Statute of Limitationsbyradk©
To the reader: This is my first attempt at writing. If you like it that would encourage me to write more. If you don't, then I'll just continue writing software. Either way I would appreciate your comments.
PART 1 -- Opening Pandora's Box
Sunday, October 3, 2010
"Hon, just have a great time and don't worry about me. I've got plenty to do around here. I can't get into any trouble," Richard says as they walk down the sidewalk to the airport shuttle van. "Just remember, don't let your sister talk you into anything stupid."
"I'll behave," said Joan. "Now just you behave. I'll only be gone two weeks so I expect the house to still be standing when I get back. Be careful and just remember that I love you more than anything." With that Joan grabs Richard's head and pulls his face to hers for a long, deep kiss.
"Come on! We haven't got all day to sit here and watch you two slobbering all over each other... we've got a plane to catch and men to chase." Richard and Joan both turn from their kiss and look at Joan's younger sister Brenda sitting in the van making a kissy face at them. Joan mouths the word "Bitch" and Richard just rolls his eyes.
"Bye hon. I love you too."
Joan gets into the van next to her sister and blows Richard a kiss just as the driver closes the door. The driver gets in; they pull away and leave Richard standing in the driveway waving at them muttering "Damn! I thought they would never leave." He turns and starts back toward the house thinking about his marvelous plans.
"I've got a hell of a lot of work to do over the next few days but boy is it going to be worth every aching muscle. When she sees what I've done to the bedroom she is going to jump on me right there without ever unpacking. We're going to break in that new mattress for the whole weekend again and again and again. God I'm going to be sore but it WILL be worth it. Well, let's get to work."
Once in the house Richard goes to the kitchen and calls his son.
"Hello," comes Marc's deep slow growl over the phone. "What time is it? What day is it?"
"Wake up and grab your stuff. We've got a lot of work to do and it's almost eleven o'clock," Richard barks back.
"Is that AM or PM?"
It's obvious from the slurring and the deepness of his voice that he's just waking up. But dad keeps at him. "It's Sunday! Don't think, just be here by noon. Get some coffee, eat something and get your ass over here. We've got to get everything moved out today and the painting prep work done before dinner.
"K," is the only reply before the line goes dead.
Richard hangs up and goes into the garage and gets the boxes of supplies that will be needed for the prep work. With everything in hand he starts upstairs.
Richard has had this planned for months. While Joan is out sunning herself on a cruise ship in the Caribbean with her sister and two friends from work, Richard and Marc are going to completely strip the master bedroom down to the bare walls and refurnish the entire room. This includes new paint, new carpet, and all new furniture. Joan has had her heart set on a bedroom she found in a magazine called Colonial Homes that she saw one day at the dentist's office. She "borrowed" the magazine and cut out the pictures and pinned them to the bulletin board in the kitchen. This has been her dream. It has also been a constant reminder to Richard to get on the stick. So when she gets back her dream will have come true.
Last month the furniture and carpet were ordered. Two weeks ago the paint was purchased. Last week Marc finally agreed to help out. Everything is scheduled to arrive and be set up over the next few days. By Wednesday everything should be done. And Joan knows nothing about it. It will be Richard's 30th anniversary present to her.
He makes one more trip to the garage to get the pile of boxes that all of the drawers and closets contents will go into temporarily. He starts unloading the dresser contents into the boxes. Next he unloads the armoire then the night stands. He takes the pictures off of the walls and the shoes off of the floor, stuffs them into boxes, and takes everything into the spare bedroom. "Well, that's the easy part," he says to nobody in particular, obviously because there is nobody in particular there to hear him. Then he turns his attention to the closets. One of the major selling features of this house when they looked at it way back when they were first married was the two huge walk-in closest that set on either side of the hall that led from the bedroom to the master bath. Each was about 20 feet deep by 8 feet across. They're huge. They're small rooms without windows. After 30 years they are pretty full of stuff. The reason they are so full is because Richard is a pack rat. And after they were married Joan picked up the habit and also became a pack rat. Now being a pack rat has its advantages sometimes but other times it's just crazy, bordering on obsessive. They keep just about everything. Richard keeps odd things like screws, old tools, books, car parts, and just about everything that "someday we might need." Joan has also learned that behavior and has kept every school paper and grade report that Marc ever had, brochures from places they visited over the years, and more craft magazines, sewing supplies, and kitchen gadgets that would fill five yard sales. Every usable space is just filled with useful stuff. And the two closets in the bedroom are no exception.
