By: Leif Gregersen
Mary shut off the television and felt the cool autumn air as it blew freely through the cracks and holes of the lakeside cottage her and her husband shared as a principal home. She was already wearing two sweaters and feeling the chill, what would winter be like? Most people lived in the comfort of the city and just rented their cottages in the summertime, but this cheap shack was home for Mary and her husband Tommy permanently.
Mary felt the call of nature and got up to get the Sears catalog and make one of her frequent trips to the outhouse. She could use the reading material and absorbency of the few pages left in the publication. When she sat down, she started to flip through what was left of the catalog lingering over the winter wear.
Returning to the cottage, Mary clicked on the radio and soon heard a repeated message: “Tornado Watch in Jack Pine County!” she walked to the porch as the wind suddenly picked up and saw a wall of dark clouds coming. She hurriedly went down to the dock to untie a small boat and paddled across the lake on a mission of mercy.
It didn’t take long to find her husband Tommy. He was always in the same place if he wasn’t at home. He was in Keith’s garage, playing poker with his pension cheque. Mary walked in and a great fuss ensued as his friends laughed and joked at Tommy’s expense.
“Tommy, we have to leave!” Mary said, trying to control her rage.
“I’m up a grand sweetheart! I can’t go now! I’m cleaning house!” Mary stewed in her own juices but in the end settled with watching TV with Keith’s wife and drinking tea, thankful to wait out the storm but not the game.
Later that night the tornado watch was lifted but the game went on. Darkness fell and the game went on. Finally, dawn came and, in one bold move, betting everything he had left, Tommy won all the money. Keith went inside to wake Mary and help her guide the intoxicated Tommy to the boat.
“Farewell to Nova Scotia!” Tommy sung loudly in a slurred voice as Mary rowed. “Baby when I get you home, we’re going to do some celebrating!” Attractive as he may be, the idea of her half-drunk husband climbing on top of her disgusted Mary. She remembered her first time as a young woman, it was nearly date rape, and her date had smelled of the same cheap whiskey Tommy had been drinking. Mary wondered for a moment, just a brief moment, if she could get widow’s benefits if she dumped him in the lake. Despite her better judgement, she got the boat to the dock, tied it down, and helped Tommy to get safely inside. When Mary got him to bed, she took off his shoes then helped him off with his coat and put him to bed.
That evening, Tommy awoke with a bare recollection of that morning/last night’s poker and rye whiskey and the feel of a thick roll of $20 bills in his pocket.
“Honey, what went on last night?”Tommy asked his wife.
“Same as usual. You got drunk, won some money and left me sitting like a fool all night trying to get you home.” With that cool reception, Tommy realized he wasn’t going to celebrate his windfall with Mary. He counted his money and slipped out to get the boat and row across to see Keith.
“Man, you were hot last night!” Keith said to Tommy as he let him in his house. “You must have cleared two grand!”
_Two? I only counted around one! Oh well,_ he thought. _I’ll find the other stash eventually._ Him and Keith drank a few beers and then got antsy and bored and started a cribbage game for a dollar a point. This time it was Keith who seemed to have all the cards and a few hours Tommy was running low on cash.
Tommy returned home and began to tear the house apart looking for the rest of his hard-won cash. He wouldn’t tell Mary what he was looking for, and she knew enough not to get in his way. All that mattered was getting the money to get himself back in another game. Tommy believed in streaks though he was frequently wrong.
He never did find his money and time passed, promises were made and fences were mended. Then as the Canadian winter began in earnest, dropping below zero, Mary came home from the post office wearing a beautiful brand new green wool overcoat and hat, and carrying a caulking gun to fix the holes and cracks in their walls. Tommy had an idea as to where the money for all of this could have come from, but he knew if he even broached the subject he would be on Keith’s couch for weeks, maybe permanently. And he had to admit, with all of her faults, he loved his wife deeply. She was the only woman he had ever known who could rescue him every time and still manage to put food on the table. As he sat and thought about this, he decided right there and then that at some indeterminate time in the future he would quit drinking, gambling, and mend his ways. Just not right now.
