The Final Countdown

Submitted for Contest #74 in response to: Write a story in the form of a top-ten list.... view prompt

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Jan 01, 2021

Creative Nonfiction Fiction Inspirational

He stared at the screen for what seemed like an eternity before he reverted his attention to the blank paper laying on the table. Now what! Jilt wondered. Where should I start? He tapped his ballpoint pen on the table while counting from one to zero to calm the anger that was about to erupt again.

He squeezed the pen, and threw it against the wall. "Damn!" he muttered under his breathe.

He buried his head on the palms of his hands, feeling helpless and hopeless.

As he pondered how his life had become a big joke, he heard the familiar 'meow' sound. It sounded distant; lacking the energy he'd been used to hearing. He turned his head slowly towards the Persian cat.

It looked undernourished. Its eyes were protruding from its sockets. One would have thought it was suffering from any of the diseases that trouble cats. Maybe cancer.

He knew what the sound meant - the cat was hungry. But, the cat didn't inch any closer or rub itself against his legs, or even jump on his thighs.

What if mama comes home and finds her cat in such a deplorable state? he thought. She wouldn't be thrilled I'd been taking good care of her kitty.

He jumped from his chair, and rushed to the kitchen. The cat, Marissa, which was standing on the kitchen's doorway, melted to the next room.

Jilt stood transfixed. He'd never liked cats. Even dogs. But, the cat fleeing from him took him by surprise. He turned back quickly, and returned to his seat.

"Things have to change," he said in almost a whisper.

He bent, and picked up the pen. At the middle-top of the paper, he wrote 'Resolutions.' He listed, effortlessly, unlike before, ten things he wanted accomplished or corrected before the end of the year. At the right-top, he dated the list, December 22, 20.

Always in a hurry, he sprang up from his chair, walked to the kitchen, and turned on the tap. He splashed his face with the cold water running from the faucet, and rubbed his face dry with a red t-shirt at his bedroom.

He noticed Marissa gazing at him from underneath his chair from the doorway of his bedroom. "Don't worry kitty," he told her. "From now on, I'll treat you good."

He locked the main door, jumped on his bike, and pedalled to the nearest supermarket. He walked to the section where they sell cat food. Which food is good for my kitty? he asked a female attendant.

She guided him through the different types of food, and which ones are best fit for Persian cats.

She helped him picking the foods she suggested. He thanked her.

"Marissa!" he called when he got back. There was no response. He headed to the kitchen, picked a plastic bowl, and placed it next to the kitchen's door. He ripped off the box, and poured all of its contents on the bowl.

In a matter of seconds, Marissa was on the doorway. "Here is your food, Marissa," he said.

He left the cat eating the food to its heart content.

Back on his seat, he ticked off the first item on the list. Be nice to the cat.

He switched on his laptop. He tethered his smartphone to the laptop, turned on data on the phone, and searched on Google how to free himself from the bondage of watching x-rated movies. It wasn't helping him anyway other than increasing his dislike for girls. He spent almost two hours reading, watching YouTube videos, and writing notes on the subject.

He heard the chirping of crickets outside. He looked at his wrist watch. It was twenty minutes past ten.

In ten minutes, he ticked off the second item. Besides it, he wrote, 'Don't give up. Don't give in.'

He stretched his arms, and headed to his bedroom. He didn't feel like cooking food. He let the lights on as he immersed himself in the cover of his bedsheet.

Jilt stared at the ceiling. So much has happened in the year. The novel coronavirus had brought in its wake untold sufferings. He was among those who had been laid off.

He closed his eyes, then opened them. He saw the figure of his ex drawn on the ceiling. He closed his eyes for a second time to ascertain whether he's dreaming, or the figure on the ceiling was real. He opened his eyes. The figure was still there. Who drew it? He couldn't recall seeking the service of a painter.

Jenny! They had parted ways peacefully but it was his drinking habits that propelled her to break up with him. And, his addiction to x-rated films.

He debated wether he should call her late in the night, or in the morning of the following day. Better tomorrow.

The noise of vehicles and the loud music emanating from of his neighbour woke him up.

Turning to the left, he saw Marissa curled on the bed. He smiled. The feline was becoming attached to him. He stroked it.

In the kitchen, he took all the bottles that had any alcohol label. He emptied and threw them in the garbage pit outside the apartment.

He marked off the third item. He wrote beside it, 'Don't ever think of it again.'

Next, he dialled Jenny's number. She had told him she loved him, and would be willing to return as long as he wasn't addicted to alcohol and adult movies.

The call was answered.

"Are you sure?" she asked.

"Believe me. I have been working on the things that caused havoc in our relationship. I'm now doing better," he told her.

"You'll have to come home to my parents," she said.

"But.."

"No buts. If you're really do love me, and are honest in what you're saying, then you've to come to my parents' home."

"Okay. I'll come in the next three days," he said.

He marked off the fourth item.

He had been taking anger management course. While he still experienced occasional outbursts, he'd been successful in cooling most of them. He was happy about that. The knowledge and skills he had gained from his counselor proved beneficial.

He marked it off as the fifth item.

It was a half-past nine. Shower can wait, he reasoned. Two things had to be done in the next two hours.

He turned on his laptop that had gone into a standby mode. He opened the LitFlit application, and logged in. He clicked settings then payment. His blog site had been unpublished as he hadn't paid the renewal fee. "It's better I pay the yearly payment as opposed to the monthly," he said.

Within five minutes, he received a private message from the app's team his subscription had been renewed therefore the option to publish his posts had been turned on.

He redesigned his site, edited some posts, and added new ones. When he had finished, he made himself a cup of coffee.

A high school English language teacher, Jilt had also studied for a degree in Creative Writing with a minor in English Literature. He was laid off from his teaching position at a private school due to lack of sufficient funds caused by the coronavirus disease.

He browsed the Internet for both teaching and writing posts. He noted eight that he's qualified.

He marked off the sixth and seventh items. Besides the seventh item, he wrote, 'Prepare the application letter and curriculum vitae.

It was almost a quarter to two in the afternoon. He prepared a small meal before taking a quick shower.

He wore casual clothes - blue jeans and a white t-shirt complemented by white Nike sports shoes.

He ticked off the eighth item. He had accumulated rent arrears. He thought it's better to have a shelter with little or no food than no shelter at all. The landowner preferred the money to be paid in the bank account. He had no choice than to head to the bank preferred by the landowner.

He ticked off the next item. In his sports bag, he had put his fitness clothes. He couldn't remember the last time he went to a gym. He looked out of shape for a man in his mid-thirties.

In the evening, after working on his muscles, he pedalled to his apartment.

He took another quick shower, wore a yellowish pajama, and a white vest.

He prepared a small meal.

On the main room, he switched on his flat screen television, and browsed through the channels. He came across a Christian broadcasting station. He hesitated as he debated whether to switch to a secular station. He decided against choosing a secular one.

In the space of an hour, he felt convicted for having left his faith; believing God didn't exist or didn't care about him.

Time to get it right with God, he said as he switched off the television, and got on his knees.

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