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Bill Marshall sat in his driveway with the engine running. It was a familiar routine lately. There was always a detour on the way home. Usually a bar, sometimes a walk. Tonight it was a walk and while he was proud of himself for not drinking (yet) today, he wished he had a snoot full to deal with the pending shit show awaiting him.
He really was in a bad place.
Sales were down. His motivation was shit. His health was in decline. His marriage was a mess. The only thing that gave him any joy was his children but in order to see them, he needed to go inside. Again, sober. How did it get to this, he wondered? When did he become the guy willing to miss the best time of the day with the kids because he couldn’t stand to see his wife? His pattern of late was to get there in time for bedtime. He would help put them to bed and spend a few quality minutes with each of them. Then, in order, he would feel guilty, pour a drink or three, and collapse in his chair/bed. He had been kicked out of the bed years before. He would get an inadequate amount of sleep, get up and out the door before everyone was up, and hit the repeat button.
Tonight it was especially difficult to get out of the car. His encounter with that kid was fucking with his head in a big way. It was as if he had met his younger self. Everything about it screamed impossible but how else could he explain the details that kid knew about him. And it was not lost on him how true everything he said was. He used to be a happy kid. Able to amuse himself, loved nature and being outside. He used to be active and fit. Of course you were, dummy, you were a child then, he argued with himself. Age aside, his lack of fitness was due to fast food, alcohol, a sedentary lifestyle, and kidney disease. Still, he knew he could do better. But the healthy and active observations were the least of it. The kid had painted a damn accurate picture of how much his natural cheeriness and enthusiasm had dwindled with age. He had completely lost the love of life he once had.
One element of the conversation ran through his head on a loop.
“Did you ever sit just like this? Playing with Matchbox cars in the dirt until your mother called you? Riding bikes with your friends? You hated to go home, right? Just like now. But that’s not why you don’t want to go home now, is it Bill?”
The kid was right, I don’t want to go home anymore. How the hell did that happen?
He looked at his watch. He had to go in or he would miss bedtime. Tonight, more than ever, he needed to be a part of it. He turned his ignition off and walked up his driveway, past the broken flower bed and the unpainted window sills in front of the house. Yup, in addition to everything else, he couldn’t even afford to make repairs to his house.
He opened the door. Lady, his spastic Springer Spaniel jumped all over him. At least someone is happy to see me, he thought. He stayed with her until she calmed down and then went into the kitchen. She was sitting at the kitchen table, a stack of bills before her.
“Why were you sitting in your car for so long”, she asked.
“I was talking on the phone.”
“Bullshit you were, I saw you out the window. No phone on your ear,” she said. “What were you really doing?”
“Thinking.”
“Well think about this, we’re fucking broke. What are you going to do about it?”
Here we go, he thought. Here we go. He opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of liquid courage.

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