Pat

Pat

A Story by josh
"

After losing his wife in an accident, a man constructs a peculiar homage to her throughout his house, and a reporter who las lost his love for his job must report on it for the local news.

"


Pat

by Josh Scott


Act 1

When his wife died, Robert was lost.

Literally, he was driving down the road to pick up a loaf of bread from the super market when his wife, who was still at home waiting for the loaf of bread, slipped on a discarded banana peel and hit her head on the edge of the counter. She did not suffer much blood loss, oddly, which made the paramedics deduce that she had simply had a heart attack, either before the fall or once she'd hit the counter. They chose to go with the story that she'd died of a heart attack, rather than the unfortunate story that she'd slipped on a banana peel. They thought that it would be more appropriate, and Robert was thankful for that.

However, he was unable to forgive himself for his wife's death for many reasons.

For one, it was his banana peel that she'd slipped on. He remembered vividly leaving the peel on the counter before he'd left, but it must have fallen off of the counter and onto the floor somehow. He believed his wife to be too careful to let something like a banana peel fall on the floor, for fear of someone slipping on it and hurting themselves.

He also couldn't forgive himself because he had gotten lost on the way to the super market, which, to him, meant that he could have saved his wife, if he'd only remembered where he was going and had made it home in time to keep her from falling, or from having the heart attack, whichever truth of her death you choose to believe.

Robert was a very forgetful man. He didn't have dementia, or Alzheimers, or any other diagnosable disease. He simply forgot things. He often lost his sunglasses " which usually hid themselves on top of his thinning hairline " and his keys " which were usually found clinking on his belt loop, hung there hours before with a handy clip. He regularly lost his car in parking lots, and sometimes forgot the names of his grandchildren.

To be fair, he did have seventeen grandchildren. Forgetting a name or two occasionally wasn't the oddest part of his unusually bad memory.

Forgetting that he was on the way to the super market to get bread, leading to a long trek around town to jog his memory, however, was undoubtedly the most unfortunate occurrence of his notoriously bad memory. So, when Robert came home that Tuesday afternoon to find his wife on the kitchen floor with a bruise on her head, unconscious and not breathing, he vowed that he would do whatever it took to remember things if she would just make it through the ordeal alive.

She had already been dead for fifteen minutes.

Robert's memory never got better.

However, he did remember another vow that he made to himself, this one made after the paramedics arrived on the scene and made the humanitarian decision to call her death a result of a massive heart attack: he was going to immortalize her somehow. In any way that he could, Robert vowed to put the memory of his wife in something that would outlast his memory, and even his own life. His wife was his world " which he promptly lost when she died. And because of that truth, he knew exactly how he would immortalize the memory of the woman he loved, so that no one " not even he " could forget what a woman she had been.

Act 2 " Scene 1

Robert's creation was the talk of the town.

His wife " whose name was Patricia " was known and loved by most of the people in the area. Everyone on the block knew her name, and knew her love.

She was the kind of person who showed up when you were sick with pot full of home-made chicken soup " even if you'd never met her before. She was the kind of person to call you on your birthday, even if you'd just moved into town and didn't think that anyone knew that you existed. She even made time to go to the little league games of all the neighbors' kids and cheer for everyone " without picking favorites or getting on anyone's nerves for being too politically correct.

Inside her home, she was loved even more.

Robert knew his wife, Patricia, as simply “Pat.” When Robert left the house, he always kissed Pat on the cheek, saying, “Don't go running off on me! You're too pretty to lose.” Pat always blushed, and Robert always smiled wide.

They were perfect for each other. They'd met when they were teenagers " Pat was the editor of their school's newspaper, and Robert was an avid reader. He also liked to write, but he wasn't nearly as good at it as he was at reading the things that other people wrote " and he knew that. But, just to try his hand at publishing something, he decided one day that he wanted to write for the school's newspaper. He liked sports, and realized quickly the need that the newspaper had for a sports column. Their school was small, with only basketball and baseball teams, but Robert was determined to write. So, he found out that Patricia was the editor, stopped her in the hall, and asked her if she could write for the paper.

“Sure!” she'd said. She had a crush on him, even then, and Robert would have felt the same way if he hadn't just been dumped by a girl two years his senior. His heart hadn't mended yet, so it was unable to see the girl in front of him.

