Part III of IV
Friday morning Dale Blume woke up, blinked sleepily until his eyes focused on the pieces of furniture across the room from him. Then he threw his feet out of bed and touched the floor with his toes, finally standing and then making his way over to their master bathroom.
The cold marble floor felt nice and refreshing even if it was a jolt. He shivered and put on socks.
Dale looked in the mirror then and noticed a man standing in front of him with wrinkles and a slight gut. He smiled. He wasn’t sure why, but something occurred to him. It was something his mother used to say to him when he was a little boy back in Virginia.
She used to say, “You’re lucky to be alive, be happy.” That was her reproach whenever he showed any signs of sullenness or insecurity.
Thinking of it now made him almost laugh. It was true. He was blessed – blessed to be getting old.
And then there was breakfast. Having a beautiful, big breakfast was one of Dale’s daily delights.
He made perfect scrambled eggs. His toast was often, for lack of a more suitable word, impeccable. His fresh squeezed juices were practically legendary, actually.
Sometimes Dale even added sardines with tomatoes and pieces Danish cheeses on the side of the plate to add a certain “European” or “old-world” je ne sais quoi. Once he made stuffed mushrooms.
But then there was the problem. Nobody was yet awake today and he deplored sitting alone during meals and listening to himself chew. He once told Sandra in a moment of openness that he thought he sounded almost reminiscent of a cow chewing cud, and frankly he didn’t like it.
Standing there, in front of the dining room table, in his plaid boxer shorts, white shirt and socks… holding a lovely plate… he decided to break his own rules. He decided to go in the living room and eat in front of the television.
He brought out a card table and poured himself a coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice to accompany the meal. Perfect.
The television bored him, but he often enjoyed the financial news and the weather report. Today the weather sounded lovely. A warming trend was on the way and it was supposed to be sunny this morning.
The eggs needed pepper. He walked in the kitchen to get it and as he returned he noticed the bad news from the stock market. He invested a little here and there and lately the market had made him nervous. Yesterday he had ignored the news, but this morning he heard about it…
Dale looked around the living room and examined all the valuables in the room. He quickly reassessed in his mind what sort of provider he had truly been and felt foolish. Even though he had done well, he wasn’t up to his own standards, never had been actually… and the little he had recently lost in the market made him feel even worse. Also, the toast he made today was really terrible.
After getting dressed and giving his daughter her breakfast he went outside to water the roses. Dale was an excellent gardener.
It was just as he had finished picking a bit of ear wax out of his right ear, that Dale had the very strong sense that something or someone was staring at him. Mr. Blume turned around and saw a big shiny black truck pulling up his driveway. He squinted and… almost snarled.
In the driver’s seat was a young man. A manly young man… Dale lifted and arched his left eyebrow.
Helplessly he stood holding a watering can, wearing Sandra’s pink slippers, his white shirt, socks and a pair of gray sweat pants. And then out of the truck waltzed the young man towards him. He was such a handsome young man though…
Suddenly, he felt a tinge of jealousy as he oddly reasoned, still perhaps half asleep, that this strapping fellow was there to see Sandra. It quickly occurred to Dale Blume that he seemed too young for Sandra though…
Dale’s rather delicate facial features scrunched together in horrid confusion momentarily. Then, as his mind raced forward to meet reality, his face relaxed and his gentle eyes drifted off to the side and upward toward heaven as it thankfully, blessedly, came to him that this young man could be at his home for his daughter? Dear God…
It was in this precarious and rather unflattering state that Patrick Steele met Dale Blume. “Hello!” Patrick grinned, raised his hand awkwardly and then waved a strange but friendly little wave.
“I’m here to see if Sarah wants a ride to school. But she isn’t expecting me. I just…”. He froze for a second. “I wanted to surprise her.” It must have felt like a bad idea to Patrick as he said it out loud because his face dropped as his finished his sentence.
“I’ll go get her.” Dale didn’t introduce himself. He just turned awkwardly and started for the kitchen where he suspected Sarah was finishing her oatmeal.
It was odd. Dale liked this guy, and if Patrick had been there any other day, or if he had met Patrick in another circumstance he would have been warm to him. Introduced himself… But, today it was too much. Something was wrong. Dale wasn’t sure what yet but it was. He could feel it. Although, he was fairly sure it had nothing to do with… Patrick. At all... At all?
“Oh my gosh!!” Sarah practically fainted when she found out that Patrick was outside. She ran to him.
But Dale didn’t watch beyond the view from the kitchen. Instead, he turned his back and there in the kitchen, out of nowhere, as if it was a lightening strike from heaven he started to cry. And it wasn’t the sort of cry you have when you’re losing your daughter slowly but surely to adulthood and it suddenly occurs to you that you’re almost an old man. It was… everything.
It was as if all the madness was waiting for just the slightest push. All the years of quiet, perfect, polite, haunted living had fallen down from their high perch and crashed around him. And like a sad, scared little boy he cried. He shook.
When Sandra walked into the kitchen in her perpetually lovely state, she was shocked. “Dale?!” She walked quickly up to him and rubbed his arm pleasantly.
“What’s the matter?” She questioned sweetly.
“Sarah’s run off to school this morning with some boy. And next thing you know, she’ll be leaving permanently.” He dried his eyes and then came the crash landing.
“But I think what really got me-.” He stopped and looked Sandra straight in the eyes. “I think what really bothered me was that I thought for a split second, at first, that he was here to see you.” He exhaled somewhat passionately.
Sandra was beyond stunned.
“I can’t go on like this, Sandra.” He laid both of his hands on the kitchen counter and closed his eyes; resting his head on a cupboard door. She shifted uncomfortably in response.
“You know, I never thought you’d…”. She couldn’t finish.
“You’d what!?” His awoken directness startled her. …Had she ever seen him like this?
“You don’t care. You don’t care who I see behind your back.” Then she coldly continued, “And as much as you pretend not to know, I think you do.”
“I try to think the best. But, I’ll be honest. What really made me cry is just that.” He leaned back against the refrigerator. “I don’t care.”
“No, Sandra. I care about your happiness and health. I care about you… but I stopped truly caring long ago. And I think… if that young man hadn’t been so young and had, indeed, been here for you I would have told you to go on with him.” And just as soon as his words left his mouth she flew out of the kitchen and down the hallway into their bedroom.
“Fine! I’ll be going then!” She bellowed from the bedroom before slamming the door. She grabbed the telephone next to the bed and began calling Rick.
And Scott emerged from the bathroom. He was sad, shocked and slightly pleased to have avoided a punishment. At least for today…