The days of the week lined up like buckets, ready to catch whatever fell in.
Chester was no stranger to these buckets. He’d been emptying them for years.
“Just a part of getting old,” he muttered while pouring a brandy old-fashioned for himself as he did every Saturday afternoon. Life is but a series of rituals. “Blood pressure pill…heart pill…sugar p-”
The phone rang and Chester jumped, dumping the pills he’d already loaded.
“Emily!” he called. No response.
After a beat, he sighed and answered, “Owens residence.”
Small talk quickly degenerated into, “Well if you need a new suit for the interview, take it out of the account. That’s fine, Tommy.” The entire conversation lasted less than a minute.
“Tommy’s got an interview next week, Emily. I’ll be happy when that boy finds something he can stick with. Need to nail that boy down. ” He laughed. “I think he’d take a 10-penny nail or two. Aisle three on your right.” Chester sighed and turned back to the task of his pill box.
Owens Hardware had been a landmark downtown for three generations. Chester took over from his father who had done the same a generation earlier. It wasn’t glamorous but it allowed Chester to provide a comfortable life for Emily and their son Tommy, his pride and joy.
It had been nearly fifteen years since any of the Owens’ needed to find 10-penny nails thanks to the advent of big box stores. The mind has a funny way of interpreting distance at times. Some days, it felt like yesterday.
The phone’s ring snapped Chester back to the present.
“Emily! Phone!” he yelled upstairs before answering, “Owens residence. Tommy?…What?…Pizza is fine for dinner…I think your mother is mad at me again…Why? She’s not answering me.” Chester’s eyes focused on infinity. “Yes, I remember. Just lock-up the shop and come home, Tommy,” he uttered with a trembling lip.
“Dad, I –“
Chester hung-up the phone and cut Tommy off before heading upstairs. The empty bedroom greeted him as it had for the last three years. The closet held only Chester’s clothes and shoes. He sat on the bed with a huff and snatched a photo frame from the dresser as tears traced the cracks on his cheeks.
The smell of pizza brought Chester downstairs.
“You’re carrying Mom’s picture around again,” Tommy said.
Chester didn’t say anything as he sat at the kitchen table and propped-up the silver frame.
“I fixed your pills for the week. You should stop messing with them,” Tommy said and placed the pillbox next to the coffeemaker. “I also made your drink. I didn’t know you’d already had one.” Tommy said as he took his father’s empty glass and rinsed it.
Chester took the fresh brandy old-fashioned and stirred it with the skewered cherry.
“This looks like a good one, Tommy.”
“Just like medicine, Dad.”
Chester drained his glass in one pull and barely noticed the grit of Halcion muddled with sugar.
“Check on me tomorrow, boy. I wanna be alone with your mother. Take care of the store while I’m gone.”
“Do you want to go upstairs?”
“No, your mother will be along shortly and you know she’ll want me to eat something. Might as well be in the kitchen.”
“I love you, Dad.” Tommy said looking into Chester’s glassy eyes.
“I’ll take care of the store, I promise.”