Third Try's a CharmbySlirpuff©
I sit in the dim light of my apartment and watch my two children sleep, thinking about the decision I'm going to soon have to make, and every time I do my stomach clenches up. Am I a wimp or the most forgiving son of a bitch on this planet?
How many times can a person be forgiven? Two, three, more, before the words 'I'm sorry' just don't cut it anymore? In the last four and a half days I have flip flopped so many times I feel like a fish out of water gasping for breath. Like the fish my time is also running out, tomorrow is decision day.
I too should be sleeping, but tomorrow arrives in less than six hours, and even though I think I know what I want, I'm not sure it's possible. Any decision I make is going to affect my kids, our estranged marriage, and what's left of my family. I just wish God, in his infinite wisdom, would give me a glimpse into the future so I don't screw this up again. Oh well, no matter what I decide I know it won't give me the fairytale life I once thought I had, but at least it will give me some closure, one way or another.
So, I give each a kiss on the top of their head, sit in the big overstuffed chair by the window, and look out at the lights below, hoping once more for a little divine guidance that I know won't come. I'm on my own on this one and can only hope I get it right this time.
As soon as he walked through the front door I knew why he was there. Jeans, tee shirt, and sandals, I thought he'd at least be wearing a suit. Looking down the main aisle he spotted me and walked towards me like any normal customer would.
"Are you Stephen Moore?"
"Maybe," I replied. Not to be deterred he looked at the picture attached to what he was carrying, then back at me.
"Mr. Moore, you are served." He handed me the brown manila envelope I saw him walk in with.
I didn't open it. I just tossed it on the counter by the cash register. I wasn't surprised, though I hadn't expected it just yet. Hell, we weren't arguing anymore, but I guess not talking was about the same thing. I pushed my wheelchair towards the front door.
I screamed at the server who was just walking out the door. "Tell her this changes nothing." He didn't give a shit; he had done what he came to do and left. I was nothing to him.
"What did he want?" my sister, Sue, asked, walking up behind me.
"He just wanted to tell me I no longer have a marriage."
She looked at the paperwork and shook her head. "Both of you are such idiots, neither one of you deserves those two wonderful children of yours." This wasn't the first or last time my sister would go off on me.
"Just get the papers to Gary and tell him I want full custody, and to make sure she gets nothing." It had been a long, stressful six months. All I wanted was to go home and sleep until I woke up, or not, because at this point I no longer cared.
Was I angry? I was way over that, but self-pity came to mind. We'd both played stupid ass games with one another, though looking at where I currently was at, I think she got the better of the deal.
I was only fourteen when my father, sister, and I buried my mother. She had just turned forty and thought she had her best years ahead of her, but it wasn't to be.
You see, my mom was overweight, and not just a little. Standing all of five foot four, she tipped the scales at almost three hundred pounds. She was the best cook in the world and loved to eat. Hell, she lived to eat. How my sister and I remained thin all those years growing up is still a mystery. I guess being hyper kids and always being active had a lot to do with it.
Everyone, especially Dad, was always on Mom about her weight. She would lose a few pounds on this diet or that one. A month later those pounds were back on and most of the time they'd brought along a couple of their friends.
"You worry too much," she would often tell us. "My mother was a big woman and so was my grandmother. They both lived until their middle nineties, so don't worry." But we did.
When Mom's doctor put her on a strict diet she switched doctors. When she started having a hard time moving around, and her ankles looked like two balloons, we begged her to lose weight. She just became more sedentary, though she still managed to cook even more.
It was a Thursday night, we were all sitting in the living room watching the stand up comedians on the Comedy Central channel on television. They were so funny I thought I was going to pee in my pants I was laughing so hard. Then it happened. Mom stopped laughing, her eyes got big with panic, and her mouth opened—nothing came out. Her flailing hands and arms tried to tell us what was wrong. We got the message too late. She fell forward onto the floor remaining lucid for a moment or two longer before finally closing her eyes. My sister had already called 911.
My dad and I rolled her over onto her back. I never knew my dad knew CPR, but he did. He did his best, we all did, but it made no difference. My mom still died that night.