First Love, Last Hope
By: Leif Gregersen
I don’t know how long I laid there on the ground bleeding. All I could recall was the rest of the crew—my friends—were laughing and talking not far from where I lay.
“He left me no choice, I had to hit him.” Ian, who I had met years ago in boy scouts said loud enough for me to hear.
“He was way out of line,” Tina said. “I have so totally lost all respect for him.”
It didn’t hurt so much that my friends had turned on me. It didn’t hurt that I was laying on the forest floor in the moonlight with my head pounding and a sharp pain in my mouth. What hurt was that Sandra wasn’t there.
Sandra, sweet Sandra. I had been trying for such a long time to get her to pay some attention to me. After a month of seeing her on the bus I managed to be able to sit close enough to her to ask her if she liked Social class.
“It’s awesome, we have Mr.Munsen,” she said, her intelligent brown eyes shining and looking into mine. “He is so cool, I think all the girls are in love with him.”
That first day we talked about places we had worked at and what it was like to be the youngest, the latest movies, and all kinds of things. It wasn’t more than two more weeks of talking and I had her number. Just in time for Summer break. The only trouble was getting up the courage to call her.
And then there was now. The party, the fire, my former friends. I had planned this party for weeks and had even got the beer. I was so nervous about calling Sandra I drank a little before calling. She wasn’t home though. I sat in my room for a while drinking even more and then called her while I was blasted. I heard the words no teenager ever wants to hear.
“I would love to Brad, but I have a boyfrirend.”
“I didn’t know you were going out with anyone.” I said, my words getting slurred.
“Have you been drinking?” She said, sounding angry.
“Yes. I was wondering who the guy was.”
“I didn’t want to tell you because it just happened recently. I knew you liked me and you know the guy.”
“That’s okay, we can still be friends right?”
“I don’t know if we can Bradley. I don’t think people who have romantic inclinations for each other can be friends afterwards.”
“You mean you had romantic inclinations for me?”
“Yeah, sort of. I’m really sorry okay. Maybe things will seem better when we go back to school. For now please don’t call me.”
I hung up the phone without a word and pointed my index finger at my head and popped my thumb in the universal gesture of wanting to shoot myself. She liked me.
- * *
The painful hours slipped by and turned into days and the time for the party came. I just wanted to drink my face off and arrived half in the bag. In my diminished capacity, I lashed out at my friends and was rude and ignorant and even kept mooching their booze. It was Ian that tried to console me and put me back in a good headspace.
“Brad, we know what’s going on with you.”
“You have no idea what’s going on!” I yelled. “This is way past you people and your little problems.”
Ian came and put his hand on my shoulder and led me away.
“Brad, we know you’re hurting. Maybe I should take you home.” Ian said. I pushed him hard and he tripped and fell over, but scrambled quickly to his feet.
“What do you know? What do you know about me?” I screamed.
“I know this is all about Sandra and that you just have to accept what happened. There will be other girls!”
“Who told you what?” I screamed again.
“Brad, I’m the one who is going out with Sandra now.” All at once it felt as though I had been hit in the head with a sledgehammer. Ian approached me and I swung at him and connected, but then he hit me back and I was knocked flat.
“When you calm down, you can come back to the party.” Ian said as I tried to keep from vomiting.
Eventually I got up and started walking home and my parents were out. I went down in the basement and took my Dad’s key and found his pistol, then went to my room and called up Sandra. I started out crying and whining, then we started to talk and it all seemed so effortless. She was such a kind and intelligent person that even in the depths of my pain she made me feel better. Towards the end of our conversation, I actually started crying and I didn’t feel bad about it, she was that sweet of a person. Then for some reason we both just went silent and then I put the phone down, took my dad’s gun and a loud explosion went off in my room. Sandra screamed but I picked up the phone and talked to her.
“What did you just do?” She asked.
“I just fired the gun at my shadow. Kind of symbolic.” I said. “I think I need to find someone to share my life with but I’m realizing that my life hasn’t really begun yet. Goodbye Sandra.” As I hung up the phone, I knew I could never call her again and that I had to get to work finding some new friends or my life would start to suck in a hurry. I also had to thank my Dad for occasionally loading his gun with blanks because I had actually pointed his pistol towards my head that time when it fired.