Denton, TX 76208
Last Edited: 05 JUN 07
Corbin Thompson used little of the two-bedroom house now that he was alone. While Rose was with him, he navigated through every nook and cranny of the turn-of-the-century Colonial. Now he entered the dark home a little past eight, carrying a sack from one of the many fast-food chains he frequented, the mail, and a six-pack from the Quick Zone convenience store. Corbin kicked the door closed, side-stepped the arm of the couch and made his way to his recliner, dumping mail, dinner sack and six pack on the table. He took off his coat and tossed it back toward the couch, stepped out of his worn shoes, then reached for the pull chain on the lamp next to his chair. As he nestled into the recliner, he grabbed the remote to click on the TV. Except for his three trips to the bathroom between now and his getting ready for work and starting the routine all over again, Corbin was settled in for the night.
In the past, he would have come home to a hot meal. Although Rose had worked, too, her twenty-minute commute allowed her about an hour to fuss over dinner. She was a good cook and enjoyed the puttering about, the chopping of vegetables, the seasoning of meat. She said it gave her hands something to do other than punching keys on the keyboard. And it gave her a tangible product to marvel at when her labor was done. No spreadsheet had ever given her that kind of joy.
Corbin no longer had the tempting smells of home cooking to draw him home. And so he lingered at the office completing one more task or two after almost all the others had cleared the building. At forty-eight, his life was a plodding routine of days spent analyzing production and distribution reports. He was scarcely aware of time. So much so that he occasionally ended up in the office on a Saturday. Once there, he would work most of the day.
ESPN was doing Sports Center. Corbin punched the remote until he found a local station carrying the baseball game. He dropped the remote in his lap, pulled one of the cold beers out of the plastic noose that held it to the others, and popped the top. He gulped a third of the can before setting it down. He reached for the sack and pulled it open. He grabbed out a soft taco, surprising himself despite his having made the purchase less than ten minutes ago. He had meant to buy chicken.
Corbin wolfed down the tasteless tacos he drenched in a tepid hot sauce provided by the franchise and then finished the first beer. The Sox scored six runs during his dinner. The local team was well out of the play off picture—not unusual for mid-July. As he thought about the disappointing season and the time of year, he was again nagged by something about July 11th. He mulled it over and over. Dates were Rose’s thing. She knew everyone’s anniversary and birth date and whom they shared it with. One of those many little things he had found amusing about his wife.
Ever since he had opened the paper this morning, 11 JULY had stared him in the face, begging him to recall its import. Every time he had noticed the date, he had done a bit of a double take, but nothing was ever pulled out and linked to it. Now, nearly 15 hours later, and the question still nagged at him.
He glanced beyond the small halo of light about his chair toward the rocker Rose used to occupy on nights like this. She would sit and crochet and watch him quietly. Sometimes, when he peered her direction, he would catch her in that half-smile she had. She was often bemused.
As he reached for another beer, he remembered how she would tut more loudly with each additional can he drank. He popped the top and scowled at her missing seat. One of the not so pleasant little things he remembered. Drinking beer wasn’t nearly as enjoyable now that she wasn’t there to tut at him. He rarely finished the second can anymore, falling asleep in his chair before he had a chance to drink it down.
“Here’s to another birthday without you, Rose,” he said, tilting the can in toast to Rose’s rocking chair. Her birthday, he thought, realizing he remembered the importance of the date after all—hers and John Quincy Adams’. He chuckled that he remembered that little tidbit. “Here’s to the both of you,” he said, tipping the can once more to the empty chair, and he drained the can before setting it down, a proud smile playing across his lips.
Rose was pleased to share her birthday with John Quincy Adams. She knew all the others famous folks with that 11 JULY birthday, too. He couldn’t remember most of them. Rose always associated 13 OCTOBER, his birthday, with Harry Pierpont. Corbin guessed it was her dig at him. She was associated with presidents; he with crooks. He had checked his birthday out once long ago looking for a more worthy association. The best he could do was Nipsey Russell.