The doctors told my dad, and he told us, Mom had had a massive heart attack along with a stroke, and even if she had lived, she probably would have been paralyzed on the right side of her body.
"Mr. Moore, your wife's heart just couldn't take the stress of carrying around that much extra weight."
The surprise came when her autopsy showed this wasn't the first heart attack she had experienced. There were signs of previous damage, showing she'd had three minor ones prior to the massive one that killed her.
I heard the phrase, 'if only' too many times over the next week before we laid Mom to rest. We were all devastated. After a while I thought life would go on normally for us again, it didn't.
My parents owned a small hardware store with my Uncle Roy. Previously my dad had spent about fifty hours a week there, but after Mom died, he never seemed to come home anymore, and even when he did, he wasn't really there.
His usual routine now was to get up at about six o'clock in the morning, go to Denny's for breakfast, spend ten to twelve hours at the store, and then two more hours at a local tavern before coming home. He repeated this six days a week. When he got busted for a D.U.I. he took a cab to and from our house, but his routine never changed.
"Dad, you're burning the candle at both ends, you can't keep this up," Sue would plead with him, it did no good. His life now revolved around work, food, and booze. My sister became the mother, I the father, and Dad? Well, he became the walking corpse of the family.
It took just three years for my dad to kill himself. Between the eighty extra pounds he put on and the sugar from all the liquor he consumed, he died of unchecked type two diabetes. Up until the very end we tried our best to get him help, no matter, he was bound and determined to join his dead wife, and there was nothing either of us could do to stop him.
However, the one thing he did do, was to take out an insurance policy on himself that paid off the house in the event of his death. So when he passed away the mortgage was paid in full. Being that it was a four-bedroom house we both had more than enough room for all our stuff. The only things we had to pay were homeowners insurance and real estate taxes, which made for a cheap monthly payment.
Dad also left his share of the store to the two of us. He split them right down the middle. We figured we'd get enough income from the store to at least live on while we went through college.
As was customary, in the death of a partner, my dad's lawyer, Gary, had the books audited. It proved to be a real eye opener. Our Uncle Roy, for the past two and a half years, had been skimming off thirty to forty percent of the profits. This was over and above what he was paying himself and showing on the company books. When the auditor confronted him, at first he lied saying that he had made a few accounting errors and had corrected the books months later. He was right; he had adjusted the figures—in his favor.
If he wouldn't have lied and then got belligerent saying he was the one that had saved the business from going under and deserved the extra money, we probably would have let most of it slide. However, when we asked him to repay the money and he refused, we filed charges of embezzlement against him. That in itself didn't make us too popular with the rest of the extended family. When Roy saw he was going to lose and do jail time, he was forced to work out a plea deal. We ended up with ten thousand dollars cash and his share of the business. We dropped the charges, but were now the black sheep of the family, even though our uncle was nothing more than a common thief.
Neither one of us knew anything about running a business. We knew we had to hire someone to manage the store, which was our next eye opener. Most wanted the world including a share of the business. We settled on a middle-aged couple, Bill and Carol Boyd. They had previously owned their own store in New Jersey before selling it and moving south. Bill said that a year after they moved south, they got bored to tears and needed something to do with their extra time before they went nuts—something about you could only golf so many hours a day. We gave them free rein. It was the best decision we ever made concerning the store.
They trained us in the inner workings of running a business. No wonder my dad spent so much time at work, there were a hundred things we had to learn. I was a senior in high school, my sister two years into her college education, and though neither one of us had wanted to run the family business, we were told that we needed to understand the business in order to even own it. It took us two grueling years to cut our teeth on what it took to own and run a successful business. Fortunately for us we had good and, most of all, patient teachers.
Putting in four to five hours at the store and then going to college at night was rough and didn't give me much free time. My only me time was in the mornings and on Sundays. I would get up early, lace up my running shoes and head out to the paved trail that wound around the downtown lakes. Early in the morning it was quiet; I only had to share the trail with a couple of other runners.
