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Drama Fiction

I’m an Iron worker, and a foreman. This past week we have been working twelve-hour days through the hottest part of the summer trying to get the Highway 47 bridge complete. I have had to deal with missing materials, late deliveries, on-site injuries, absences, and a boss breathing down my neck. We’re behind schedule and a lot of that heat is falling square on my shoulders. So, I need a day, my day off. I get one a week. One day a week to sleep in. One day to relax and enjoy some time with my family. I had planned on waking naturally with a good lengthy stretch and a sense of peace and tranquility with the sun shining in through the window instead of the usual nerve racking bounce out of bed to the incessant screaming of an alarm clock in the dark. The idea was to fix a cup of coffee and a bagel and retire to my easy chair where I would read the paper undisturbed until I was ready to tackle the day.


Things never turn out the way we plan them. I was awakened by a crashing sound in the living room at four in the morning. I grabbed my ball bat from the days when I had time to play softball on the weekends, and hugged the wall as I slowly made my way to investigate the disturbance. I flicked on the light to see that my son had fallen through the glass coffee table, passed out drunk. His friend was trying to revive him as he lay in a bed of broken glass.


“Sorry, Mr. Palmer. He got a little wasted, so I drove him home. I was going to try and get him in bed without you guys being none the wiser.”


“Go home, Chuck,” I said, ready to boil over.


I called for my wife, Gail, and we got my under-aged son up, cleaned and bandaged, and into bed, deciding to talk to him once he had slept it off.


“Since your up,” Gail started, “I need you to look over the finances. Last month I skipped the car payment to keep the electric on. Samantha needs new school clothes. And they raised Quincy’s tuition. We’re now responsible for another $3,985/year, if you can find a way to budget that in. After that, I need you to clean out the garage. I’m tired of parking in the driveway. Oh, and my car needs an oil change. By then you should be able to tackle the yard without waking the neighbors. I’d like you to look at the washer too. It’s making a thumping sound. And your mom has been calling, harassing me to have you call her. Something about your dad and his hearing-aid. She wants you to go over there and talk to him.”


“My God, Gail, can’t you handle the finances and have Quincy cut the grass and clean the garage? I get one day off, and I’d like to relax. You can take your car to an oil change shop and call a service man for the washer.”


“Mark, I am tired of doing everything myself. You are hardly here except on Sundays. You need to pitch in. I need you to straighten out the finances. Quincy is going to be in no shape for chores. And I don’t think we should be spending money on things you can do yourself.”


“I’m making plenty of overtime. That should straighten out the bills and allow us to spend a little on maintenance. Quincy can do those chores as part of his punishment for coming home drunk and destroying the coffee table.”


“I’m not fighting with you on this, Mark. I’m tired. I’m going back to bed. Have something done before I get up or else,” and she turned and went straight for the bedroom.


“Or else what,” I hollered after her. Of course, I got no reply.


I put on some coffee and shoved a bagel in the toaster. As I stood there waiting for my breakfast, I couldn’t help seething in anger and resentment. I turned and went into the laundry room where I found a pair of shorts and my running shoes. I grabbed my debit card and left for a run, leaving my breakfast behind.


Even at five in the morning it was eighty degrees and humid. By the time I hit the end of the street my clothes were wet and clinging to me. It didn’t bother me because I was still feeling outrage over my wife’s expectations. I mean, how does she expect me to keep going without breaking down mentally or physically if I don’t get some rest. I’m the sole provider for our family. Doesn’t she know the burden that lays on me? If she’s so worried about money, why doesn’t she get a job? The kids are grown. Quincy goes back to college soon and Samantha starts high school this year.


As I ran, my anger started to subside. I don't know if it was the fresh air or the blood pumping through my veins, but I was gnashing my teeth less and thinking more clearly. Maybe I should start looking for another job, I thought. I was in my mid-forties. The work was a lot rougher on my body than it was ten, twenty years ago. The hours are long and hard. I’m underappreciated. But can I make the same amount of money as I do where I’m at? Gail kept telling me to make more money, but I had hit my ceiling unless I went back to school, which conflicted with her other complaint - time. I was never around enough. Never did enough. She expected me to make six digits for part-time work. Sometimes, a lot of times, I felt more like a servant or slave to her and the kids than I did a beloved husband and father.