With a sigh he heads into his own closet. Almost an hour later he has everything boxed up and moved into the spare bedroom. Then he turns his attention to Joan's closet. He just stands at the entrance and feels completely overwhelmed.
"Hey, I brought you lunch," Marc says as he enters the room and promptly trips over the pile of unfilled boxes.
"SHIT!" Richard jumps. "Knock or something to let me know you're there. All we need is for you to give me a damned heart attack. Then you'll have to call your mother and tell her you killed me."
"Sorry. Here's your sandwich and soda."
For the next fifteen minutes they both sit on the bed and eat. "Here's what I want you to do," dad says while stuffing his face. "I'll box up the small stuff and you can take the larger stuff from mom's closet over to the spare bedroom. Afterwards we've got to get all this furniture down to the garage and into the truck. It's going to Goodwill later."
"K," is all Marc says. Short answers are Marc's main method of communication.
With lunch finished they get up and start in on Joan's closet. Richard packs up the clothes on the shelves, the shoes and other clothes on the floor, the pile of stuffed animals in the corner, and the miscellaneous small odds-and-ends around the room. Marc starts taking the pile of shoe boxes, boxes of books, and luggage to the spare room.
Marc grabs a small case from the far corner of the top shelf that was hidden behind a bunch of shoe boxes and says "Hey! What's this?" Richard looks at it and says "that's a cosmetics case that went to the set of luggage that we got from your grandmother when we cleaned out her house after she died. I didn't know we even had any of it any more." He takes the case and looks at it saying to Marc, "Look. They don't make stuff like this anymore, its real 1950's; solid, indestructible, beige and boring. It went with the eight piece Samsonite luggage set that was old when we got it. I think we gave it to Goodwill years ago. I wonder why we still have this piece." Richard tries to open it but both latches are locked. "Well just put it with the other junk in the spare room."
It takes a good two hours but the closet is finally empty.
After a short break they start taking apart the furniture and trudging it downstairs and into the garage. By the time the room is completely empty they are both tired and hungry. Since it was getting close to dinnertime dad gives Marc twenty dollars and sends him to Luigi's to get a pizza. There is already beer in the refrigerator, so dinner is all set.
After pizza and a couple beers Marc says he has to go because Brandy has planned something or another but he can't remember exactly what. He just knows that he had better be home by seven o'clock. His wife has a bit of a temper and Marc has learned to not stir it up. Five minutes later he's gone.
Richard cleans up from dinner. How hard is that? Pizza box and napkins in the trash and beer cans in the recycling bin. Soon he's back in the bedroom starting the prep work needed before painting can start. By nine o'clock the taping, plastering, and sanding is complete. The outlet covers are removed and the tarps are laid out to protect the carpet that will be in the trash in two days, but that's the way Richard is... anal.
Sunday's work is done. He gets another beer from the refrigerator and plops himself in his lounge chair in front of the TV and after only one sip of the beer he's sound asleep.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Marc actually shows up at seven o'clock as he promised. This time he rings the bell to prevent any heart attacks and Richard stumbles from the lounge chair to the door.
"Damn! You're early."
"Actually, I'm not. I said I'd be here at seven and here it is seven. Where's breakfast?" That's the Marc everybody knows and loves; always hungry.
Breakfast is poured into the bowl, milk added and they eat. "Today is nothing but painting," Richard explained. "First we do the ceiling and then the walls. I'll cut in everything up high and you can do around the floor. That'll probably take until noon then we start with the rollers. I hope Brandy doesn't have anything planned for you today because I'll need you to stay here until we're done, and it doesn't matter how late. We've got to be done today."
"No problem. She'll be over at her mother's helping her do something or another. She won't be back until late."
So begins a very long day of one of the most boring jobs any homeowner can do - Painting.
