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Monday, July 1, 2013

Story: Starting a New Career

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Starting a New Career

from the book: Life Will Get You in the End:
Short stories by David Satterlee

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Life Will Get You in the End:
Short Stories by David Satterlee

All he wanted to do was go to the bathroom without disturbing anybody. 

Starting a New Career

A Fergus Johnson story of gender relations

Fergus and his wife Dorothy are middle-aged. Actually, they are just past middle-aged in that wonderland of freedom and possibility that exists while there is still ambition and the potential for growth but, at the same time, insipient mortality is a boil on the ass that prevents one from sitting idle. Dorothy is retiring early as a social worker and Fergus is disabled. Hard lives are threatening to get harder, but they have plans to do creative work together. 

Fergus wakes with a mild surge of adrenaline, which, even when mild, is disturbing. Suddenly awake, he mentally reconnects with his ears, takes an inventory of the little noises around him, scans the dimly lit ceiling for a few moments and finally, beginning to relax, he glances at the clock. It is 3:38 am and he
needs to pee. 

Raising his feet to a near fetal position to avoid disturbing the cat curled head-to-ass in a perfect yin/yang circle at his shins, he begins to maneuver himself gently out of the bed. He is also especially careful to not disturb his gently snoring wife who is snuggled up to his rump. Everything is going well. He swings to the side and slides deftly to his feet with practiced precision, stands, checks his balance with the knuckles of his left hand, which deliberately brush the wall for orientation and stability. So far, so good. 

Treading gently past the antique Chinese secretary’s desk, its close-hung doors squeak an alarm nonetheless. Busted. Dorothy jerks suddenly, sending the cat leaping into the void beyond the bed, raises up on her elbow, and mumbles with urgent concern, “Is everything okay?” “Yes,” Fergus assures her, “I just need to go to the bathroom.” “So do I,” she replies, “but you go first.” 

Dorothy is a treasure. Fergus would do anything for her, even going first without posturing to be gallant and insisting that she precede him. Flooded with affection, he sits back down on the mattress edge and caresses her newly-emerged foot. 

He starts the game: “Have I told you yet today that I love you?” She responds in character and replies with a pout: ”No, not yet.” The small episode concludes with the obligatory speech: “Darling, you are the light of my life, my joy, and everything that is precious to me. I cherish you beyond reason and would slay the fiercest beast to set a kindly path before your feet. I rejoice in the labors of our love: the work that we have shared, the children that we have raised, the friends we have comforted, and the future we will face step by step and hand in hand. I love you.” As always, the affirmation is sealed with a gentle kiss to her cheek. 

“I was having a dream, Fergus explains.” He should know better; she will ask for details. Dorothy asks for details. “I had finally found some work I could do and a place that would have me. A University research department hired me to keep things up around one of their labs. First, they discovered that I not only knew my way around computers, but could make them roll over and tell jokes. Then, I revealed that I had experience maintaining analytical systems like their chromatographs and dielectrophoretic separators. 

“After just a few days there, the director decided to redirect research into the properties of materials at ultra-cold temperatures. When he found out that I already knew how to operate high vacuum systems and handle the liquid nitrogen needed by mass spectrophotometers, he asked me to also be responsible for commissioning and overseeing the proper care of the new equipment. It was like going to heaven; I got three promotions in two weeks.” 

Dorothy smiles with patient tolerance and reminds him, “I love you too, but you’d better get to it soon or I’m going to wet the bed.” His response is certain and reassuring: “As you wish, my bride.” Centering his breath and remembering to live in mindful awareness, he gets up and leaves the still-darkened room to go do his business. 

Flipping the wall switch by the bathroom door, Fergus is momentarily blinded and feels a disorienting wave of vertigo. His knuckles seek the reassurance of the door frame, while he squints and feels as if flowing into infinite brightness. A diffuse figure before him smiles gently in greeting, urges him to be unafraid and at peace, and pointedly inquires about what he has learned and how he has loved in life.