Bill Marshall pulled into his driveway a bit too fast. He heard the scraping of the plastic bumper as it met the small dip at the end of his driveway. It was just another moment in his 15-minute drive that he was reminded of how reckless it was for him to have driven home, half in the proverbial wrapper in a company car. A DUI wouldn’t make his life any better right now. Real smart, dumbass, he scolded himself. He put the car in park, popped an Altoid, took a deep breath, and walked to his front door. Again, he was unable to ignore the crumbling masonry adorning the walkway and the ugly door that desperately needed a coat of paint. He shook his head and went inside.
Bill took off his shoes, stumbled slightly, and went into the kitchen. His wife was sitting at the kitchen table. She didn’t even look at him. She had “the look” on her face. A sense of dread washed over him. Because he had avoided the “money talk” the other night, he knew that it was coming now. Bill reevaluated his condition and decided that he may not have drunk enough.
“You could say hi, you know. You must have heard me come in” he said.
“We need to talk” she replied.
“Not now”, Mike said with a defeated tone. “I know where this is going. Talking about it isn’t going to make a money tree grow in the back yard.” He regretted his snarky tone as it left his lips.
“If not now, when?!” she yelled. She was boiling and she wasn’t in the mood for the verbal foreplay. She wanted to fight.
“I’m doing the best I can.” He knew she didn’t believe it and he wasn’t sure if he did either. “You don’t know what it’s like out there right now.” He tried to change the subject. “Anything for dinner?”
“We went out.”
“Of course, you did. After all, why would you eat any of the food that is in our fridge, we only spend $200 a week on groceries after all.” He immediately realized that he was a raging hypocrite, he was just out himself. And she hasn’t asked where he was and why he was late. Is it possible she doesn’t care? Yeah, he didn’t want the answer to that one.
“Fuck you,” she said.
“Nice. Right back atcha. Where are the kids?”
“In their rooms doing their homework. Report cards came out today and with the exception of Britt, the boys are going to be in their rooms until the second coming. Don’t bother them.”
“If I want to say hi to my kids I will, don’t fucking tell me I can’t.” He didn’t stick around for the rebuttal. At least he had avoided the money talk again.
He needed to sit down for a minute. He would see the kids in a few. He walked into the family room, plopped down on the plush cushion of his chair, and turned the TV on. He peeled off his socks and put his feet up. His swollen ankles hurt like hell and without rolling up his pant legs he knew that his legs were swollen as well. As if he didn’t have enough shit to worry about, his disease was getting worse.
He noticed a change of light in the room and he looked to see his oldest boy D, in the doorway with a Miller Lite in his hand.
“I got you a ‘water bottle’ Dad,” he said as he tucked the can under his arm and did his famous quotation fingers.
“Don’t you have homework to finish?”
“I’m done. Did mom tell you about the report card?”
“No specifics but she didn’t paint a rosy picture.”
“It wasn’t that bad. Mine, I mean. I can’t say the same for Ry.” He sat down next to his father, handed him the beer, and said “The Sox lost.”
“Yeah, I saw.”
“Weren’t you at work?”
Bill hated lying to his son.
“Between you and me I knocked off a little early.” He and D were close. D rarely told mom much of what he said when she wasn’t around. He was a good and loyal soldier and never betrayed his dad to his mother. Bill wasn’t proud of that, he didn’t encourage it. The kid just favored his dad and somehow knew the politics of the household. Bill wished more than anything that he didn’t. But it was hard for them not to see the antagonistic relationship their parents shared.
He also wished his kids didn’t bring him alcohol and joke that they were water bottles. He was some fucking example of a father. Yet, incredible, his children loved him. Despite the fights they witnessed between him and their mother, all of the hurtful words that couldn’t be taken back, they seemed to understand him. Above all, they really appreciated him. He wished and hoped the same for his wife. He didn’t want to be the favorite parent, he would be happy as an equal partner.
He just wanted their love.