Writings and Reflections

Numbers Are His Friends

by Lloyd B. Abrams

Larry knew better than to wake up his mother. He was sitting at the Formica kitchen table with a bowl of cereal, staring into space between mouthfuls. His father had already passed through the kitchen with a cursory “g’mornin,” stopping only to gulp down a glass of orange juice before hurrying off to the store. There was no way his father wanted to be in the house when his wife woke up; he’d rather skip breakfast than stick around.

With Larry’s older brother away at college, Larry was the only one left in the house. On this April morning, Larry was spooning down his breakfast as quickly and as quietly as possible to, like his father, get the hell out of there before she got up.

“Larry!” his mother’s shrill voice echoed down the hall. “Are you ready for school yet?”

Oh no! he thought. He yelled, “Go back to sleep, Ma.” He hoped she wouldn’t detect the annoyance or pleading in his voice.

“Want me to make you something?” she asked as she padded into the kitchen. She either hadn’t noticed his bowl of cereal or she wasn’t yet focusing.

“No, Ma. I’m okay.” He could sense trouble brewing, like the tingling before an electrical storm. “I’m just having Cheerios.”

Then he looked up at her and said, “Whyn’tcha go back to sleep, Ma?”

“Why should I?” There was that edginess in her voice. Larry felt the bottom of his stomach drop out. “Don’t you want to talk to your own mother?”

“No. It’s not that. I want to make sure I’ve got today’s proof memorized.” He grabbed the looseleaf from his book bag, and knocked over his bowl of cereal. Milk and soggy O’s poured onto the table, ran over the edge and dripped onto the floor.

Damn it. Just what I needed. Before he could react, his mother was at the sink, rinsing out an old dishrag. She swept his book bag aside to wipe up the spill. “Ma, I can do it myself.”

“Lazy bastard,” she yelled back at him. “Don’t you see I’m doing it already?” Even if he had beaten her to cleaning up the mess, it would never have been good enough. She had to protect her house from ants, from dirt, from sand, from any kind of filth – real or imagined.

She rinsed and squeezed out the rag and knelt down again to wipe the floor. He could hear her muttering curses under her breath.

It would be smart to leave for school immediately, but there was no way he could without making his mother even more irate, more vindictive with the filthy words spewing out of her mouth. He grabbed a dish towel, bent down, and started to dry the floor. “Not with that one, you son of a bitch,” she shrieked. “It’s one of the good ones.”

Oh crap, he thought. Here comes the maelstrom. He’d learned that new vocabulary word the day before. The word seemed just right.

“You’re always doing things like this, you clumsy bastard. Why can’t you be more careful?”

“I’m sorry, Ma. I didn’t do it on purpose.” He felt himself cowering. He was always cowering, even when he was called a Christ-killer or a kike or a hebe on his way home from school. This, even in the new era when religious intolerance was no longer tolerated. He always backed down, always backed off, always backed away.

His mother rose up and stood next to him, too close as always. She was breathing hard, seething. He could smell the anger oozing from her as beads of sweat rolled down her reddened face. He had to get out of there. He grabbed his book bag and rushed towards the front door. She paced after him, so he didn’t bother to to grab his jacket.

“Fucking son of a bitch!” she yelled as he opened the door and escaped into the crisp bright day. “Fucking bastard!” she screamed again when he got to the sidewalk. “Fucking, fucking bastard!” The words followed him down the street. But the last thing he heard, as he turned the corner, almost out of earshot was, “Lawrence! You forgot your jacket! You’ll catch a cold!”

= = = = =

The plywood-finished basement of their ranch-style home was Larry’s sanctuary, the place that was almost completely his own, where his mother went only to wash and dry the laundry. It was the refuge where he spent many solitary hours setting up his trains on the gouged plywood ping pong table, listening to WABC on his radio, which drowned out his mother’s steps above as she dusted and vacuumed with the Electrolux that was always left out, like another piece of living room furniture.

His planning usually started several days before, sometimes in study hall, but more often during English class. Designing Saturday’s layout was much more compelling than diagraming sentences or watching the clock tick off the seconds until the end of the period.

While constructing his layouts, he taught himself about two-dimensional topography and electrical wiring but, more importantly, he trained himself to work through a complex project – to work compulsively, without stopping until the job was finished. He discovered, although it wasn’t yet in the therapeutic lexicon, that working compulsively was his drug of choice that helped him to zone out, and, best of all, to be away from the inevitable arguments that awaited him upstairs. Only at supper time would he come upstairs to eat with his mother, and with his father if he wasn’t working late at the drugstore.

