“Merry Christmas.” A tired, cheery female voice said.
Richard stood, eyes half opened in the doorway of the small living room, “Merry Christmas.” Richard said groggily and smiled.
His wife was sitting in front of the tree, her legs folded under her. They had been married for three years and each of those years they agreed not to exchange gifts. They are just up together for Christmas. Even with grogginess, Richard saw the look on his wife’s face. The look was, ‘I’m sorry but I had to’.
“Morgan?” Richard asked, fully entering the room.
“Rich.” Her voice was high.
Richard settled down beside Morgan, “We agreed.”
“I know but.” She said as she held out her hand with a rectangular wrapped gift, “This will help you when you have an idea and are not able to write them down.”
Richard gave a crooked smile, half in excitement and half in guilt. He took the gift from his wife’s hand and opened up the minicorder.
That was the last Christmas they had together.
That was when Richard’s internal alarm clock woke him up at six, as it is the time he would eat dinner. When he woke up he was holding the minicorder, he regarded the gadget bittersweetly he had never used it till now.
He got up to fix something to eat, which he didn’t even taste. After he had satisfied his hunger Richard dressed in the appropriate attire for the night’s escapade. He stowed his minicorder in his pocket, tucked his legal pad under his arm and put two pens in the pocket opposite the one with the minicorder.
The dying light shown through the window, he got the strange feeling of unease staring at all the boxes. Like he might never see them again, which was possible, he was going to be doing something illegal. He plucked the minicorder from his pocket, rewound it a few seconds then switched to play and listened to his own voice say, “Flashlight to write by. Um...” He switched to stop. He nodded in concurrence with himself and grabbed the flashlight off of the window ledge. He was ready to go.
Richard walked the sidewalk like he did that very same morning, instead of zoning out and letting his feet lead. He was present and feeling a pull to stop at one of the small grocery marts that lined this and the next street. The one that he happened to be outside of when the pull occurred was Kipper’s Food and Tobacco. A small shanty sandwiched in between two office buildings, bright white light filtered out and casting rectangular shadows of notices, missing pets posters and random clippings of news and self-advertising writers. The sidewalk looked like a chessboard and as he disturbed the shadows going for the front door. His eyes caught a small clipping of paper, Richard could barely read the article underneath the words written in red Sharpe:
The fear. The fear of not knowing if they are okay. Their phone remains unanswered against you. Tears stream and your body shakes. In brief intervals you are allowed to think that it is not as bad as you are thinking. Only to have the brief time swallowed by the fear. The fear is something that can’t be fought, only endured. The sudden sensation of great relief when the phone rings and you hear the voice on the other end. Tears of joy fall, you feel silly for overreacting. Though, you can’t help it because you love them and care for them deeply. And the fear. The fear can be fought. The weapon is love. For without love we are lost.
“Hmm.” Richard thought as he opened the door of the mart.
The mart held a scent of a sad love affair, the shelves fully stocked and prices fair. Yet the tiles were chipped and the wallpaper, once a lovely blue color now dull and sagging.
The man at the counter, dark and full beard with gray creeping around the edges.
“Hi, man. Welcome.”
“Hi,” Richard said and walked up to the counter.
The man had a cheerful face and an overall relaxed posture, a man with nothing to lose.
“A pack of Camel’s please?” Richard asked and plucked a lighter from the display and set it on the counter, “Out there.” He pointed to the clipping stuck to the window right beside the door, “who wrote the little piece of writing titled Fear?”
The man shrugged as he put the pack down on the counter, “People are always doing that. 7.98.”
Richard nodded and paid, taking both lighter and cigs in his right hand. He walked back outside, leaned his back against the brick siding. Dropped his legal pad between his feet and unwrapped the plastic from the carton. Slamming the carton against the palm of his hand, no one will miss me. The fear will not touch anyone if indeed something does happen. He was doubtful that something worth writing would happen, it would be his luck. With a hard flick of his thumb the lid of the carton opened, revealing two rows of neatly packed cigs. Not that Richard was looking at them, he went through a smoking phase that lasted two months. This was before Morgan, Richard could not pinpoint the reason for this sudden urge to have a smoke.
Taking a cig out and placing it in the corner of his mouth. He thumbed the wheel on the lighter and lit the tip. Noticing not the slightest shake in his hand or lip, no shame here. Took a long drag, held it as he laid his head back and exhaled slowly.