So, with her permission, Robert wrote up a draft of a report on the basketball game that had been played the day before. He gave the draft to Patricia, who promptly read it and decided that she had to find the easiest way to tell Robert that he was no good as a writer, without hurting his feelings. She wanted to date him, after all, and that was unlikely if she told him how horrible she really thought his writing was.

“You have so much potential!” she said to him in the hall the next day.

Robert knew what that meant. But he also knew that she was trying to be nice. In fact, he remembered at that moment all the nice things that she had done for him that year, and all the nice things that she'd done for a lot of people that year, and every year that she'd been at the school.

In fact, she was the nicest person Robert had ever met.

At that moment, in the hall, right before the bell for third period rang, he fell in love with Patricia, the nicest, prettiest, most special person he had ever met. His heart had thawed, and Pat was the reason.

Six years later, after they had graduated college together, they got married and moved into a town sixty miles away from their home, in Asheville, North Carolina.

Forty-four years later, Patricia slipped on a banana peel in her kitchen, hit her head on the counter, and died as a result of a massive heart attack " all while Robert was away without remembering why he was out in the first place.

Six months after that, his creation was complete, and everyone in the town, and everyone in towns nearby, couldn't stop talking about it.

Act 2 " Scene 2

Patricia loved birds. When she was a little girl, she had a parakeet that she named Alabaster. She named it that because whenever it sang, it reminded her of the story in the Bible of when Mary broke the alabaster box full of expensive perfume to wash a poor carpenter's feet with, just because she believed the man was there to save her and the rest of the world. Patricia believed the same thing, and Alabaster's song sounded so happy, so ebullient, that Patricia could just imagine being there, washing the feet of her savior and being a part of that historical moment.

Alabaster lived a long time, longer than most birds, and Patricia thought this was because his songs were heavenly. She thought that God wanted Alabaster to stick around a little while so that the whole world could hear what heaven sounded like.

So, from the moment her parents brought Alabaster home for Patricia's sixth birthday, she knew that birds were her favorite creatures. From then on, she decorated everything she had with birds. Her school books were covered in crude drawings of birds standing on twigs and singing songs " Patricia even drew the song notes hovering over the little birds' heads. She even bought bird stickers to put on her car's back windshield before she even knew that she was getting a car. It didn't matter to her " she just knew that birds were special for some reason, and she wanted everyone driving behind her to know that.

It wasn't any surprise to Robert, then, after he found out about Patricia's love for birds, that she wanted to decorate their entire house with birds. Robert thought it was a little much, though, when she decided to have a giant mural of a flock of mockingbirds drawn on their living room wall.

“I'm just afraid of what the neighbors will say,” he told her.

Of course, he just didn't want to see those birds cooing over his head while he was watching TV or reading a novel, but he didn't want her to know that. He loved her too much to break her heart like that.

However, knowing how much that she loved them, they decided that one of the rooms in their house would be dedicated to birds. It was to be Patricia's “Bird Room,” where she could paint the walls with them, cover the floors and ceiling with them, even set up an easel to draw them for as long as she wanted to. Patricia usually spent at least an hour a day in that room, drawing birds and admiring the ones that surrounded her. She always left the window open, too, so that she could hear the birds in the spring. They were singing just for her, after all.

So, after Patricia's untimely death, Robert made sure to include birds in his creation. They were her love, so they quickly became his love after she was gone. They were a way to connect with the woman of his dreams, even if his dreams were now the only way that he could ever see her again " except after his own death, of course.

Act 2 " Scene 3

“How on earth did he get all of that in there?” someone in line asked.

This particular person had already seen the memorial before. In fact, he'd already seen it three times " once by himself to see what all the fuss was about, the second time to show his girlfriend what all the fuss was about, and the third time to reaffirm that the appropriate amount of fuss was being made about the creation. He told all of his friends that they had to go and see what Robert had made. They had to experience themselves " there was no way that he could describe it to them in enough detail so that they would really understand.

“I heard that he was working on it years before she even died, like a living memorial to her,” a voice answered.

It was another person in line in front of Robert's house. The line was extended nearly down the block, but the stream of people were steadily filtering through the house to see the exhibit.

“...But then she croaked and he went crazy, adding things every day. And she died nearly six years ago, so that's a lot of time to add to it.”