After dinner he’d invite his parents downstairs to see his newest creation. He’d switch off the basement lights, and proudly turn on the transformer to get the trains chugging around on their respective loops of track. The spotlights from a tower illuminated the layout, and red, green and white miniature bulbs glowed from the remote switches, from end-of-track bumpers and railroad crossing flashers, and from inside a passenger station even though all of the rolling stock were freight cars.

Larry wished for compliments, but all he usually got was a hasty “Hey, that’s pretty nice,” as his parents turned and rushed back upstairs to watch television. Later, he’d follow them up to watch “Have Gun Will Travel” and “Gunsmoke.” Electric trains running around an original track layout in the basement could never compete with Channel 2, nor the Saint-Saens piano concertos his talented brother had often played for his parents on the Steinway piano in the living room.

Once the layout was up, tested and running, Larry’s creative impulses were appeased. Occasionally he’d spend some time on Sunday morning tweaking and refining the setup, tightening the track connections with a needle-nose pliers, adding additional wiring at the decreased-voltage points furthest from the transformer, then running the trains, sometimes speeding them up so they’d derail and crash. But the fun was over, and by the time he was in English class the next day, he was already planning the next configuration.

= = = = =

Larry was in the honors track in high school; his parents would have accepted no less. He thought he was always being compared with his brother, the concert pianist, who graduated from high school as valedictorian, and who was attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Larry’s parents denied, of course, that they ever made any such comparisons. Fortunately, it didn’t take much effort for Larry to maintain a 90 average, and to keep them off his back by doing a little studying here, a little memorization there. His own academic success, though never up to his brother’s level, was likely due to his talent for compressing complex and onerous tasks into short spurts of dedicated effort and by being able to quickly grasp the essence of a subject. He didn’t look for, nor want, anything more.

Larry’s first-period class was the newly redesigned combination of algebra and geometry, and, as usual, he got 10 out of 10 on the geometry proof he had memorized. Larry loved mathematics, loved the structure, loved the inherent truth, loved its sheer beauty although, as a fifteen-year-old at the time, he couldn’t begin to describe his love for mathematics in such terms. There was always a series of logical steps to a conclusion, a solution to a problem, and his joy lay in finding the right path. He assumed that everything and everyone else were fraught with doubt and gray areas, with their intangibles and half-truths that lay in wait to entrap the unwary.

Larry intended to become a mathematician, though he’d be hard-pressed to describe exactly what a mathematician did. And it was in mathematics, later in college, where he met his comeuppance, where he thought he knew enough calculus so he never bothered to show up for his eight a.m. class, where he walked out of the Calculus III midterm after five minutes because he had no idea what he was doing. Dejected and disappointed, he walked over to the registrar’s office to drop the class and to change his major to psychology, a course of study which, for strange but fortuitous reasons, required far fewer credits than other disciplines. Besides being able to still graduate on time, he reasoned that by studying psychology, he might also get a handle on what was going on inside his head. Maybe he could find out why his self-esteem had once again bottomed out. Thus, it wouldn’t be a total loss.

And, as far as Larry was concerned, that was it for math.

= = = = =

Thirteen years after changing his major, Larry was on the Auto Train with his mother heading down to Florida. She was following the exodus of New York Jews to Florida, along with her 1974 Buick Century. Larry’s father had died unexpectedly six months going on a lifetime, before. His father’s already damaged heart, worsened by years of hypertension and smoking, failed one day after his sixty-fifth birthday. Larry, who’d been called by a police officer to come out to their house, shuddered when he remembered the scene – his father’s soiled and lifeless body, lying in a pool of vomit next to his parent’s bed – and imagining his mother standing over him alternately sobbing and screaming, “Mel! Wake up! Don’t you die! Don’t you dare fucking leave me!”

Larry’s mother claimed that it was his father’s idea to move to Florida, but he thought that his father had never actually wanted to, even though his parents had driven south, the previous spring, to the gated community that had then been partially under construction, to be wined and dined and sold the fantasy of security and meaningfulness in their golden years. Even Red Buttons was a part of the sales pitch, and who couldn’t believe Red Buttons?

