Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Tan Recliner

Lois died of a massive stroke one summer afternoon while pulling weeds in her beloved flower garden. She had been concentrating on separating a particularly tenacious weed from the ladybird poppy when she ceased to exist. The roots of the weed had become entangled with those of the flower creating a task that required such concentration that Lois had not even noticed the subtle discomfort the prefaced her death. She had been kneeling when synapses ceased so her sudden collapse left her slumped forward, face down in the damp black earth, her bottom raised in the air by her bended knees tucked underneath her.

Her husband Roger had been in the den at the time of her death reading the paper and watching the game. He had expected his wife to be contentedly working outside as she often did. He didn't even think to check on her until the sky had begun to darken and he'd begun to wonder about supper. Even if Roger had been more attentive, it wouldn't have mattered. Lois had been dead by the time her face touched the loam. Besides, Roger had had no reason to be overly concerned about his wife. She had been in better health than he, and, had he been more attentive, he would have only gotten on her nerves. They had a good thing going. They comforted each other with their permanent and mutual presence, but they had long ago found out the key to a successful marriage (their successful marriage, anyway) was to leave one another to their own diversions.

Upon seeing his wife in her awkward repose, Roger crossed the neatly trimmed lawn (the only part of the landscaping that had anything to do with him) and pulled her from the mulched soil and checked her pulse. It was gone. She was gone. He gently set her back down in a more demure position, and walked slowly back into the house to call 911.

As he waited for the ambulance or hearse or coroner (he wasn't sure exactly who handled this sort of thing), he stared at the room around him. He'd always found the browns and harvest golds of the '70s a comforting color palette, which was good because the room hadn't been redecorated since his now-middle-aged children had been in school during that decade. In the course of their 50-year marriage, Lois had become a bit like the tan recliner in the corner of the room. She had been a familiar and comfortable part of his life, but they didn't have an exactly passionate relationship. Their days were mostly quiet when the grandkids weren't visiting. She would putter around the kitchen or the yard while he read and took the occasional drive into town to do nothing with the other old men who gathered at the convenience store. It wasn't that they didn't love each other. They did. They enjoyed each other's company, but he'd never been a talkative man and she was content to do her own thing while he did his.

The old and familiar den just didn't feel as comfortable without her as it once had. He'd never been fond of change and making this adjustment would mean loads of what he most dreaded in life. He'd always put up with adapting to his circumstances before because he'd had responsibilities. A mortgage. A wife. A job. Kids. The sort of things a man couldn't let suffer out of selfishness. But the kids had all moved out years ago and were wrapped up in their own careers and families. He'd finally given up his job at the power plant a few years earlier when his arthritis kept him from being able to keep up with his younger co-workers. The mortgage had long since been paid off. Now his wife was gone. There was nothing left to make him accept such a major change. This time he wouldn't force himself to adapt. He could finally afford to resist.

When the EMTs arrived a short time later they found Lois Halloran gently propped up against the black walnut tree that shaded one end of her garden. Her tools were laid neatly at her side and on her hands were the dirty gloves she had been wearing, her knees still darkened by the damp soil. Inside, they found Roger Halloran resting limply in the tan recliner in the corner of the den. The Hallorans' children would later remark among themselves that the way their parents had died had been rather sweet, a true love story for the ages.

Roger himself, had he still been around to make such claims, may have described it as justice.


Hank Gay said...

I like it.

Julie said...

I like it, too. I did not follow the end, though. I don't understand why it's justice.

Mickey said...

I'm with Julie. I really like the story, but I'm a little confused with your choice of the word "justice."

But I do like the story. It's always nice to read something that is very small (chronologically), but described in detail. And I like your details. It has an appropriate "feel" to it.

Courtney said...

Very nicely written. I am also confused by your usage of "justice."

Jacob said...

I may need to rewrite it to make the point a little more obvious then. I was trying to avoid being too heavy handed with it and may have gone too subtle.

Basically, the whole point to me was that the guy gave up on life not out of longing for his wife but because he didn't like the idea of changing his routine. I kind of thought of it as a bit of black humor twisting the old love story. Roger would have considered it justice because after a lifetime of having to deal with change for the sake of others, he's finally able to get what he sees as owed to him.

Chris said...

Interesting read. You should do more short fiction like this.