ryan in his stroller with Tommy and Joey walking at her heels. His father had been handsome. In photos of his father in his navy uniform at age nineteen he was indeed handsome, and he was smiling. And Ryan recalled more than once when people his parents’ age had commented what a good looking couple they were. Looking at her now, Ryan found it hard to believe that she would become the monster he knew.
A familiar smell caught his attention and drew Ryan’s eyes to his mother’s purse, open at his side. All of her purses had the exact same smell. The combination of the Juicy Fruit gum; the peppermint Lifesavers, the menthol cigarettes, the eyebrow pencil and other makeup along with the other contents that did not vary from purse to purse, created that distinctive smell. It was his mother’s smell, and it had been comforting to him as a boy. Not because it was the smell of a nurturing mother, she was the opposite of nurturing in days to come, but because it was the smell of a woman that men desired and other women envied. As his self awareness developed he had felt inferior to others and viewed his family as beneath other families, other families helped him to develop this view by both their actions and words. But his mother’s possession of physical beauty was something that even eight year old school boys recognized and commented on. His family had something other families didn’t have, and Ryan took pride in her. And as Ryan’s world changed so rapidly and uncontrollably; the smell of her purse remained a constant.
The organist began to play and the congregation rose to its feet. When the singing subsided a priest began the sermon, Ryan could not see him but he recognized the voice, it was Father Heinemann. In addition to thinking that perhaps he was dreaming Ryan had also considered the possibility that this return to his childhood was a part of the process of entering heaven. “So this isn’t a stopover on the way to heaven,” Ryan thought now, “if it were he wouldn’t be here. I’ll just replace him with another priest.” But then he thought, “No. Why do that? I’ll just go with the flow; it’s an interesting dream so far.”
It was the family’s routine each Sunday to drove straight home from mass. The kids and Ryan’s Mom would exit the car; and his Dad would drive to the bakery to pick up fresh rolls while his mother would start the bacon. Ryan didn’t follow his mother out of the car, but instead asked his father if he could go to the bakery with him.
“You’re grounded Ryan. I haven’t forgotten that,” his smother said.
“It’s just the bakery Patty,” his father said in a way that could be interpreted as saying, “Lighten up.”
“When you get home you’re grounded,” she said looking at Ryan.
Ryan remembered that he had gone to the bakery with his father once or twice and had enjoyed it. There would be a long wait to be served at the counter. Ryan knew there always was a long wait, either because he had gone with his father more times than he now remembered or because his father would say so when he got home. He remembered that it was mostly men waiting on line, so it had seemed to him that things worked pretty much the same in his family as it did in others. He’d see men in church with their families and then he would see some of those same men waiting in line. So he reasoned that the other mothers were home preparing breakfast while the fathers got the bakery goods. Knowing that his family was doing things like other families reassured him. At age five his siblings weren’t yet explaining to him about how legal separation and divorce means that his father would live somewhere else; but he already felt insecure about his family, he knew things weren’t right, witnessing his parent’s loud arguments and seeing his mother run to get away from his father when he chased her around the house had been hard things to put out of his mind.
As they drove along Crestwood Street Ryan noticed the differences between the neighborhood he left some years ago, and the one he was seeing now. The stops signs that were on every third corner of Crestwood in the days Ryan drove it were not yet installed. Ryan had hated those stops signs; they turned a two minute care free drive into a five minute chore. He saw the powder blue Ford with the black wall tires, parked in the driveway of the simple but well manicured home it had always been parked in. There was something about the car that had always captured Ryan’s attention and produced a longing within him. He first saw the car when he was about the age he seemed to be now. He liked the clean lines, the soft color, and the simplicity of the black walls, they were what first impressed him; white walls were the norm at the time. When he would see the car after his parents split up it was always as a back seat passenger in his mother’s car. He thought he was memorized by it because it was a better car than his mother drove, and the home it was parked in front of was better than theirs, money was very tight after the spilt and their house and the plot of land it sat on reflected that. Ryan though that was it, he just saw the car and home as a symbol of a better financial situation, a more desirable state of affairs. Many years later when he would drive by the house in his own car and see another car where the blue one had been, he realized that it had actually symbolized simplicity and stability. Ryan had attached meaning to that car. It had been there before the split up and it had been there after the split up, it didn’t change. Ryan’s family had changed; it was always changing at a break neck speed, his mother behind the wheel.
