The old door creaked open and the glow of the porch light filtered into the dark kitchen, only to disappear when Cyrus closed the door. His dad always left the light on so Cyrus could see to make it up the stairs when he got home after work. It was the one thing his dad could be counted on to do, no matter how drunk he was. It had been this way ever since Cyrus had picked up a night shift at the local diner to help pay the bills and cover the cost of things he needed for school. Between what he made, the money from the state, and the small fees his dad would collect when he managed to get out of the house and find someone who needed an engine rebuilt cheap, they had managed to keep the power on and food on the table.
Cyrus pulled a cord and the light above the sink flickered to life. He dropped his backpack on a chair and grabbed a half-eaten bag of chips from the counter. Predictably, they were stale, but he ate them anyway. There would be nothing besides that and frozen dinners until the weekend when he had time to drive his father to the grocery store. Cyrus glanced into the living room as he slipped a handful of chips into his mouth. Sure enough, he saw his father’s face illuminated by the TV. His hair was a couple months past due for a trim, and it hung over his blank face like scrawny fingers, clawing towards his lips.
The beer cans were spilling over the top of the trashcan that sat just within arm’s reach of the stained recliner his dad inhabited. Cyrus sighed and tossed the now-empty bag of chips into the garbage. Without a word, he approached the trashcan and began pulling the bag out and stuffing the runaway cans back in. his dad didn’t even flinch at the noise; he just kept his glassy stare glued to the old westerns that always moved across the screen.
However, unlike every night for the past seven years, it wasn’t cowboys, guns, and Indians on TV. Cyrus froze, his eyes fastened just as tightly to the screen as his father’s. He watched as a white dress billowed into the frame, its occupant dragging a stick-figure of a man as it moved. “That’s right, Carl,” yelled a voice from somewhere off-screen. “Your woman wants to dance!” Whoops, jibes, and girly giggles echoed around the sad room where Cyrus stood near his father. The voices and music were like a syringe, trying to force joy into the atmosphere. It couldn’t penetrate the darkness filling both men’s hearts.
The difference between the bony man dancing with the joyous woman on TV and the beer-bellied sad man sitting in front of the TV was unbelievable. That boy was obviously a nervous dancer, but he was still so full of happiness. The man in front of the TV was empty.
“Dad…” Cyrus started to say.
“We would have been married twenty years today.” The dry words fell from his dad’s mouth like stale chips from a bag. “We always said that we would renew our vows for our twentieth anniversary.”
Cyrus had nothing to say. This was the first time since his mother had died seven years ago that there had been something besides reruns of westerns playing on that old screen. Cyrus nudged some cans away with his worn sneaker and sat on the sticky floor beside his father.
They sat together for an hour that night, one reeking of warm beer and the other reeking of fried food. They stared at the grainy film, watching the woman who had taken their lives with her when she had taken her own.
Thanks for reading once again!
This post was queued last week because I am in New York visiting one of my best friend Dawn. I drove here with two of my other best friends, the engaged duo made up of Judy and Billy. I’m not sure what I’m actually doing write now because I am writing this a week in advance!
Anyway, I need to give some credit to my friend Alex for helping me brainstorm this idea. I almost turned in complete garbage as homework, but he helped me generate some awesome ideas and I ended up with this not-so-bad piece.
I hope you enjoyed!