Everyone in line knew what they were in for " at least they knew what everyone had told them. But the ones that were there for the second or third " or fourth " times knew not to expect the same thing that they'd already seen. Because it was true: every day for the last six years, Robert had been adding things to the memorial. Some days it was as simple as a new bird gracing the walls. Or a small change in one of the contraptions that lined the path through his house, a change that most people probably wouldn't even notice. Some days, though, he brought in entirely new things for the visitors to see, or completely changed existing things to show an entirely new side of whatever it was that it was meant to show.

As long as it was continually challenging, continually enlightening, and continually immortalizing Patricia's memory into the minds of everyone who walked into his front door and out the back, he was happy to tweak whatever was necessary to keep the thrill of it alive.

“Well, I can't wait to see it! I've heard so many things about it,” said a third person in line. She was a young girl, in her mid-twenties, who had obviously heard enough about the exhibit to wear a shirt adorned with a bird " Robert gave free prints of Patricia's paintings to anyone wearing anything with a bird on it.

The person behind the girl with the bird shirt, however, was less excited about the occasion.

His name was Phillip Grayling. He had come to Robert's house merely on the order of his boss, Mr. Pennywise, editor of the Asheville Chronicle newspaper. He was meant to write a report on the exhibit, to explain to those that didn't have the time or ability to go see Robert's creation just what everyone was so excited about. He was paid to do this, or he wouldn't have been wasting his time in line to see a something that didn't directly relate to him or his life at all.

Philip " or Phil, as everyone that knew him knew not to call him " was a cranky man. He was only in his twenties, but being a reporter for most of his working life he had gained an unfortunate perspective of the world.

When he had just started out in the industry " fresh out of college with a degree in sociology ", his first piece was about a car accident that happened near an entrance onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. He wrote about it as positively as possible, trying to convey the importance that at least one person had survived the accident. He thought that this should be an uplifting fact, despite the unfortunate circumstances of the others' deaths. However, when everyone read it, the only thing they could talk about as how nearly everyone had died. They weren't celebrating the life, they were merely parroting the horror of the deaths.

Another time, about a year after the car accident story, he wrote a lengthy piece about a fire that had destroyed most of an elementary school. The kids that attended the school were unharmed, as the fire had broken out overnight as a result of faulty wiring and a poorly installed sprinkler system. He wrote about how the company that had installed the sprinklers was so ashamed of the incident that they were going to pay for the school to be rebuilt and new sprinklers to be installed. He thought this was a wonderful gesture, despite the terrible incident. Plus, no one was hurt. The only harm that he saw in it was that the kids were out of school for a few days " something the children were probably thankful for, anyway. However, when the story broke, no one saw the retribution as fitting for the circumstances. They wanted the school to sue the company for millions, even though the company was trying to do the right thing. The school caved to the pressure, sued the company, and the company filed bankruptcy as a result of the lawsuit.

Phil was confused and appalled.

However, after ten years as a reporter and hundreds of similar experiences, Phil decided that people weren't actually decent at heart. They were conniving, deceitful, and down-right manipulative. They only saw the worst in situations, and they would do anything to make sure that everyone around them had the same terrible perspective. In the world Phil saw, no news was good news.

So, when his boss told him that he would have to go ten minutes outside of town to cover a story about a man who created something silly for a wife that died a long time ago, he was perturbed. There was a concert of his favorite jazz band that night, and he didn't want a depressing story bringing down the excitement he knew to expect from slow jazz and all-you-can-drink apple-tinis.

He knew as soon as he saw the long line standing in front of Robert's house that he was either going to have to miss the concert " which started promptly at six-o'clock " or leave the line and face his punishment the next day. Mr. Pennywise was an unreasonable man when he had been wronged. So, Phil decided that he'd take his chances with the exhibit, hoping that the line would continue its unusually quick pace, and get out of there before the sun started to set.

Phil would not see the concert that night.

Act 3 " Scene 1

“Please, come in! Come in!”

Robert was guiding Phil into his house with his arms wide and his mouth set into a smile that hung there between the sunup and sundown " the hours of operations of his exhibit.

“We're so glad that you could make it!”

Does he say that to everyone, or did he know that a reporter was coming.

“Hello, Mr. Paige,” Phil said, addressing Robert with a name that he hadn't heard in years. “I'm from the Asheville Chronicle. I'm here to write a piece about your little show here.”