On this particular Sunday, with my iPod on, I was in my own world when something streaked by me. It was tall, blonde, had a nice ass, and was moving fast. Before I knew it, she was out of sight but not out of mind. Most women weren't that fast. They normally jogged around the lakes looking pretty, but this girl was running flat out.
It was three days later before I saw her again. She came up on me fast. By the time I dropped into a lower gear and started to chase her, she was too far ahead. My competitive nature took over.
The following Sunday I was ready. I kept looking back for her. After about twelve minutes on the trail I saw her coming up behind me, I sped up. I could almost feel her hot breath on my neck as I strove to keep her at least two steps behind me. She was fast and had one hell of a lot of endurance. I was almost running flat out and knew I had about reached my limit when I heard her footsteps start to slow up. I turned around to see her jogging close behind me. I slowed up to match her pace.
"Morning," I said, when she caught up to me. She gave me a puzzled look. "Okay, I just had to see how fast you really are. I'm sure glad you slowed up, because in another couple of minutes I'd be puking my guts out." She smiled hearing me say that.
"Normally I like to blow by guys like you. By the time they realize what's happened, I'm too far ahead for them to catch me. I guess you can say it gives me one hell of a rush. Looks like you were expecting me this morning."
"Not really, but hoping. And besides, you're probably every bit as fast as I am. Been running long?"
"About two years seriously, and before that just now and then. Going to school and not having any extra money has a lot to do with it. All I need is a pair of good running shoes, and I can do it whenever I have a few extra minutes, besides, it keeps the weight off me. I can eat and drink whatever I want if I run four days a week." She laughed.
"My name is Steve, and you are?"
"Shannon," was her quick reply. "After we finish, you want to grab a cup of coffee?" I didn't normally like coffee much but I wanted to see more of her.
"Sure, why not," she replied.
"Okay, then last one to the parking lot has to buy," she called out, sprinting past me.
Like I said, Shannon was fast. It didn't take me long to know I would be buying the coffee that morning. She was grinning like a damn Cheshire cat when I finally made it to the parking lot.
"I think that was cheating, but I'm a man of my word, where do you want to go?"
Jimmy's was a coffee shop just about a mile from the trail. They had a dozen or so types of coffees including espressos and cappuccinos, along with homemade cookies and small snack cakes. I chose a hazelnut latte and Shannon went for a double iced cappuccino.
Sitting at one of the outside tables I finally got a good look at her. Shannon had to be at least five foot six and couldn't have weighed much more than one twenty. She had beautiful, long blonde hair she wore pulled back in a ponytail, and the whitest teeth I'd ever seen. Her smile was full, but she didn't have those puffy lips like a lot of the actresses now had. She had a lean body, which I took more than a few minutes to admire, and from what I could tell from her tee shirt no more than "B" cup breasts. The girl wasn't shy by any means—she was sizing me up the same time I was giving her a final once over.
We got to know each other a little better over the next hour, and made a running date for the following week. At about nine o'clock she begged off, something about a term paper due on Tuesday of the following week. I didn't get a kiss or hug, only a handshake goodbye—heck, maybe next time.
After the following Sunday morning we had a standing running date for either Saturday or Sunday. I was right—she was as fast as I was, even when she didn't cheat. Since running with her, I'd dropped two more pounds, combining that with hitting the gym twice a week, to pump a little iron, I was getting stronger.
The next Saturday I asked her to run a race with me. "You up to doing a 5K next Saturday morning? The Wellness Center at the hospital puts one on every couple of months and they're pretty cheap if you sign up in advance."
"Why do you want to run the race? You've got something to prove?"
"There's this guy whose beats me every time. He doesn't beat me by much, nonetheless, he still does, and next week I want to change that."
"A little competitive, are we?"
"Shannon, let's just say I don't like to lose, and leave it at that."
"And you need me, why?"
"You're fast enough that you can pace me through the first half, then I can finish the last half by myself."
"Since you want to use me as a rabbit, don't you think you should be paying my entrance fee?" I agreed and we made it a date.
The following Saturday I was pumped, the adrenalin was flowing and for the life of me I couldn't stand still. I looked around for my competition. Our eyes met and the prick smiled at me. I would beat his ass today or die trying. We milled around the starting line anxiously awaiting the start signal.
