By Keith McDonald
He sat stranded on the sofa in a pool of light from the lamp. Removing the coffeemaker from its box, he stared at it gleaming pristine in its wrapping. It was his reward for 27 years with the company. He’d retired that day. Not his choice, but they were merging his job with another and the younger man got it. No room for him. So he took the retirement offer he couldn’t refuse.
Now it was one o’clock on a steamy January night that was disarmed by air-conditioning. He put down the coffeemaker. On the television, sound muted, a couple were having sex. He didn’t take any notice. Instead, he picked up his huge retirement card “from all of us”, which he’d already studied in forensic detail and read the messages again.
“Hate to see you go. Have a long and happy retirement.” That was from Harvey, the young upstart who’d got his job.
“Thank you for your support and listening to me in my hours of need! Stay in contact.” That was from Alyce, the secretary. He’d miss her the most. She was sweet, much sweeter than his daughter who blamed him for the divorce and refused to talk to him.
He put down the card and looked up at the TV. The sex scene had turned ugly. “Good grief!” he muttered and pressed the remote’s red button. As he sat in his air-conditioned bubble of light, he imagined pressing the red button on his life and fell asleep on the sofa.
Next night it was still humid and he listened to Leonard Cohen CDs: “Everybody knows that the boat is leaking / Everybody knows that the captain lied.”
On Sunday night, he watched four DVDs. Lots of sex and violence, but not much point, and no break in the weather.
On Monday night he had too much to drink at the pub with some friends and poured out his heart. “Cheer up, mate,” Bill told him wearily. “You’re a free man now.”
On Tuesday night, after much indecision, he phoned Lifeline, saying he felt lost. “Have you thought of volunteering?” a kindly voice asked. That was no solution, and outside night maintained its stranglehold.
On a cooler Wednesday night, but still protected by air-conditioning, he found an old prayer book and read some prayers aloud. He hadn’t prayed since he was ordered to as a kid.
On Thursday night rain brought relief. He watched DVDs and drank two bottles of wine.
On Friday Alyce rang and asked him if he’d like to go out that evening with her and her husband to a meeting at their church. An evening with a bunch of happy-clappies? No thanks. Instead he stayed home and aimlessly drifted around the TV channels.
He used to love nights, when he had no fear of the dark. Now they resounded with his loneliness and fear was all around.
He decided to have an early night.