“Oh, it's no show, my boy,” said Robert. He was in high spirits for a man who had lost his wife and lived in her memory every single day, Phil's cynical mind concluded.

“What you're about to witness is a reality that you've long forgotten. Or perhaps it's a reality that you never knew. Whatever the case, it's a reality far beyond, below, above, and between the reality in which you left when you walked through that front door.”

Is this guy serious? Phil thought.

He had not left his skepticism at the door with his shoes. It was an unusual request Robert made to him as he walked through the front door " “I learned after the first year that clean up goes much smoother without shoes tracking in dirt,” Robert said as Phil gave him a quizzical look. “Should have picked that up from Pat!”

Phil thought he saw a twinge of sadness pass over the man's face when he mentioned the name of his dead wife, but it passed as soon as Robert swept aside the curtain that hid the rooms beyond the entrance of his house.

In the first room " which still had the markings of a typical living room ", Phil saw a huge Christmas tree. The only lights in the room were focused on the tree, making the rest of the room a blurred memory of what living rooms were supposed to look like.

The tree, however, wasn't decorated with red, green, silver, or gold decoration; twinkling strands of multi-colored or white lights; or sparkling garland. Instead, the tree was covered from tip to trunk with pictures. There were hundreds of them, only broken up with small, plastic birds that peaked through the branches occasionally. Phil got closer to the tree and saw that all of the pictures were of Robert and a woman whom Phil easily assumed was Robert's late wife. There were old pictures of them in high school " Robert still wearing his large-rim glasses, but with an old-style sweater and his hair slicked tightly against his head; and the young Pat wearing large skirts and ribbons in her hair. There were also newer pictures, probably the last pictures that Robert and Pat every had of each other alive " Robert was much like himself, but his happiness appeared genuine, not created for the sake of an audience. In all the pictures, though, Pat's expression was always that of total peace, complete joy, and an abundance of good will spewing out of her appearance. She seemed like a wonderful woman, even through the old, worn, dirty pictures of a man too sad to let go.

There was also a couch in the room, and a small TV pushed against the wall, covered in a blanket that looked like it hadn't been removed in years. It wasn't entirely necessary to hide those examples of normalcy, however, as the tree demanded attention, and only released it when the viewer noticed what remained in the room.

Further along in the living-room-turned-sanctuary was a large portrait. Lights were again focused on the painting, diverting the onlooker's gaze away from the used and discarded dishes that laid on a nearby table.

The picture was on Pat. It seemed to be a self-portrait. In it, she had drawn herself modestly, sitting in a garden, hands crossed on her lap. She was smiling a smile that only the owner of which could imitate on canvas, and her cheeks were blushed with a haze of peach, red, and orange colors. Obviously, it was meant to be a portrait of spring-time " this fact made especially obvious by the number of birds that surrounded the focal image of the long-dead woman. There were robins and bluebirds and cardinals, sparrows and mocking birds, doves and wrens. There were even more obscure birds, like hummingbirds, owls, eagles, and crows " and many species that Phil had never even seen before. They were all either flying or perched, on the ground or in the single tree that made up the right third of the painting. And there, on Pat's shoulder, was a small parakeet, golden in color, neck outstretched in song.

Phil stared at the painting for several minutes. Finally, Robert came up beside him and began to look at it, as well.

“It's wonderful, isn't it?” Robert said. Phil jumped slightly, startled by Robert's sudden appearance. He had been there all along, of course, but Phil had been enamored by what he was seeing.

“It was the last thing she ever painted,” Robert continued. “I thought it was appropriate here in the living room.”

“Yes,” Phil said, words lost to him. “Yes.”

He noticed, finally, that there was a single candle in front of the portrait. It was an oil lamp, one that looked more out of an Arabian tale of magic than an old man's shrine to his wife.

“And the candle?” Robert asked.

“It's for Pat. A reminder of the light she brought into my world,” Phil said, staring down at the burning wick. “And it was one of her favorite parables from the Bible. She said she didn't want her oil to run out like the foolish brides were left out of the wedding procession. I always smiled when she told me the story, even though I'm not sure I totally get it. But, either way, that candle hasn't stopped burning since a few days after her burial " I make sure of that!”

They stared at it for a few seconds, the faint light of the oil lamp flickering and dancing against the portrait of Pat and her birds.

