You, a mid-50-ish man with a boring marriage and a tedious, though well-paying, job like to visit your friends, Al and Jean on Sunday mornings for coffee and time to blow off steam (mostly with Al). When you arrive on this day in late September, however, you realize they are vacationing in England. Their daughter, Dannie, is home from college. She makes coffee for you, and admits that she has quit her sophomore year and is planning to run away to San Francisco to “figure out what life is all about.”
This story is not about Dannie; it is about you (the narrator). You’re the writer of this story. How does your narrator react? What kind of advice does he give her, this young daughter of his best friends? How does this event affect his life, if at all?
And, what happened when the Muse got me out of bed at 1:30 AM:
Same old, same old. Every Sunday. Al and Jean. Dorothy and me. Coffee, store-bought cookies. When did women quit baking real cookies anyway? Hate those store-bought cookies. Leave a greasy feeling in my mouth.
I was hoping Al and I could escape to the back yard and talk football. Leave the women in the kitchen with their store-bought cookies and Antiques Roadshow. As if they’d ever find anything of value in our attic. Don’t think either one of them has been up there in a decade or so. Guess I haven’t either.
Not the way it happened today, though. Al and Jean took off to London for the Olympics. Never said a word to us about it and we see them every Sunday. Every. Single. Sunday. The Olympics, for Gawd’s sakes. Who’d wanna fight the crowds and the rain in London? ‘Sides, you can see ‘em better on TV.
Anyhows, this kid of theirs, this Dannie—I call her Dreadlock Dannie--invites us in and serves organic raspberry-peach iced tea instead of coffee. And gluten-free cookies. Say her folks don’t know yet she quit the U half way through her sophomore year. Man, old Al is gonna have a shit-fit over that, I’ll tell you. All the bucks he put into that girl and she up and quits and heads out for San Fran, the land of fruits and nuts.
Gonna find herself, she says. Find out what life is all about.
Dorothy gave her a high five! I mean, talk about irresponsible. And Dorothy? A high five? Didn’t even know she knew what such a thing was. Damn. All she does is watch that antiques thing and Storage Wars on A&E. Wouldn’t let me watch Chopped even if I wanted to.
Here she comes. Dressed in those damned green sweat pants. I remember way back when she’d put on this sexy little black sheath and ask me if it made her look fat. Fat? Man, I wanted to take it right off her when she wore it. Sexy little number, she was. Now she looks like the Jolly Green Giant, you ask me.
Yep. Sunday night, right on schedule. Tuna fish salad on toast and a cup of tomato soup. Every. Sunday. Night. Not even grilled. On toast. Says the grilling makes me fat.
Ter. Fat-ter. Yeah, fatter. Guess I ain’t one to talk much. Picked up a few extra pounds myself along the way. Losing some hair on top. Male pattern baldness, they say. Maybe I should see about using that hair regrowing stuff. Maybe get a gym membership.
Starry-eyed kid, heading out to San Francisco. Been listening to too much Tony Bennett. Hah! Wonder if she even knows who Tony Bennett is? Hmmph. Kinda reminds me of me. Full of hope and piss and vinegar. Now I’m just full of piss.
Oughta see a sawbones about this prostate of mine. Haven’t slept through the night for years. Gotta pee all the time.
Hell, who am I kidding? I could join that AARP now, ‘cept I don’t like their politics.
Oh, my gawd. Not synchronized swimming. Please say it aint’ so. Can’t we watch track and field, for a change?
Little twit Dannie gonna go to San Fran to find herself. Well, she’s in for a surprise when she finds out what life is all about. Kick in the pants? Nope. Kick in the teeth, more like it.
She’ll get herself married, have a passel of kids, food stamps, family vacations in Disneyland. If you can afford it. Last vacation Dorothy and I took was to the Corn Palace, for Gawd’s sakes. Mitchell, South Dakota. Building all covered in corn and grain. On the outside.
Old lady’s fifth cousin or something designed it that year. Okay, it was kind of impressive, decorating the whole outside with a different design every year. Makes you wonder why the birds don’t eat it all.
Oh, good, men’s swimming. Oops, Phelps blew that one. You’re getting old, kid. Can’t cut the mustard anymore. Over the hill at 27.
Twenty-seven. Remember when I was 27. Had the world by the tail. Just got this cool job at Hickman’s Chevrolet. Sold cars back in the day when you could tell ‘em apart. Good money, all these years. Can’t complain. Made me sales manager. Yeah, Dorothy’s dad did me good on that. Now I sit in a cubicle and talk football with the salesmen while they let their customers think they’re fighting for a lower price. Ten years, I can retire and….
And what? Got enough money saved to be okay. Barring a crisis. Cancer. Alzheimer’s. Something like that. But what will I do every day? Coffee with Al and Jean every Sunday. Tuna fish and tomato soup that night. Motor home? Drive a big ol’ land yacht to Alaska, maybe?
“Find out what life is all about…” I shoulda told her. Shoulda told her you start out with the world by the tail even if it’s tuna fish and tomato soup every night. Then all of a sudden, life’s playing crack the whip and you’re still holding onto that tail. Not a good place to be.
“Yes, George? More soup?”
“No. Thanks. I was thinking. What are we going to do when I retire? Got any dreams? A bucket list?”
“Actually, George, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about that. Guess now’s as good a time as any. I’m going to San Francisco with Dannie. We leave Wednesday. I think it’s time I found out what life is all about. You’ll be making your own tuna on toast after tonight, George. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate tuna on toast and tomato soup?”