Monday ends much like Sunday did. Richard, sound asleep, with a beer, in front of the TV. But this time he took a shower first.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Six AM is pretty damned early but there at the door is the carpet installation crew. Well, actually a crew of two. There's nothing for Richard to do but stay out of their way. And besides, he doesn't speak Spanish. Breakfast today is the same fare as yesterday, delicious cold cereal.
It's incredible how fast a job can get done when someone knows what they're doing. The two guys are finished and gone by ten AM.
Since the furniture won't be delivered until noon, Richard goes about sorting through the stuff in the spare bedroom looking for anything obvious that can be thrown out. Once again he picks up the little beige cosmetics case and looks at it. It seems heavier than it should be so he shakes it. There's something inside and like he always does he gets a bit curious and starts fiddling with the latches. He goes to the bathroom and sits on the toilet and works the locks with a paper clip. After just a couple minutes of making no headway opening the case the doorbell rings, so he sets the case down next to the sink and goes to answer the door. It's the furniture delivery people. "Come on in and I'll show you where everything goes." Again Richard knows to get out of their way and just let them do their jobs.
When all of the furniture is in and the people are gone Richard starts the arduous task of moving everything back from the spare bedroom. He gives up around midnight and heads off to the lounge chair, the TV, and a beer.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Richard sleeps in today. At 9 AM he takes the old furniture to Good Will and stops at Denny's for breakfast. By noon he starts on the final bit of cleanup. When everything is back in the bedroom he does the one last item on the list and that is to hang a large banner on the wall over the bed that simply says SURPRISE.
Taking one final look around the room before he calls it a day, Richard finds a foot long gouge in the paint along one wall that obviously was done when the movers moved the dresser into the room. "Damn. That needs to be touched up." He gets the can of paint and a brush and spends a few minutes adding the final touch to the room. "That's done. Now just clean up, take a shower, and have dinner." He goes into the bathroom to wash the paintbrush out. He's is in a hurry to get something to eat and sets the brush on the side of the sink. It's not balanced properly and falls to the floor. "Shit!" which is a reasonable thing to say when you get paint all over the floor. He gets a rag and looks down for the brush and sees that it didn't hit the floor. It fell on top of the little cosmetics case. So he picks the case up and starts to rub the paint off but instead is rubbing it into the faux leather top. "Turpentine, that's what I need," and downstairs he heads with the case. A few strokes with a turpentine dampened rag and the case looks as good as 1950's new.
He puts the paint and supplies away in the garage and comes back into the kitchen. You know what curiosity did to the cat? Richard was still wondering what's in the case. Maybe he should take a clue from the cat rhyme. But instead back out into the garage he goes to the workbench and gets a big gallon jar off of the shelf. It's full of old keys: Just one of the many jars of useful stuff he has amassed over the years. He dumps it out and starts sorting through them looking for an old square key that he remembers fit the Samsonite luggage. "Damned if there isn't one in here," he again says to nobody.
Now, sitting at the kitchen table Richard puts the key into the left lock, turns it and the latch pops open. Then he puts the key into the right lock, turns, and it too pops opens. Lifting the lid Richard doesn't know what to expect but he's just like a little kid with a new box filled with toys. Each item inside will be a new adventure. But the adventure in this little beige Samsonite cosmetic case is something that Richard could have never in a million years expected.
On top is a large bulging manila envelope. He pulls it out and looks at the front. It's addressed to Joan. The return address is an A. Stephens from Seattle Washington. Looking closely at the postmark he sees that it is dated September 15, 1991. That's almost 20 years ago. And it's unopened. He sets the envelope aside on the table and looks underneath.
Now on top of the case is a blue pile of cloth. Richard picks it up and sees it fall out into a bikini. He smiles at it thinking of what Joan would look like wearing it. After setting the bikini on top of the manila envelope he pulls the case closer and looks down into it. What he sees on top makes his heart skip a beat. His jaw drops and all of his senses just seem to shut down. He's staring down into the case at a 3 X 5 picture of Joan and some man sitting at a dinner table, kissing. Time passes. It seems like an eternity but is probably only a few seconds. Mechanically he reaches in and picks up the picture. Now his hands start to tremble. His mouth is dry. He sees the picture but his mind can't make any sense of it. Why is my wife kissing some man? And, who the hell is he? Before he knows it his Denny's $6.95 breakfast is rapidly coming back up.
