So, a day late, here’s the first short:
Of Peanut Butter and Plaintiffs
The weekend routine was the same – keep warm, keep moving, keep him distracted, keep her sanity.
It began with the simplest of lunches – peanut butter sandwiches. She had a twelve-year-old to thank for the treat. He saved his sacked lunch from Friday and offered them for sketching lessons on Saturday. They’d meet in the park, in the open, by the library that had yet to open.
She suspected that the boy’s mother knew what was going on; the new insulated and reusable bag had lunch enough for two, complete with apples and juice boxes this time. The boy simply smiled.
The art hour done, she rushed back to where she left her father, hoping he hadn’t wandered off. He was where she left him – on a bench staring out over the water, oblivious to the sounds of life behind him on the boardwalk.
She hoped that a stroll through the arcade would distract him from the demons in his darkness. She hoped seeing some of the fun games and automated carnival scenes would spark memories of a joyful childhood – his or hers.
Pausing in front of the Bocca Della Verita, she reflected on the snowy sinday morning in December (her mother called any skipped Sunday of church service ‘sinday’). With a bowl of popcorn between them, the small family watched “Roman Holiday.”
One hand fed two quarters into the side while the other hand slipped into the open mouth. She had his attention while she did this. The ‘results’ spat out of the other side of the Bocca.When she reached for it, she let out a playful scream, her hand tucked inside her sleeve.
His expression didn’t change.
‘Handless sleeve’ falling to her side, she remembered the last time she saw that lost expression of defeat. Her grandparents were plaintiffs in the wrongful death case of their only daughter, his wife, her mother.
The case lasted as long as her junior year at college, pursuing a degree in art therapy. The loss of the case doubled the loss within the family – or families once the gavel fell.
That was then. Now, she had the challenge of bringing her father back to this side of the living, to help him find the spark that had made their marriage survive so many years.
Losing the battle, but not the war, she led him towards the food court tables on the other side of the arcade where they shared a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches.