[Edge of the Universe] Art Journals: Chapter 1 – The Accident
Art pulled into the driveway in his Beamer. He waited for the garage door to open and then pulled in. He shut off the engine and waited for the top of the convertible to close. When it finished, he opened the door and got out. He grabbed his briefcase and entered the house.
He walked down the hall and saw Karen in the kitchen.
“Hey, Hon! I’m home.” He said. “Hmm. That smells good. What’s for supper?”
Karen turned and smiled. “Hey. You’re here early. What happened?”
“It’s not early. I clocked out at 5.” He retorted. Karen didn’t say anything. She just smiled as if to say, “Yeah. Right?”
“Okay. So, I am a bit earlier than usual.” He said with a shrug.
“Well, your supper is in the oven. Jenny and I already ate.”
“What? You didn’t wait for me?” he asked sounding genuinely hurt.
Karen laughed. “You never get home before nine.”
“That’s not true. Don’t exaggerate. I was home early last week. By seven..ish I think.”
Karen rolled her eyes and walked towards the door. She placed her hand on his shoulder and patted it lightly as she went left the room.
Art shrugged and opened the oven. He pulled out the plate of food and put it on the counter. He opened the dishwasher to get a fork and knife. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes. He dug in and ate with relish. He loved Karen’s cooking. If she would just stop nagging him all the time about everything he would be a happy man.
He finished his plate off quickly and washed it down with a glass of root beer. He felt hungry still, so he raided the fridge. He pulled out some apple pie that had been leftover from his weekly Wednesday night poker party.
Art sniffed it. “Still smells pretty good.” He had forgotten about it all about it otherwise, he would have eaten it before. He grabbed a box of butter pecan ice cream from the bottom shelf of the freezer. He piled several scoops on top of the pie.
He put a spoonful of the cold, sweet treat in his mouth. Art closed his eyes and savored the moment. “Absolute perfection. Why does cold food that’s leftover, often taste better than when it’s fresh.” he wondered.
Art carried his bowl and continued eating as he walked down the hall to his bedroom. His feet padded softly in the lush, blue carpet. He loved the feel of the soft material under his feet and always walked barefoot around the house.
He had never had carpet in a house growing up as a child. He had grown up in a low-income family that didn’t have many extras. His father paid the bills and spent the rest on booze. His mother had done crochet on the side to make a little extra money buy clothes and for herself and the kids. That was when she had any left over from buying groceries when her husband had run out of money.
But it wasn’t just because his family was poor, that he hadn’t had grown up with carpeting. Hardly anyone in his country installed carpeting in their home. Most of the people in his community only had dirt floors. If they were lucky, they had cement floors. And if they were rich, they had ceramic tiling.
Life hadn’t always been easy for Art and his siblings growing up in northern Brazil. His mother had struggled to keep twelve hungry mouths fed. She had to work hard and be creative to make money and food stretch each month.
So, Art had learned to appreciate all the fine things around him. The little things that most people took for granted. Things like carpeting, apple pie, and butter pecan ice cream. He savored them at every opportunity, like now as he walked down the hall to his bedroom.
He considered himself lucky to escape his little rural community. The cycle of poverty engulfed those of his family who were still alive. His father had died of liver cirrhosis when he was still thirteen. Not that Art had cared when he died, nor missed him after he had gone.
The family did miss the little money that he didn’t spend on liquor, but that was about it. His mother had soon remarried, but her second husband hadn’t been much better. He drank too and often beat the children over the slightest thing. Art had started working when he was fourteen just to have an excuse to get away from the house.
He went into the bedroom to change his clothes. Art put on a pair of swimming trunks. He finished off the bowl of ice cream and washed his hands. Then he headed off to find Karen and Jenny in the pool. He looked at the picture of the gringo framed on the wall. He touched the photo and said thank you as he went down the hall.
He worked for the gringo who lived on an enormous cattle ranch in the area where Art had grown up. Art spent most of his time out in the country to stay away from the city and avoid his step-father’s lashings. He did go in on the weekends, but just long enough to check in on his mother. He would drop off some food or a little money for her and the kids.
Art always drove by the local bar to make sure his step-father was there and away from the house before he went to see her. Art had been a hard worker and managed to impress the gringo. Art took advantage of the opportunity to learn English with him and his family. He pretended he didn’t speak any Portuguese and forced himself to speak only English.
When he was seventeen, the family returned to the United States. They invited Art to come along for a visit. He ended up getting into a good university program. There he had met Karen, and well, that had been fifteen years ago. He was now here in the good ol’ USA living his happily ever after. Art had never looked back or returned to Brazil.
He walked back to the kitchen and put his bowl in the dishwasher. He mentally patted himself on the back. See, he was a good husband. Why did Karen have to nag about the little things like what time he came home? She should know that he was out trying to provide for the family.
He heard Jenny laughing and looked out through the window. He sighed in exasperation. There she was running around the edge of the pool again. Their dog was chasing her, and she wasn’t paying much attention to her surroundings.
Art had told her a million times not to run on the slippery, wet edge of the pool. And Karen didn’t back him up or try to make Jenny stop. Art thought she spoiled Jenny by letting her do whatever she wanted. That was the price of growing up without any significant cares or worries.
People didn’t realize what they had. They let their kids do whatever they wanted and get away with murder. He didn’t want his kids growing up like that. Karen didn’t understand his background or how he had been raised. He needed to have a serious conversation with her again. At the very least, keep her safe by not letting her run around the pool.
He opened the door and yelled “Jenny! What have I told you about running around the edge of the pool.”
She quit running and turned her head to look back at him. The dog didn’t stop though. It kept right on running and barking. It barreled right into the back of her legs. Its forward momentum knocked Jenny off balance, and she started to topple over. His worse nightmare playing out in slow motion right before his eyes.
Chapter 2 is coming soon…
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