Most writers are filled with stories. Some of those tales loom in the forefront of their minds, while others linger in the shadows and await discovery. Some of those accounts are fact-based, while others are pure fiction. Then there are the stories that emerge from a simple prompt, narratives that frequently surprise even the authors themselves. Welcome Home? is one of those prompt-inspired tales. Enjoy! And thanks for dropping by.
My brown-nosing co-worker had done it to me again. And my bung-wad boss probably wouldn’t authorize the overtime to compensate for fixing the bastard’s mistake. Dog-tired from working a twelve-hour shift to thoroughly cover up the error, the last thing I needed to see when I got home and shuffled into the kitchen was a prophylactic pasted to the tabletop. Supper would have been far more appealing. But there it was. The Trojan’s foil wrapper lay crumpled on the floor.
My attaché thunked onto the linoleum. The tabletop performance of Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham ground through my mind. A clichéd rendezvous between the mailman and my neglected housewife bumped Kevin and Sue from my lusty torment. Then again, maybe it was the Schwann’s distributor, delivering this week’s bone-in special. I scanned the room. Except for the telltale condom, the kitchen reflected no other indications of gritty passion or disarray.
True, my job sucked lately and not only tested my patience, but my family obligations as well. But why this? So what if Cheryl and I lived in a two-bedroom bungalow? We’d considered the purchase as an investment toward our future. Thirteen years of love, hopes, and dreams—and mortgage payments—were at stake. Gambled for what, one frantic poke? Or was it the first? Had I been so pissed-off about work that I missed all the signs? And what about our daughter? What will—Good God, was Maggie home from daycare when Cheryl and—whoever—did the nasty?
Nausea wrenched my stomach as I stared at the table once more. Bouts of rage and self-pity battled inside my brain. I questioned who was truly to blame, yet craved restitution. Why? Why? Why?
Five-year old Maggie marched into the room. “Hi Daddy. Glad to be home?”
Ordinarily my daughter’s greeting would solve all my woes. A two-foot, four-inch miracle worker, whose wide grin cast magical spells that so often turned bitter to sweet in an instant. But her cure-all smile had never been tested to this extent. This time the lump in my throat hampered a reply.
She persisted. “What’s the matter Daddy?”
“In bed—one of her mybrain headaches. She took her medicine and had me lie down, too. But I waked-up and needed somethin’ to do. Why didn’t you tell me you have balloons in your night table, Daddy?”
“Balloons. I found ’em and came in here so I wouldn’t bother Mommy. You’ll have to show me how to blow ’em up though. The one I tried didn’t look right. Then it got loose and flew all around the kitchen, and landed in my milk. Had to dump my milk in the sink. I was getting another balloon when I heard you come home. Can you help me blow it up, Daddy?”
A laugh burst from my mouth. My little miracle worker had saved me again. I lifted her from the floor with a bear hug. Maggie’s giggles and squirms rewarded my soul.
After a brief detour to kiss Cheryl’s throbbing noggin, my daughter and I retreated to the living room to blow up another balloon, and then search the Classified ads, for “Daddy’s new job.”
P.S. The photo shows my childhood homestead as it is today. Thanks to the current residents for taking such good care of it.