The more I ran, the more I thought about it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that for our relationship to work past this point, I would have to find another job. I needed to find something less demanding of me physically and mentally, but most importantly, less demanding of my time. To do that, Gail would have to work, and she’s not going to like that. It would be good for her though. It would give her a reason to get out of bed and get dressed again. It would give her something to do other than play on her social media apps and watch television. She’d make friends. She’d feel a sense of accomplishment. It would be scary for her at first, but she’d come to love it. She would love me being home more and contributing more. The path we’re on now is heading for divorce. I just feel it.


I just kept running. I had no idea where I was going or when I would stop and turn around. It was like that with each drop of sweat the anger and resentment I felt towards my wife was fading. I was beginning to feel calm and didn't want the feeling to end. I thought of a new life together as I paced myself down the road, taking in the scenery. We would go to bed at the same time and wake at the same time. We would get home at the same time and split the chores, taking turns making dinner and doing the dishes. We would have our weekends off and work as a team to keep the household afloat. We would have date nights and evenings curled up in front of the television before bed.


My calmness turned to excitement. I couldn't wait to talk to her. I stopped in at a roadside diner and ordered me a big lunch. I must have drunk a pitcher of lemonade along with a cheeseburger that was the size of my head and the pile of onion rings sure to clog my freshly opened arteries. The place was air-conditioned, which felt like heaven. In the cool air the old muscles stiffened up and I became drowsy. I asked to use their phone, and the server offered me hers. I called Gail who answered on the first ring. She was furious. I told her I loved her and couldn't wait to talk to her. Her voice was tense, but she agreed to pick me up.


On the way home we discussed the changes. My head was clear and I could talk to her openly and honestly. I listened to what she had to say and responded to her concerns with sincere empathy instead of getting upset and defensive. By the time we got home we had reached an agreement. We both agreed that for the sake of the marriage that some changes needed to take place.


That night, we worked on resumes. By the next week, Gail had a job as a teacher's assistant at the local elementary school. I talked to my boss who told me of a position as an engineering tech in the materials lab at headquarters. The pays wasn't substantially less and it was nine to five with weekends off. Gail and I did end up splitting the household chores. It was nothing we couldn't handle as a team. We also found that we had more money and more free time for ourselves. Everything worked out in the end.



January 30, 2024 06:49

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11 comments

Kathryn Kahn
16:50 Feb 07, 2024

I really liked the evolution of the hero. And I love a happy, hopeful ending. Nice job.

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Michał Przywara
21:55 Feb 06, 2024

Great tense opening to this story. His feeling of worn out comes through real strong, and when his wife starts criticizing him we fear it might be too much - but then, she raises some great points too, and it's also clear she's under a tonne of pressure. They're in a lose-lose situation. Curious then, how in this case, running away from the problem is actually what fixed it. Running away gave him some distance, which cooled the emotions and gave perspective. He figured out what was most important to him, and the fact she was more or less o...

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Trudy Jas
15:39 Jan 31, 2024

Wow. If running clears the mind like that, maybe I should take up running. :-) Nah, not gonna happen. I like how you let him gradually see that there are other ways to live.

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Ty Warmbrodt
16:10 Jan 31, 2024

lol - thanks for reading Trudy. You're good people. A lot of good supportive people on here and you're definitely one of them.

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Stella Aurelius
03:52 Jan 31, 2024

I'm glad Mark and Gail came to an agreement. Part of me, though, thought there would be a twist at the end (that when Mark got home, Gail and the kids were gone). Great job !

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Ty Warmbrodt
04:03 Jan 31, 2024

That would have made for a better story.

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Stella Aurelius
04:18 Jan 31, 2024

No, don't worry. You did a great job with the ending.

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Ty Warmbrodt
05:16 Jan 31, 2024

Thanks Stella.

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Mary Bendickson
18:24 Jan 30, 2024

Great how a run can clear the mind. So nice his wife saw eye to eye. Glad they could work it out.

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Christy Morgan
14:01 Jan 30, 2024

There was such a racing dread to the story - you could feel the hopelessness. And then it turned on a dime with Mark's re-imagined future. I'm glad they both started working on their resumes! I'm so prone to writing the endless tragedy. It's nice to read a story that has an uplifting end. Well done

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Ty Warmbrodt
15:43 Jan 30, 2024

Thanks Christy

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