He posted calendars. In his office and garage and kitchen – spent several hours a week updating them to quarter hours, syncing old-school. With sharp colored pencils, he outlines boxes of time.
Fox news fills squared time between 6:30 and 8:30, formerly dinnertime. Lawn maintenance and church in green numbered boxes. She watches the blue bedtime box inch its way up from 9:30 to 9:00 to 8:30. His outworn hands gripping thin pencils like colorful pickup sticks. She noticed the broken pieces pierce heavy duty trash bags on Tues mornings, even though he double bagged.
“When do you go to the john?” She was there, borrowing his angle grinder. The grey clink of his fingers rummaged through a Folger’s coffee can, searching out an odd length screw. The color sharp schedule catches her eye. Rocking back and forth, heel to toe.
“The john!” she says louder and points. He needed a hearing aid. Of course wouldn’t admit it. Old men love their bowel movements. A daily badge, a gold star sir for gastrointestinal bravery.
“You didn’t schedule your bowel movements, isn’t that the highlight of your day?”
He scowls. A hoarse sound, possible guffaw. Remembers laughter like his last kidney stone.
She’s right, he didn’t schedule in his “constitution.” Takes good half hour or more. Enough to read the front page. Or study the obits for friends.
“guess I’ll have to update it. “
“And get a hearing aid.”
“what?” he deadpanned. Heel turn. “Not gettin’ a damn hearing aid. Juliet couldn’t make me. Neither can you.” Coughs. “So go on, here’s the grinder. Keep the box neat will ya?”
Shoes her out of this neat hen-house garage. He hunts and pecks for the one screw he found and lost several times. Entirely unnatural. A neat garage I mean. That schedule too.
He sat solid, on a stump near the porch. Bare-hand paws tugging at fishing line. Restringing a pole, the net at his feet collapsed in a gnarled rope heap. A cable sweater, slightly yellow, stretched over his shoulders, wide hunched. His mother’s hands knitted the sweater for him last year, the same year he laid her to rest on the upper hill. On the ridge where the pines laced the sky through their fingers.
The rough planes of his face fell placid as he worked. The sweet-brine smell of the morning water pressed his lips. Now soundless, a wash of waves pulled and pushed at the gravel shore.
He caught women like he caught fish although he wouldn’t admit to such. He put on his charm like he strung a night-crawler. They saw the power in his body, even now at sixty-two. His fourth wife left several months ago, and the calendar on a nail was just passing pictures. She wasn’t a sailor and he was too like this sea, same tides, both changeable and stubborn-constant. Whittling her away a little at a time. She tired of tacking back and forth through each bluster gust.
His fingers knotted the way his mind used to. But lately his thoughts lay blank as his fingers worked. He liked that, not thinking much. He feared getting stuck down at the dead-end of his reason. Alone.
He turned, the whisper ping of his cell phone surprising the silence. Only lately did he remember to plug it in when the battery died. Probably his daughter texting to wish him a ” Happy Father’s Day.”
“I don’t text,” he scolds the brightening sky. He couldn’t be bothered now. Not till this was finished at least.