"Steve, I hope you ate your Wheaties this morning because today you're going to need everything you've got. You need to keep up with me no matter what, you understand?" I nodded, looking at my watch as we moved up to the starting line. At the sound of the air horn we were off.
After the first quarter mile I knew for sure Shannon was trying to kill me. We did the first mile in just over six minutes and my chest was already starting to feel the effects of going out so fast. Then she picked up the pace. At just over the two-mile mark she told me I was on my own and not to wimp out on her, I didn't. Even though my heart and lungs had burst through my chest and fallen to the ground, I ran as though my life depended on it. I pumped my arms for all they were worth, yelling at myself to run faster. I crossed the line at just over eighteen minutes and preceded to lose a mouthful of something I previously had in my stomach.
I was rinsing out my mouth with water when Shannon crossed the line and found me.
"Eighteen minutes and four seconds." I smiled.
"That's it? I thought for sure you'd break eighteen. How did your buddy do?"
"Eighteen minutes fifty-one seconds," I said, with a shit-eating grin. She jumped into my arms.
"We won!" At that point I didn't care about the win, I was holding her in my arms.
I took first in my age group and so did Shannon. In fact, I took second place overall in the men's division and Shannon took first in the woman's. We got these cheesy little medals, and I offered her a celebration breakfast.
"Steve, I need to change first. I'm not going to eat breakfast sitting in theses wet clothes. Why don't we meet at Denny's over on First Street in say, forty-five minutes?" It was a date.
I flew home, ran into the house and up the stairs. Grabbing clean clothes I hit the shower, shaved, and was coming out the bathroom door when I ran into Sue.
"I don't think you could have been any louder if you tried," my sleepy sister told me. "Where are you going in such a rush?"
"Breakfast with Shannon at Denny's."
"How did you do this morning?" she called out, watching me run down the stairs. All Sue heard was something about taking first and I'd talk to her later. I felt a little bad about waking her and hoped she went back to bed.
I walked into Denny's looking around for Shannon. Down one of the aisles I saw a hand waving at me, and told the server I'd found my date.
"You clean up pretty good," she said, giving me the once over as I slid into the booth across from her. "I've already ordered coffee and some fruit to munch on." Glancing briefly at the menu she continued to watch me. "They've got great French toast here and with three strips of bacon that should hold me over until dinner." She put her menu down on the table. I ordered oatmeal and two pieces of wheat toast.
Saturday mornings were always busy there. After two hours our waitress was giving us the evil eye. We knew it was time to leave.
"Do you want to catch an early matinee show?"
"I would love to, but I just can't. I've got homework to do. How about next Saturday or Sunday?"
"Well then, let's plan on next Saturday night. Give me directions to your place, and I'll pick you up around seven." I was praying she wasn't busy.
She scribbled her e-mail address on the corner of my napkin and told me to send her mine. That way she could e-mail the directions.
"I had a nice time this morning and now we have another thing in common." I looked confused. "You and I are both winners. It doesn't get any better than that." A small peck on the lips and she was gone. I'd gotten my kiss.
My sister was having breakfast in the kitchen when I got back. It looked like eggs, toast, and fake bacon made with soy not meat. Although I try to eat healthy, I believe that some things should never be messed with, and bacon is one of those things.
"How can you eat that stuff? It's not real."
"Steve, it's real, just not real meat."
"I can handle the veggie burgers, but when it comes to bacon or sausage, I need the real thing." This wasn't the first time we'd disagreed about what we cooked in the house.
"I watch what I eat because there is no way in hell I'm going to end up like Mom or Dad, if I have anything to say about it."
"Sue, they ate everything that wasn't nailed down, especially if it was fried. And neither one of them ever exercised, so we're one up on them already. Besides, if either one of us started to look like them I hope to God the other would slap the shit out them. We're not like Mom and Dad." I knew she was concerned, but sometimes she went a little overboard. We ate right, exercised, and watched not only our weight, but also our blood sugar, especially since Dad had died from complications of diabetes.