Ryan’s father’s car was basic, it didn’t have air conditioning and he felt warm in his long sleeve polo shirt; he thought his father silly for driving along with his collar and tie tight around his neck and his suit jacket still on. He searched his father’s forehead for beads of sweat, he didn’t find any. It occurred to him that walking from the car into the church, and then walking back to the car after mass, he was able to keep up with his father without walking fast, his father moved slowly, didn’t exert himself.
They pulled into a crowded ***** mall and found a parking spot at the bakery end of it near a pay phone booth that sat on a wide sidewalk. Ryan’s Dad turned off the car and got out without rolling up the windows, Ryan followed his lead. As they walked to toward the bakery Ryan noticed that most of the parked cars they passed had their windows rolled down and he remembered the days when his people didn’t lock cars when they sat in their driveways or even in parking lots near home.
They saw through the glass door that the bakery was packed full of customers, Ryan’s memory proved correct. Ryan’s Dad pulled the door open, stepped in and let go of the door, leaving it to close in on Ryan as he followed him and Ryan had to put out his hand to keep the door from smacking into him. His father had to say “Excuse me” a few times as he snaked his way to the ticket dispenser. Ryan tried to follow him but was intercepted by a boy with his own father. “Say ‘excuse me,’” the man told the boy. The boy said, “Excuse me,” and Ryan stepped aside to let them pass. “Thank you,” the man said looking down at Ryan as he pushed open the door and held it for his son as he passed under his arm and through the doorway. Then the man stepped out and let the door close behind them. He took his son’s hand as they stepped off the sidewalk.
Ryan looked to see where his father was, but at his height all he could see were the behinds of the men waiting for their number to be called. He had to glance at each behind in search of the one he thought belonged to his father; he didn’t like seeing those behinds but he had no choice when he couldn’t see his father s face from his vantage point of only a few feet above the floor. Several feet away he saw the pattern of his father’s suit. He worked his way through the crowd saying “Excuse me” several times to no one in particular. He found his father staring like a kid in a candy store into a display case that held various treats; apparently oblivious to the fact that his son had come into the store with him.
“One forty two,” a girl wearing a blue dress with white fringes, the bakery’s uniform, called out as she pulled the string to change the number on the overhead box behind the display cases. Ryan’s Father stepped toward her holding his ticket over his head to let the other customers know his number had been called and he needed to get to the display case. “A dozen rolls, please,” he said to the girl, then, “excuse me,” to the people blocking his way. The girl reached for the big wire basket only a few times to gather a dozen, the rolls were stuck together at the edges, and she filled the white paper sack with hot from the oven poppy seed rolls. When she placed the bag on the counter and looked up to ask him if he wanted anything else, Ryan’s father said, “And let me have one of those cookies with the black dot center.” He was pointing in the cookie’s direction; it was one of those big cookies, five or six inches in diameter, an inch thick.
His father paid the girl and headed the door, Ryan was right on his heels for fear that his father would get in the car alone and drive off without him.
Before starting the car his father opened the smaller bag and stuck his hand in and it came out with a chunk of cookie attached. The hand brought the cookie chunk to his father’s mouth and deposited it. Then it reached for the ignition where it had moments before deposited the key. As the mandibles worked over the cookie, the hand turned the key and the engine started. The eyes stayed fixed on some point through the windshield, they expressed the brain’s enjoyment of the treat that was in the mouth.
“Can I have a piece Dad?” Ryan wanted to see if they cookie tasted the way he remembered it. He also wanted to see if his father would respond in the way Ryan suspected he would.
“Your mother’s cooking your breakfast,” the mouth mumbled as it received another chunk of cookie.
“She’s cooking your breakfast too. And you’ll be eating half the pound of bacon yourself,” Ryan thought of saying to him, but he bit his tongue instead.
The father’s left hand unbuttoned the suit jacket while the right hand dropped the last piece of the cookie into the mouth. The jacket fell open and allowed Ryan to see his father’s oversized belly. “Overweight father with skinny hungry kids,” Ryan thought.
I hope you enjoyed this preview. The complete ebook is available at Barnes and Noble.
Bookster1 46-50, M 0 Oct 23, 2010