Friday Fast Fiction: The New Year

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The New Year

“What’s wrong with that guy? He doesn’t know how to rake leaves. He’s been at it for hours and still doesn’t have a pile built. There’s art to everything, even with leaf raking—this guy is defaming the art.”

I waited for my father to continue, but he stopped, his eyes riveted on the picture window blackened by the night.

“Dad, no one’s out there.”

He turned towards me and grinned: “There’s always someone out there. You don’t have to see to know.”

“Let’s go outside,” I said.

He shot up from the sofa as if answering a command in military fashion. “Lead the way,” he replied.

Outside, while I could barely make out the outline of the house across the street, I heard a scraping sound coming from the front yard. I stopped in the middle of the road. Moe Marvin was raking.

“Hey, Moe, are you okay?” I asked, my father with his chin on my shoulder.

“Sonny boy, I’ve raked more leaves than you’ve seen in your lifetime,” yelled Moe.

I whispered to my father that it was time to go back inside. He quickly found the sofa facing the picture window.

“I told you so,” said my father.

“You win again. But I wonder why he’s out there.”

“He said it—he’s raked more leaves than you’ve ever seen. Well, that requires some raking at night to keep your word—he’s a good man after all.”

My mother walked in from the kitchen. She had a cocktail glass in her hand.

“I detest balding men. And there is nothing worse than a balding man who sits when he pees. Look at your father. Yes, he may be a bumbling fool at times, but he has a full head of hair…and I still love him.”

I thought about Moe’s thinning hair until I smelled the booze in my mom’s glass—she had charged right up to me. “How’s that marriage of yours?” she asked in a defiant tone.

“Come on, you know we split up last month.”

“Who has the kids?”

“She had them for Christmas and I have them for New Year’s. “

“Sweet deal for her. She can party while you’re stuck watching cartoons.”

I walked away until I found myself in the shadows of the giant hutch that held crystal and china. My visit was a mistake—I was more miserable than ever. My eyes were moist. I almost didn’t hear the cell phone ring in my pocket.

My wife wanted to spend New Year’s with me and our kids. I teared up with joy after I said “yes.” Maybe the New Year would be a good one.

I looked over at the sofa. Mom was rubbing my dad’s hair.

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