Their anniversary was another of those dates for which her association never really satisfied him. She associated it with T S Eliot’s birthday. When they were first married and he had half-cared to think about it, he associated the date with Ted Williams last at bat and his 521st HR off Jack Fisher—there was something worth celebrating. Later, when the years of togetherness had taken a toll on their relationship, he had searched for an appropriate disaster on 26 SEPTEMBER, but couldn’t find one that suited him. It was just a little thing, but it rankled him now. And he made a mental note to check it out at work in the morning.
Corbin looked at the four beers sitting on the table beside him. He debated having another, and then decided it wasn’t worth having to wake up an extra time to go to the bathroom. He grabbed the cans by the empty noose where the two downed ones had been, gathered trash and headed for the kitchen. When he returned, the Sox were clearing the bases with a three run shot over the left-field fence.
In the morning, Corbin balled up his suit coat and pants with three other jackets and most of his other slacks to take to the cleaners. He took a spit bath in the half-bath under the stairs, shaved, and then dressed in the kitchen, where his no iron shirts hung over the dryer and his underwear and socks took up shelves near the refrigerator. He couldn’t recall the last time he had actually gone upstairs to the bedroom. It looked very much the way it did the last time Rose had been in it. He saw no reason to spend time there with all the added memories.
Most of Rose’s pictures and knick-knacks were now sitting in boxes on the couch. There were old family photos, a music box that belonged to her grandmother. Little bits of glass and other odds and ends she had liked to collect. All of these he had gathered up and wrapped in tissue. But somehow, he had never quite sealed everything up and shipped it off to Rose’s only sister. It was just a little thing. It wouldn’t take but a few minutes to finish the cartoning and then swing by the post office and get it in the mail, but Corbin couldn’t bring himself to do it. Not even after five years.
He stared at the boxes, two larger and three smaller ones, lining the couch for a moment before reaching down to grab his overcoat; it had fallen in a heap just off the edge of the coach. And he headed out the door, slamming it shut, making sure it was locked, just as he always did. He grabbed the newspaper from the walk as he crossed to his car. A moment later, he gunned the engine before backing out and heading toward the mini-mart and his morning coffee and breakfast sandwich.
Corbin arrived at work at 7:40. The managers would get together at nine, leaving him time to glance through the paper, work the crossword, and catch up on correspondence before the day began in earnest. Added to his list to do this morning, look for something new to associate with his anniversary date with Rose. It was an odd little thing to add to his routine, especially now, but he felt he had to do it. As it turns out, the worst thing to happen on 26 SEPTEMBER—other than his marriage to Rose—was the destruction of the Parthenon by the Turks in 1687. He doubted his marriage was on equal footing with that atrocity. And nothing else came close. Oh, to be sure, there were some horrors from the Nazis in WWII, but even Corbin didn’t wish that kind of association on any part of his life.
It wasn’t unusual for him to get so busy with reports and analysis these days that Corbin missed lunch or, at least, ate much later than most of the rest of the folks in his office. No one ever came by to see if he wanted to go when anyone left the office—not any more. When Rose was around, even if they had had a fight the day before, she would call him at lunch to check on him. Corbin had been a lot more likely to eat with coworkers back in those days. But lunch was just a little thing. And it didn’t mean much to him anymore.
There were many days when Corbin could only remember the good things he liked about Rose. On those days, he wondered why he had ever wished she weren’t a part of his life. Things had been good. She was thoughtful and caring. She tried to make things as easy for him as she could. Compared to many of the other wives of those with whom Corbin worked, she was a jewel.
But there were those little things—those nagging little things—that he remembered, too. Some days, those were the only things he remembered: That tone of voice she had begun to use when she asked him to do something for her for the fourth or fortieth time; the disappointed sigh, which followed his failure to bring something home or to take something somewhere when he went out of the house; the fact that Rose never yelled, or tried to hit him—those he could have responded to.
Little things. One little thing here. Another little thing there. And soon, the little things piled up into something big. Too big for Corbin to handle. Is it any wonder he lost it. And now, Corbin had one more thing to associate with 15 April other than paying taxes and the sinking of the Titanic. It would be the day he had gotten rid of his Rose. For all those little things that seemed so miniscule to him now.