Coming Back Home

He has been different for the last two weeks. He returns home in his beat up old 1980 Chevy truck. Running errands has put a tire on him because, until recently, he never has had to run errands. Now, he runs errands and stops at Jack's, to buy his Southern Comfort -- a bottle or two to sooth his aches. He always looks, now, before he gets out of the dirty white truck -- for the FBI, CIA, her, or Luke -- the local sheriff. He's thought about Luke Somners a lot, lately. He even has had dreams about old Luke. The dreams scare him. After he does the poor surveillance of his place, he gets out of the truck and his body moans and ahs with the truck's own aches and pains. In approaching his house he sees the shutters and the gutter are askew. He was supposed to have those things fixed, but for the last two weeks, he has not wanted to see much of anybody or be seen by anyone. He shakes his head, "I really need to fix that damn, gutter." He walks up the stairs and his body creaks with the sags and moans of the house. He spans his territory one last time, puts the key in the door, and enters the mouth of his home.

He sits down in his old recliner, in the dark, where shards of moonlight play on the wooden floors, furniture, and a wall or two. But in his favorite recliner he is incased in darkness. This has been his tomb of comfort for the last two weeks. He opens his bottle and takes a nip. It plays with his insides making them come to life -- dance, and although he has never been much of a dancer, he has been the Fred Astaire of the bottle. Southern Comfort eases him.

He will drink until he is drunk. This is what he does, what he knows, what he has become. He cares about nothing -- the house is falling apart on the outside, on the inside it looks like a hurricane regurgitated, and he is so forgetful that he never takes his medication anymore. When he thinks about why he doesn't take his meds it all goes back to her. It is all her fault. She was the one that got him to go to Dr. Stanley, he never would have gone if it had not been for her. He could have dealt with his pain, he has been dealing with it for years, he didn't need any quack to tell him that he was a manic depressive; that he needed certain meds to take care of his condition or he would not only hurt himself, but others, maybe even his beautiful wife. Yes, her, he thought. It was all her fault. She would make sure he took his medication. She had her way about doing it. She was subtle and manipulative. A smile appeared on his face, a drunken smile of insolence. Another nip went down, turning the tumblers inside of him.

In the position he is in he can see the moonlight shine on the back of her recliner, see her doily is perfect, neat, in place like so much of her life was, as his life was when she was around. Now, he hates coming home, hates being there, hates her for leaving but he is still the king and this house is his domicile -- his dark and gloomy catacomb.

He falls into the depths of dissension. It is not only his mind that plays tricks on him. He never went to any doctor before being with her. When she made him go to see Dr. Riverside, the family physician, he would bark all the way there. But his high blood pressure and his bad kidney bent him over like a kick to the groin. He was put on more meds to take care of his symptoms. He ate better, stopped drinking, and took refreshing walks after dinner. Those days were great until she had to go visit her sick mother. He had to take care of the house and the yard. He even got Deputy Dick Somners, Luke's son, to help him. "Deputy Junior," he called Dick. But Dick was good at odds and ends stuff, a real nice handyman and carpenter. Dick would help out with the repairs the house needed. He took on the chores of addressing the landscape as Dick fixed repairs. It would not have been too bad but he owned a nice size piece of property right on the outskirts of the town -- twelve acres. The developers in Brandenwood wanted to get six to eight acres from him. They were proposing to build a strip mall. He felt there were enough malls in the world and Brandenwood, Pennsylvania, didn't need to be host to another Yankee sink hole. He loved the old architecture of the town; the historical district, and the place where his father shook hands with FDR. "Solace, you a tough old piece of work. If I didn't know you like I do, I'd hate your guts." Dick told him once. This made Solace laugh.

"I say there, Deputy Junior, you sure got a pretty mouth on you, boy. Does Big Chief know how you spit out those ar-ti-cu-la-tions? I know he don't let you talk like that in front of him, now does he?

"You're right 'bout that Sol. Daddy Big Chief would be taking his boot out my butt if he knew I was josh-a-sizing like that. But, on the other hand I am talking 'bout you, so he might be a little partial to me, ya think?" They both laugh while they continue to work.

When she returned from taking care of her mother, Solace was overjoyed. He was in heaven to have her cooking and taking care of him. He loved the touch of his wife's hands. They were little and soft but firm and reminded him of his mother's. He was a baby and his wife knew it. He hated taking the meds. He felt they were changing him. Now she had a high and mighty reason that he should take the meds. After nursing her mother back to health she said to Solace, "I don't have time to be fixing folk that don't want to be fixed. If you want to die, well you can just go on -- you and my Mama can go and meet the Heavenly Father, if you got a chance in making it there, you ole husk."

