A Desultory Tale of a Purposeless Existence


He had served in the military, married twice and was now waiting for the end of his life to take over the complications he had created and put them to an end.  The problem lie in his age, which was forty eight, and his health, which was excellent.  He wouldn't die for a long time if he kept up this pace.  He had recently gone back to attending Sunday services at the Russian Orthodox church and had struck up a friendship with the priest's wife.  This was one of his many problems.  He was always striking up relationships with other people's wives.  That's how he got the scar on his forehead and the crooked nose, each from different husbands.  There could have been more, but he didn't talk about it much.

One Sunday, after services, he was in the church basement, drinking coffee and eating the free pastries that came with the praise of the lord.  The priest approached him and asked him if he had liked the sermon.  It was adultery Sunday and he knew just how pointed the question was.  The priest hadn't trusted his wife for a long time, and he knew our hero's reputation.  After a short bout of thinking, the answer came as a bit of a surprise to the priest.  "Adultery" spoke the adulterer, "is not so much a sin as a personality defect.  I've discussed it at length with my shrink at the VA and he thinks it can be overcome by either prayer or secular meditation."  The priest was turning purple. "If the church calls it sin, who are you to call it psychology? It is not your place to define sin, only to avoid it and to repent for it."  Another pause, and then, "Good Father, don't think I'm trying to minimize my guilt. I have sinned in this way in the past, but with the help of God, it will never again happen."  This seemed to calm the priest.  Their conversation switched to the amateur baseball game this afternoon between the Catholics and the Orthodox.  Two of their boys had minor league contracts for the Fall season and it looked like they'd be able to slaughter the Catholics.  After that, the priest moved on to other parishioners and our hero (whose name is Matthew) moved on to other pastries.

That afternoon, he sat out back of his tool shed and watched the baseball.  He didn't like baseball, but seeing the Catholics humiliated struck his fancy.  By the end of the third inning, it was 4 to nothing, in favor of the Catholics.  He walked down the street to Jack Smelnik's bar and ordered a shot and a beer.  He spent the rest of the afternoon watching nature shows on Jack's TV, then wobbled home for Supper. He meditated on adultery as he ate a can of cold pork and beans.  He liked the priest's wife, but it was too dangerous. He swore not to pursue it, then took a nap.  At ten, he got in the pick-up and drove the mile to the Bluebird Inn, where he knew Sunday night would present, if not opportunity, then at least some visual pleasures.  He liked women.  He liked them too much.  He had no conscience when it came to that.  To him, if they wanted to, they were free too.  Marriage, commitment, these were things for others to worry about.  Matthew had his own rule: opportunity knocks only once, make sure she's worth it.

He had learned a bit from his scars and broken bones and tried in his humble way to be subtle.  Tonight, there was only one good-looking woman at the bar, and her man was way too big and mean looking for her to be an opportunity.  Matthew killed six beers and six shots of Jack Daniels then guided the truck back to his house.  He sat in the garden for an hour or so, drinking from the case of beer he always kept in the garage refrigerator.  His veteran's pension for being a nut covered the bills and the beer and kept the truck full of gas. He'd been doing this for almost thirty years.  He'd joined the Marines when he was seventeen and was discharged when he was nineteen.  With the exception of a couple of months every year in the VA hospital fighting his annual depression, he spent his time at the house, in the woods, or at a bar.  Lately, there was the church on Sundays, but now that the priest had figured him out, he'd probably let that one go.

He finished his sixth beer and went into the house.  He checked the doors and windows to make sure nothing could get in, then went to sleep on a mattress in the living room.  He never went upstairs anymore.  He didn't like to be reminded that he once had a family.  Even though he'd had two daughters with his second wife, he hadn't seen them since the divorce. He was a master of out of sight out of mind and did all he could to avoid the affliction of memory.  The beer and whiskey helped.

The next morning, he slept late, and when he woke, there was something wrong.  He picked up the army issue Colt .45 automatic, made sure the clip was loaded and there was a shell in the chamber and started to tip-toe through the house. There was nothing amiss on the ground floor or in the cellar. He would have to check the bedrooms.  The staircase showed no signs of another person, the dust was half and inch thick and his footprints were the only thing disturbing it.  When he reached the landing, he knew there was a window open.  He had shut and locked them all after his second wife left him and there was no way to open them from the outside.  There was nothing amiss in the big bedroom, which left the girls' room.  He opened the door cautiously, and went in like a TV cop, gun raised, eyes darting right and left.  The window wasn't open.  It was broken, and an enormous crow with a broken neck lay on the dusty rug.  He picked up the crow, carried it to the trash can and unceremoniously stuck it in.  He went back into the kitchen and called the glass man.  By two in the afternoon, all was well.

copyright 2007: john zavacki (the elder)