“Well, come on!” Robert said, patting Phil on the back. “There's much more to see!”

Phil followed Robert towards a stairwell, which was also covered in a curtain that Robert moved swiftly with an outstretched arm.

“Follow me down the path to remembrance and forgetting,” Robert said, putting on his best performance-voice. “And we'll find a world seemingly like our own... but worlds different!”

Phil followed on cue, keeping his scoff to himself.

As Phil entered the stairwell, he was immediately thankful for the handrail. Without it, he would have surely been completely disoriented and fallen down the entire flight of stairs. Along both walls of the stairwell, and the ceiling, were mirrors covered every inch of space. They created a nauseating display of eternal stairwell, identical to the one Phil walked down, but moving wildly with every step. Phil steadied himself with the rail and shut his eyes, hoping that the basement wasn't too far below.

A few steps later, Phil emerged, still dizzy and wobbling a bit on his feet. He quickly regained his composure and began to follow Robert once more, who seemed unfazed by the dizzying hallway of repeated images.

Act 3 " Scene 2

Robert wanted everyone to see what the world could look like if only a few small details had been changed. He wanted to give the people who came by the pictures of a reality that never was, a reality that they could only live by walking through his dimly lit, spectacularly arrayed basement.

In that basement were eight cubicles containing eight different scenes. These scenes were segmented only by a thin line of tape on the floor and low music that accompanied each scene individually. As the viewer stepped over the line on the floor, the music in the next scene was triggered by a motion detector, and the viewer was given a totally different picture of what life in various ages and through various times would have looked like had only a few details gone differently.

The first cubicle was accompanied by the sound of nature " birds chirping and leaves being rustled by wind. In front of the viewer, there was a moving diorama, still images affixed onto a continuous loop of rolling canvas that created the sense of scenes taking place. The first picture that moved along was a garden, full of blooming trees, wild animals, and bright flowers. The next picture that scrolled along was of two people, both nude except for strategically placed fig leaves, walking through the forest. The third scene showed a snake slithering down a tree to the woman. The snake seemed to speak to the woman in the fourth scene, but in the fifth scene, the woman denied the snake, ran away from the tree, and found her husband. In the last scene, the man and woman were laughing proudly under a stream of sunlight that shined down through the clouds, the snake scowling defeatedly and slithering off, his plan thwarted by human goodness.

The second cubicle was much simpler. In it was a large, rainbow-like arc, completely covered in symbols. The symbols were of all the largest faiths. Near the center, there was a large cross. Across from the center from the cross was a Jewish star. Next to the star, down the arc, was the crescent-moon-and-star symbol of Islam. Across the open downward arc from that was a lotus flower, and near that was the seated image of an Eastern god that most observers falsely recognized as the large-stomached Buddha. None of the symbols was larger than the other, and all of the symbols had the same level of light shining down on it. John Lennon's “Give Peace A Chance” played in the background, giving a entire scene a slight hint of triteness.

The third and fourth cubicles were similar in theme. The third featured a large bust of Christopher Columbus, sitting overtop a banner that read “Christopher Columbus: friend to the Native American.” Various school textbooks lined a square table, all with inserted articles about how Christoper Columbus allowed the Native American's to live peacefully with the settlers. Their coexistence was praised by the British, who vowed to live peacefully with all the lands that they occupied. The fourth cubicle also featured the British, but this time in the form of a large portrait of parliament, with the caption “Give them their freedom!” plastered above everyone's head. Underneath this portrait was a smaller one, the famous image of George Washington crossing the Delaware River with soldiers. However, the soldiers had been removed, replaced instead with various recognizable images of American and British figureheads, all connected to the same thought-bubble: “Who needs war?” The American national anthem complimented both of the scenes seamlessly.

The fifth and sixth cubicle were also similar to each other, and similar to the fourth in respect to the theme of war and peace. Also like the previous two, the fifth and sixth cubicles both had the same sounds playing: cheering crowds and applause, infinitely looped. In the fifth, headlines plastered on fake newspapers hung from the ceiling, all reading the same phrase in various translations and iterations: “Atomic Bomb Never Created!” " “Hundreds Saved!” " “War No More!” It didn't seem to matter how odd it was that something that had never been created would be known, regardless of its absence in history. However, the sixth cubicle continued this hopeful suspension of disbelief: similar newspapers with crudely attacked headlines that read things like, “Twin Towers Never Fall!” and “Al Qaeda Who?”