After just making it to the bathroom he sits on the floor in front of the toilet wondering what in the hell is going on. Somehow he's on his feet and splashing cold water on his face and neck. He walks back into the kitchen and stands for the longest time staring at the tableau in front of him: Kitchen table with beige cosmetics case on it and a manila envelope beside it with a blue bikini on top. On the floor is his crushed heart.
Richard sits back down and takes the pile of photos out of the case and places them on the table. Yes, that's Joan. Her head is turned to the man and her lips are on his but her eyes are on whoever is taking the picture. The man is a mirror image of Joan. Without thinking he turns the photo over and looks at the next. It is an old Polaroid of the same man standing next to a door without a shirt. Turning to the next he sees the same man in a close up of his face. Next he's lying on a bed asleep. Next picture is him from behind nude. Next picture sitting on a bed with his legs crossed, nude.
Looking at all of the pictures Richard sees that they are all of the same man, some at a formal banquet dinner, some on the beach next to a fire, one waving in an airport, and the last is of him driving a car and laughing. The more intimate ones are old Polaroid's and the rest look to be 35mm stock. He puts them down and just stares at them wondering "what the hell?"
Richard looks into the case and sees a woman's white silk scarf wrapped around something and tied with a red ribbon. He takes it out and unties the ribbon. What he finds are a handful of letters. They are all written to Joan and addressed to her at work. They have postmarks from 1989 to 1991. He takes the one with the earliest date, pulls out the letter and starts to read.
June 22 1989
My dearest Joan,
It's only been one month but God how I miss you. I miss your beautiful voice. I miss your tender touch. I miss your sweet, soft lips. But most of all I miss the warmth of your body next to me in bed. God I love you. Did I say I miss you?
It only whetted my appetite for you when we talked on Tuesday. I'll do exactly as you wish and only call you at work and only send my letters there too. I don't want any unhappiness for you. Just so long as you still want me I'm a happy man. I've enclosed one of my business cards so you can have my office address and phone number so you can call or write me as often as you want.
San Diego is everything I ever wanted, except that you aren't here with me. My position in this medical consortium will allow me to see patients and at the same time pursue some research in areas of interest. They are even encouraging me to write some scholarly papers. I couldn't have asked for a better place to be. As soon as I'm settled here I'll need to come back to see my parents to help sort thru a lot of the stuff we left behind. When I do I want us to be together. I'll take whatever I can get; a minute, an hour, a whole day. I just want to make love with you again, and again, and again. I'll never get enough of you. I'll call you to let you know when we can be together again.
Please think of me sometime at night and I'll think of you. Maybe our thoughts will link up in the cosmos somewhere and we can be one again.
With all my love,
"HOLY SHIT!!!" Richard says at the top of his lungs. "That bitch had a lover!"
He throws the letter on the floor and just sits staring in space. His body is numb but his mind is racing at top speed with a thousand questions; and they don't have answers. The only way to know what's going on is to go over everything in this damned case, he thinks. Then maybe I'll know whether I've got a life anymore or not. He picks everything up and takes it into the living room and sets it into the middle of the floor. He then drops onto his bottom next to it. Just look at all of that junk. Joan is just as much of a pack rat as I am. He starts pulling things out of the case.
The first thing out is a blue felt jewelry box. Inside is a gold heart shaped locket on a gold chain. I've seen that before he thinks. He quickly gathers the pictures and scans thru them until he finds the one at the fancy dinner. Joan is wearing a v-necked black dress and the locket is right there above her cleavage.
He pulls out two napkins and one has "I Love You" written on it. This is not Joan's handwriting he thinks. The other has a telephone number on it.
Out comes an invitation to an awards presentation in Chicago for November 12, 1990 that says "Dr. Timothy Dahl and Guest." Somebody scratched through the "and Guest" part and wrote above it "My Love".