Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Insomniac, Part 20

Harold sat in boxers and a T-shirt on the couch. No one was home. No one was going to be home for a few hours, well past a microwaved dinner. Victoria was 'out,' the mall and a movie, Harold remembered, and Hilly was with Hork, spending the night. Saturday afternoon TV was dismal, but he only had to endure 47 minutes until 'Return of the King' came on. Alex would have badgered him to put in his own disc. He didn't know why he didn't get up and look for it on the jumble of movies stacked on the bookshelf, but he didn't. He sat, instead, and waited and watched a rerun of SpongeBob learning to drive. He figured he got about four minutes of cartoon for every six minutes of commercials. It really was annoying, and a little depressing. Why the hell did they put commercials for the scooter store on a network intended for kids, Harold wondered. Then, he laughed out loud. He was watching the kids network. He was glad Alex hadn't heard him snort with laughter out of the blue. She used to hate when he did that. Harold was thinking of dozing off when he heard a click.

"Oh, that's disgusting," Victoria said as she breezed into the living room. Genna and Rachel stood behind her in the foyer. He wondered why they called it a foyer when it was only a five by four square of tile placed by the front door. The girls had turned to face the door and were trying not to giggle.

"Dad, can you just ..." Victoria hissed in a stage whisper as she waved at all of him.

"Disappear?" he suggested.

"No, Dad," she said with a stricken look in her eyes. Harold could see that tears had sprung to her eyes. Real tears. She sat suddenly on the couch next to him as if she'd lost her balance.

"No," she said again. There was a feeling of silence, despite the droning TV. He held his breath. "You know, like, if you could just have seen yourself..." She stared into his eyes but her words trailed off.

Harold sucked in his gut with his next breath and tried to pull the dog's blanket off the floor to cover the boxers. It was kind of an old farty guy thing to do - to sit in front of the TV in his underwear watching cartoons. He hadn't expected either of the kids, let alone company.

"Dad, I didn't mean that." She pulled the blanket away from him, got up, and got Hilly's blue and orange fleece from the quilt rack, and gently spread it over his lap. It made him feel old. This was the different Victoria that Harold had been watching, now and then, since he got home from the hospital. It confused him to feel her flip from one Victoria, the surly teenager, to the other.

"If you could have seen yourself, all pale, and quiet, and lying there on that white bed. You weren't even snoring, Dad."

"It's okay, Victoria. You don't have to ..."

"No, Dad. I do. Hilly, he did everything. I couldn't even drive. He did it all. Didn't you know? I was useless."

Harold looked at Victoria, not having a clear picture of what she meant. Then, he looked at the two girls standing awkwardly on the other side of the living room, halfway looking at them and at T-ball, dance, and karate trophies on a shelf by the door.

"Honey, weren't you going to the mall?" he said quietly.

Victoria stood up abruptly, scrubbed her face with the heels of her palms, and said, "Yeah, Dad, could I have some money? There was, uh, I saw a ... Like ... You know, it isn't really important. Not now." Harold grabbed her arm as she stood up to leave again.

"Give your old man a hug," he said and pulled her thin frame down onto his lap and hugged her in a way that, a month ago, would have infuriated her with its dorkiness. She buried her head into his shoulder for a minute, then pushed him away.

"Oh Dad, that's disgusting," she said as she got up too go.

Thank you for listening, jules

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