"You and that damn nagging. You nag worse than a nag, you know that."

"If you want my help, Sol, take your meds. That's it -- kit and caboodle."

"Nag, Nag, Nag. Kit and caboodle my...okay, okay. I'll take the meds." So he took the meds - reluctantly -- with venom.

He misses her. Not having her around makes Solace weak -- no one to yell at, demoralize. The house was full of old echoes and he heard the voices -- heard her through the walls. So, he'd drink until the voices left. Again, he was asleep in his chair with the bottle of Southern Comfort dangling between his forefinger and thumb. He was pathetic -- drooling, insipid, bitter. Dream comes on him fast and furious. Solace sees her in a white sundress with a daisy pattern above the hemline. He smiles, like a drunkard in an old black and white western. She approaches Solace. She looks like she did the first day they met each other. He calls to her -- but she can't hear him. In his chair he moves around, a little agitated. He calls to her again. She puts her hand to her ear. "What? I can't hear you. Do you want me, Sol, huh? Do you?"

"Yes, come here. I, I...I -- I need you so much. Lord, God, forgive me. Please forgive me." He is more agitated and squirmy.

There is a noise outside of Solace's house. The wind has picked up and the rain has started. And as always, since he has not fixed the gutter or shutters they slap against the house. A light shines through the window of the house. A car pulls up. It is Dick. He has come to see Solace time and time again in the last two weeks but Solace is never home or dismisses him in a hurry. Dick gets out of the car and pulls his hat down to try and divert the rain from hitting his face. He hears a CRACKLE -- lightning. Dick looks up to see the shutters and gutter hit the house -- dut-dut, dut-dut. "Sol needs me to fix that damn gutter. Looks like the shutters could use mending too." He walks up to the door and knocks, nothing. "SOL. SOL. SOL, it's me, Dick." He goes around back because he saw that the truck was there.

Solace is still in his dream succumbing to the atmosphere and his wife, the vividness of her face, she is alive -- she is real. He reaches out to touch her and she retracts from him -- progressing slowly back with her arms out in front of her -- smiling at Sol, longing for him. He reaches toward her. "Don't go!" Sol screams. She continues in her lilt. On the recliner Sol's face plays in contortions, he flinches. A red splotch appears on her sundress.

Now she comes, reverses back towards Sol and the red splotch is getting bigger, taking up all the white of the dress. Her face is serene and blood appears on her hands, she gets closer and closer to Sol, she screams -- her face contorts to madness. "SOL! SOL! SOL!" She deafens his ears with the screams. CRACKLE -- CRACKLE. "SOL! SOL! SOL!" Solace awakes. The bottle of Southern Comfort falls to the floor.

"The same dream, the same damn dream." Sol hears the footsteps -- dut-dut, dut-dut. "Who...who's there?" Sol says, eyes big in the night. Dut-dut, dut-dut and a knock at the door. "No! No! It can't be,'re gone! It's just a dream, a dream."

"Sol? Sol?"

"NO! It can't be!" He clutches his heart. The doorknob turns. Sol's eyes get too large for his head -- dut-dut, dut-dut. The door opens. "Nooooooo."

"SOL! SOL! SOL!" Dick yells. He sees the body of Sol lurch forward -- pulled by a magnet towards the entrance of the door Dick is standing in. Sol's body falls back into the chair -- it gives up. "Sol...Jesus Christ, Sol." Dick says moving toward him.

"Maa-ry..." comes out of Sol -- a last breath.

"Sol," Dick says in pain. "You stupid, stupid, man." He looks for the light switch, turns on the light -- CRACKLE -- dut-dut, dut-dut -- a wetness runs down Dick's face. He sits in Mary's chair. "Sol." He says for the last time. In Dick's hand is a torn piece of cloth -- dingy white with two-week old blood. Dick picks up the bottle of Southern Comfort, takes a nip. He sits back and rubs the material between his forefinger and thumb. He looks at the strange mass that is Sol. Dick takes another nip, sighs, and places his head on Mary's doily -- closing his eyes as the whiskey slides down -- while the rain mixed with sweat races down his face.

About the author:

Curtis L. Crisler is a graduate assistant/student at SIUC (Southern Illinois University--Carbondale) pursuing a MFA in Creative Writing. He has a chapbook entitled Burnt Offerings of a City. He has been published in many mags and journals and wishes to continue his career in all aspects of writing: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, plays, screenplays, lyrics, whatever. He plans on being around, somewhere.