This is the day of the expanding man
That shape is my shade
There where I used to stand
It seems like only yesterday
I gazed through the glass
At ramblers, wild gamblers
That's all in the past
-- From Deacon Blues by Steely Dan
Everett Longsworth stood on his back porch looking at the rain. My god, he thought, will this ever stop? But Everett had more than rain on his mind. There was Sharon, for one thing, his wife. Her behavior had become increasingly erratic and it seemed obvious that she was on the verge of a total mental breakdown. What then? Life was complicated enough without a wife needing psychiatric treatment. They'd been married 25 years and everthing had always seemed fine. Until recently.
It was getting cold on the porch, in addition to the rain, seemingly non stop these past few days, it was getting on towards Winter. Everett went into the kitchen and prepared a cup of tea. Good ole Earl Grey. Maybe an oatmeal cookie too. Finally sitting in his big lumpy chair — have to get rid of this damn thing some day — he picked up the latest copy of National Geographic off the end table. But concentrating on an article when there’s so much else on my mind? Forget it. Maybe the TV. There was a college football game on. North Carolina playing Georgia Tech. Everett had no dog in that fight, so he hunted around. Good lord there must have been close to a dozen games on at the same time. Michigan and Minnesota looked interesting. The Wolverines were only up 16-10 in the middle of the third quarter. No sooner had Everett started watching than a damn commercial came on. Screw that. He went to the Boston College/Rutgers game. Seventeen all with five minutes left. Maybe overtime. Rutgers threw an interception. Commercial. Oh the hell with it, let’s go to old reliable, TCM. Movies and no commercials. High Sierra with Humphrey Bogart, it’d been awhile since Everett had watched it. He loved Bogie movies. But he soon recognized that there were no more than ten minutes left in the film. Screw it. He turned off the TV.
Oatmeal cookie crumbs all over his shirt and pants. Some tea spilled on the end table. It fit, there was nothing to do and the rain was relentless and he’d made a mess. And where the hell was Sharon? She’d said something about “dashing” to the market for a couple of things, but that must have been, what, four hours ago, now.
Maybe a drink would do the trick. Dump the tea and pour a stiff one. Just the ticket. Nah, too early in the day for that. Everett liked his booze all right but was no lush. Drinking alone early in the day was not his thing. Maybe some music. He popped Steely Dan into the CD player. “They call Alabama the Crimson Tide, call me deacon blues.” Sitting back listening to some tunes. Now that was what it was all about. Have to take his mind off Sharon. That woman was just all over the place. Fun and charming and even sexy one minute then mad as a wet hen the next. She’d go from nagging to sweet talk in the same sentence, it seemed. Well, it had been kind of rough since he’d lost his job. The kids were out of the house and at college and Sharon was working her tail off selling real estate. Fortunately she was a real go-getter and kept raking in the bucks. But Everett felt emasculated staying at home while his wife was being the big bread winner. Aww what the heck. He’d worked for 22 years at the plant making good money and with great benefits. Then there was the accident and Everett Longsworth had been selected to take the rap for the whole thing. Sure maybe he bore some responsibility but certainly not all of it. A bum deal is what it was. Thank god for the nice severance check. That’d helped.
Everett supposed that losing his job is what started Sharon acting so goofy. When the kids were last at home they sure seemed concerned. A shame for them. Well Donnie and Lisa were tough and doing well in school so he need’t worry about him. But Sharon, maybe he could talk her into seeing a shrink.
Steely Dan was getting on his nerves. Maybe something mellower like Cat Stevens or a little Chicago, really blast it out. Nothing seemed appealing. Try the idiot box again. Michigan had pulled away from Minnesota, now it was 32-10. 32? Must have gotten a safety. Sure enough BC and Rutgers were in OT. BC scored on an eight yard pass. This was a pretty good game. Then Rutgers fumbled and it was all over. Oregon and UCLA had just started. South Florida was crushing Troy State. TCM was now showing a Western with Joel McCrea. How bout the news? Big fire somewhere in Oklahoma and a US Senator he’d never heard of was in critical condition after a car crash and some pop star he’d never heard of had been arrested with drugs. There was a nature show about giraffes and Oregon had scored against UCLA and the Western actually looked pretty good but he wasn’t in the mood to settle into a film.
Everett turned off the TV and walked out to the back porch again. The rain was still coming down but not as hard. He thought he’d watch it for awhile. What the heck, it was as good as anything on television, better than most of what passed for entertainment. Jesus, Sharon had been gone close to five hours now. Maybe she’d had an accident. Maybe he should be worried. How bout a can of soup? No, no, no he’d been eating enough canned soup lately. He slapped together a sandwich instead. Ham and Swiss on wheat bread heavy on the mustard. Now that was good. Oregon was leading 14-0. South Florida and Troy was over, 56-13. Wow. Who knew South Florida had a good team? Then again maybe Troy is pretty bad. He didn’t follow every damn college team. Different nature show now, looked to be about lemurs. Before he sat down to watch it Everett couldn’t have told you what a lemur was. Now he could. These were in Madagascar. Everett thought that was somewhere in Africa. Or was it near Brazil? There it is on map. It was an island off the East African Coast. The things you learn. Aww hell, bread crumbs on his shirt. What a damn mess.
Finally he heard Sharon pull up. He heard her fumble with her keys then open the door. What kind of mood are we gonna get today? The anticipation of what Sharon was going to be like when she opened that door had become a regular concern “Evie, what are you doing?” Seemed okay, concerned for some reason.
“Whattaya mean what am I doing? I’m just finishing a sandwich and I’m watching the TV. Say I thought you went to the store, where’s the groceries?”
“Oh Evie, darling.” It looked like she was gonna start balling.
“What’s the matter now, Sharon? Another one of your moods?”
“Everett, you don’t have a stitch of clothing on.” Everett looked down and sure enough he was naked as a jaybird. Huh, how’d that happen? He didn’t remember undressing.
“Well it’s okay, Sharon I’m just home watching TV.”
“You were in the den watching TV?
“No, right here.”
“But there’s no TV in this room.” Sharon sounded totally freaked.
“Son of a gun you’re right.” Everett was a bit confused.
“Go put on some clothes, I’m going to take the clothes in off the line. I'd asked you to do it.”
“Gee Sharon, I’m afraid they’re gonna be all wet.”
“Why, did you turn the sprinklers on, I told you - ”
“No Shar it’s been raining like heck all day.”
“No, no Evie it hasn’t. The sun’s been out all day. It rained yesterday.”
“Everett will you believe me now, you’ve got go back to seeing Dr. Birmingham.”
“Why would I see a veterinarian?”
“Oh god, Ev, Dr. Birmingham is your psychiatrist. Did you take your medications this morning?” Then what was the vet's name? McKluskey or Lao or was it Figgis? Must be Figgis because he remembered the name rhymed with haggis.
The meds? Hmmm. “I don’t know. I guess I forgot, maybe.” Jeez I sure did.
“You forgot to take your meds?"
"No I forgot I had any to take. But I’m worried about you Sharon you’re just acting kind of hysterical and weird again. Just let me alone. I want to watch some football. Oregon is playing Steely Dan.”
Sharon choked back tears and went upstairs to make a phone call.
Everett turned the TV on. Joel McCrea was in at quarterback for Boston College and for the love of god now it was raining in the house. Poor Sharon, he thought, in one of her moods again.