The seventh cubicle was less of a cubicle and more of a stool set up between the sixth and eighth displays. In fact, it was just that: a stool, with a light that shone down onto a loaf of bread that sat on top of the stool. Only silence accompanied the stark scene. Anyone who didn't know the story of how Pat died thought that this was an odd thing to come across. To those who knew Robert and his haunted past, this was the most striking and saddening image, the one that left an impression on their minds that far outlived the hopeful “realities” of the scenes before and after it.

The eighth cubicle was simply a television set up on a stand, surrounded by the same black cloth that made up the pathway that winded through the small, yet seemingly endless, basement. The video that played on the television set was the same video, repeated several times a day. It was a short, five minute montage of futuristic scenes, likely created in the 1950s and made to highlight the possibilities of a bright and hopeful future. People flew around in personal flying crafts; kitchens were adorned with machines that cooked food, cleaned the dishes, and neatly packed everything " including itself " away after use; streets were free of homeless, hungry people, as the government did everything that it could to feed its people, rather than deal with problems that didn't seem as important " like space travel or amassing large sums of personal wealth. Everyone in the video was smiling, and everyone looked content. Even pets looked happier than the pets that lived in the future that had really come about. And as the video finished, a timestamp appeared on the screen: “2000 " a year of infinite possibilities!”

Act 3 " Scene 3

As Phil exited the eighth cubicle, he looked back at the television. Staring at him were the words of a hopeful past that would never see its vision come to life.

The final phase of the exhibit was the stairwell that lead back upstairs. It was a path lined with clocks, hundreds of them " of all shapes and sizes " that all read the current time. Like a constant, incessant reminder of how time marched on, despite desires for a different outcome, the ticking became ingrained in the minds of everyone who walked up the stairs " including Phil.

All along the exhibit, Robert had walked right behind Phil, watching for his reactions, catching his eye at every chance and asking, “So, what do you think?”

Phil never answered, because he simply didn't know what to think. But as he exited the stairwell into what looked like an unkempt kitchen, he knew that what he was thinking wasn't what Robert wanted to hear.

Throughout the entire exhibit, Phil thought that he was missing something. Where is the “other reality? he thought several times. What am I supposed to be getting out of this that I'm missing? Am I just too stupid to get it? Or is there even anything to get?

He couldn't imagine that Robert had spent the last six years dedicating his life to something that looked like a sixth grade class could have created in a week for Halloween. He didn't want to say this, however, and dash the hopes of the man who had done just that: spent the last several years of his lonely life creating something that he thought was wonderful, something he thought that everyone would love " that his wife would love, if she was still alive.

Finally, he had to say something.

“I just don't get it,” Phil said, breaking Robert's concentration as he thanked happy-looking viewers for their time and for coming to see the “spectacle of hopeful achievement,” as he put it.

“What's that?” Robert said, as he waved goodbye to a young boy who was hopping up and down with delight.

“How is everyone enjoying this so much?”

His tone was harsher than intended, but Robert didn't seem to be paying him any attention, instead smiling and waving at everyone leaving.

“And how does this connect to your wife?”

Robert looked at Phil for a moment. He didn't seem annoyed, or upset at the words that had spilled out of Phil's mouth. He seemed contemplative, and slightly sympathetic.

“Come here,” Robert said, waving Phil along to a door that sat off through a short hallway near the left side of the kitchen. “I want you to see something.”

Phil followed obediently.

As Robert opened the door to the room, Phil immediately heard birds chirping. He looked over at the door that lead outside the kitchen and noticed that it was already getting dark, which made the sounds of chirping birds seem odd " even compared to the long exhibit that Phil had just walked through.

However, once inside the room, he found out that the noise was coming from a small tape-player that was plugged into the wall.

“This is her bird room,” Robert said, waving his arm in front of him, as if displaying the scene for Phil.

Through the window across from the door, hills hid most of the sun from view. Some of it, however, still peaked out from the horizon and shone into the room, giving a soft, but intense light to everything inside.

