“Hey, Dave. Dave! Tell Cindy that joke you told us at lunch.”
Dave popped up from his chair and looked up and over his cubicle. His face was contorted and his eyebrows high. He held the face for a beat, and then slowly disappeared behind the grey cubicle wall.
“What joke,” asked Dave?
“C’mon! The one about the doctor.”
“Oh, she doesn’t want to hear that one.”
“Yes, I do. I’ve had the worst day,” exclaimed Cindy!
Dave took his fingers into the shape of a gun and put it to his temple. The muscles in his face dropped into his lap. He pretended to pull the trigger with a silent sigh.
He popped back up from his chair, with his eyebrows high, but his face in a smile.
“Have you heard the one about the doctor who tried to write a prescription with a rectal thermometer? Yeah. It wasn’t intentional. Some asshole had his pen!”
Cindy and John erupted in laughter. Dave looked side to side and then mimicked a cane in his collar pulling him off stage. He sunk back down behind his cubicle wall, and immediately erased his smile.
“You’re the best, Dave!”
_ _ _ _ _
Dave was next in line to pay for the parking garage. The van in front him spewed exhaust so thick it looked like the tailpipe was a smoke machine at a rock concert. He rolled his window up and held his breath for a second. The man in the van was taking too long to pay but finally pulled away. Dave pulled up and rolled his window back down.
“Gwendolyn? Is that you? With all the smoke from that van, I thought I might be at a Diana Ross concert!”
“Oh stop, you,” said Gwendolyn. “The jerk didn’t even pay.”
“And you let him go?”
“He was a real rough type. What’re three bucks, anyhow?”
Dave leaned over the center council as if he was looking for the change to pay, but instead pulled out a yellow tulip. He had it there for her since morning. He reached it out from the window. Gwendolyn blushed as she took it.
“A tulip for my Daisy.”
“They don’t make ‘em like you anymore, Dave,” said Gwendolyn.
“Yeah, I know. The world needs more short, fat men with Mommy issues and an addiction to the race track.”
“Always the jokester! Big plans this weekend?”
“Nah. Same ol’. I’ll be at the hospital.”
“Those children are forever grateful.”
“I’m the grateful one.”
Dave let that sink in. He smirked with a bit of pride.
“Here’s a ten, for me and Ol’ Roughneck. See you Monday,” he said as he pulled away.
_ _ _ _ _
The glow of the Late Show flickered against an empty lazy boy. In the kitchen, Dave put his dinner plate in the sink and turned on the faucet to rinse the ketchup. He was too tired to actually do the dishes. A rinse would do. Sissy jumped on the counter and purred as she leaned into Dave’s arm. He scratched her head. She pulled away and sniffed his fingers.
Sissy followed him, lockstep, to the bathroom. She kept him company as he brushed his teeth and pulled out what he needed to get ready in the morning.
The window was cracked, and the summer night was ideal. Dave walked around his bed and pulled the sheet back from under the pillow. He looked down at the nightstand. She never got less beautiful. And his kids, never less precious. He picked up the picture frame.
“Eight years and twenty-seven days.”
Dave kissed Karen’s forehead, and then Jimmy and Jenny, both.
“I love you. Always.”
He placed the frame back on the nightstand before dropping to his knees and resting his elbows on top of the bed. He put his hands together, closed his eyes, and clasped his fingers. The breeze from the window ran up his back.
“Please God. I don’t know what to say. Help me.” Dave opened an eye and looked at the clock. It read 8:47. He closed his eyes again. “Please.”
_ _ _ _ _
Sissy meowed at the door. She was hungry. Dave wiped the shower steam from the mirror. The morning sun shone through the bathroom window and brought the warmth of summer with it. He sat down in front of the vanity, adjusted his bald cap, and took a deep breath. He looked at himself, forced a smile, and then surrendered to a resting face. It showed a frown too natural. He smiled again. He looked like he felt happy. He jumped his eyebrows up and down, keeping the smile.
“Hey hey, kids! Are we ready to have some fun?!”
Dave looked away. His face fell back into a frown. What did they know? They were just kids. To them, there was no Dave. He took the sponge and smeared white paint on his cheeks. To them, there was only BoBo.
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