There were pictures everywhere. Nearly two-dozen easels " some small, some large " sat on the two corners of the room, paintings displayed on them. More paintings leaned onto the easels, creating a wall of art that capped off the two corners of the room. Other pictures were on the wall, as well, but all of those were photographs. Phil couldn't imagine that Robert could have had more pictures that all the ones he'd seen on the tree entering the house, but there, in front of him, were dozens more, all different, but all containing the same happiness in the eyes of the two lovers that were captured in stillness.

A dresser stood on the wall to the right, and more pictures sat on it, as well as small trinkets that seemed disorganized and random. They obviously held some deeper, hidden importance to Robert and his long-lost wife, however, as they seemed undisturbed and placed with care. Everything, in fact, seemed undisturbed. There was even still drops of paint on a blanket in the middle of the floor, where the focal point of the room sat: a larger easel holding a blank canvas, standing beside a small stool that had several tins of paint sitting on top. A single brush stuck out of one of the tins, and fingerprints of paint covered the wooden handle.

“I haven't changed a thing,” Robert said, breaking the stillness of the scene. “It's just like she left it before she died.”

“I still don't understand what that has to do with everything downstairs, though,” Phil said, seemingly unmoved by the room's romance.

“Those people that walk through my basement,” Robert began, “they're looking at what I want. They're looking on the reality that I wish they " and I " had. It's something they can't get anywhere else. The news only tells them what's wrong with the world, and the news never stops. It's like the reality that we've got is just full of bad news " because, in a way, it is. So, I made this thing to show people that reality is really just what they want it to be. Now, I'm not saying that anything I've done down there really changed anything. Eve still ate the apple, and the atomic bomb was still dropped on Japan. And my wife's still dead.”

He stopped. Tears were welling up in his eyes, and his voice began to waver. He clenched his jaw tightly, though, and continued, determined to prove to the man in front of him that what he was doing was right, just " or at least meaningful.

“But those people who walk down there leave that world for just a little while. They get a taste of what wasn't, of what never will be. And they like it. It's an escape, a release. Sure, it's not that great. I know that it's shoddy. But it's all I can do. And they seem to like it.”

He turned around to look at the people as they walked out. He smiled when he saw them, a tear peaking out from his eyelid and starting a path down his cheek. He stopped it with his hand, though, wiping it away before Phil turned back around to look at him.

“So, go write your story,” Robert said, “and tell them what you really think. Somehow, though, I really don't think it's going to stop people from coming. They know it's bad, too. But somehow, that's just not the point.”

With that, he walked past Phil and out of the room. He waved at the people as they exited the back door of his home, wishing them a safe trip and hoping that they'd return for another pass through “the other " better " reality.”

Phil stood there for a while, as the light from the sun faded and the room darkened.

Finally, he left. He shook Robert's hand, thanked him for his time, and walked away from a reality that even he had to admit seemed better than the one he was living.

Denouement

Later that night, he called his boss to tell him that there was no use writing anything.

“It's not worth it, Mr. Pennywise,” he said over the phone. “Everybody already seems to know about it, and it's just not worth the space.”

Mr. Pennywise relented, mostly because it was late and he hated getting called at home. He agreed to let Phil write about something else " some accident at a nursing home " and hung up the phone.

What Phil didn't tell Mr. Pennywise was that Robert's homage to his wife was the greatest thing Phil had ever seen. He truly didn't want to write the story, but only because he didn't want people to think that some crazy, lonely widower had holed up in his house for six years creating a disturbing glimpse at spiraling madness. That's not at all what he would write, of course " he would praise the man for his gift to the world and the wholeness of his love for his wife ", but that's what everyone would read. Just like every story that he had written so far, people would read the worst, and forget to notice the good.

And Phil just couldn't do that to the man who had filled his house with good memories, good hopes, and the loving desire to commemorate his wife " lost because of a banana peel and a silly loaf of bread.

© 2012 josh


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Amazingly well written. I really like this. It's smart and occasionally humorous with great symbolism and ideas. There's a lot of unnecessary information, but otherwise I loved it.

Posted 8 Years Ago



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Added on February 19, 2012
Last Updated on February 19, 2012
Tags: loss, redemption, love, reporting, funhouse, attraction

Author

josh
josh

Charlotte, NC



About
Usually, in these little "About Me" blurbs, I put that I'm a writer. But I guess that would be a little redundant on this site. So, to be more specific, I write fiction, mostly novels. But since I'm w.. more..