The boys – their two sons – continued to live on Long Island with their wives, and Larry and his wife had also just had their own boy, the first grandchild. Larry couldn’t understand how it could be so easy for his parents, especially how close they all still were, to pick up and leave everything behind. And Larry also knew that his father hated the heat. Before he retired, his father would drive to the store on his days off to spend time in the air-conditioned coolness, familiarity and comradery.

Also, being cooped up in a two-bedroom condominium with his mother would drive his father crazy. When his father had the audacity to fall asleep in front of the television, his mother would blurt, “Mel! Are you watching?” and his startled father would jolt awake in mid-snore. Larry felt sorry for his father, who had worked ten-hour days, standing on his feet, bantering with and kowtowing to customers, counting out pills, doing the books, exasperatedly dealing with second-party payers, and increasingly worrying about the encroachment of department store makeup counters and supermarket pharmacies that cut into profits from prescriptions, cosmetics and sundries. Larry always wondered why his mother simply would not – or could not – let his father be.

Sometimes Larry got up enough courage to challenge her, saying, “C’mon Ma. Leave him alone,” but actually wanting to say something much stronger. But after another “Mel, are you sleeping?” his father would shudder awake, give her a dirty look, and shuffle off to the bedroom. However, no one dared annoy his mother, when her head started to bob against her chest as she sat slumped next to the pole lamp. Before he headed off to bed, Larry would leave the television on so she wouldn’t wake up. Although he was a light sleeper, and could hear the television in the next room, he also wouldn’t dare to turn down the volume.

As time passed, Larry obliquely blamed his mother for his father’s death. He often thought that his father chose the only way out – that his death was his one possible escape from the artificial life of unending Florida leisure, of taking in second-rate shows in a clubhouse, of chasing the early-bird specials, of having to listen to his wife’s nagging and taunts, and, perhaps most importantly, of not being near his sons and his grandson.

Larry was working on his third Bloody Mary in the Amtrak bar car. The recycled air in the train was stale and musty and the flat terrain outside the smeared windows was unrelentingly boring. The cramped train and the emotional closeness were making him claustrophobic. As much as he tried, on this clickety-clacking cellblock, he could not avoid his mother, who seemed to need him more than ever. Not that he could blame her. It had taken a lot for her to sell the house, to get rid of almost everything in a couple of garage sales, to pack up her remaining furniture and belongings and head 1300 miles away from Long Island. In six short months she erased an entire way of life. Unlike a painter who carefully places dabs and strokes of paint on a blank, expectant canvas, his mother vulgarly reversed and negated the process. She picked up a house-painter’s brush, saturated it with her own corrosive paint remover whose ingredients included anger, grief and desolation, and eradicated an existence that no longer made any sense to her.

But on a primal level, he had to admire her strength and courage.

= = = = =

In the intervening twenty-two years, while his mother’s life was compressing and diminishing, Larry had elevated himself from the burnout of teaching special education to becoming a high school mathematics teacher and then a teacher-administrator in charge of programming. In his own circuitous way, Larry had come full circle back to his first love.

It was now almost the turn of the century. The rehabilitation center his mother was confined in was conveniently located next to the North Broward Medical Center, where she had spent two weeks after being rushed by ambulance, suffering from acute kidney failure. When her overall condition was no longer so critical, her status was upgraded and she was graduated from the hospital to the rehab center.

Resentment pulsed through Larry’s psyche – resentments coupled with “if she’d onlys” and with a fury that he worked hard to suppress. His mother always knew best about everything and no one could tell her otherwise. If he advised her or argued with her, she became child-like and defensive. From her cynical pharmacist husband, she gained a dislike for and mistrust of the medical profession. From her own heritage and upbringing – and who gave a rat’s ass anymore if it was nature or nurture? – depression and alcoholism was passed onto her like a poisonous baton. Unlike her own father, she was a dry alcoholic, medicated by her husband before his death from a stock of samples kept in the kitchen cabinet next to the set of every-day-use juice glasses, dishes and coffee mugs. It was only after Larry had married and was in his own home that he realized that it wasn’t entirely normal for a kitchen cabinet to be filled with bottles of Elavil, Triavil, Miltown, Librium and other psychotropics and anti-depressants du jour.

For a year or so – maybe even longer – his mother’s health had deteriorated. He didn’t know for exactly how long, because Larry spent as little time in Florida as possible. He could always find some excuse to avoid the trip down. His mother flew up to Long Island only once each summer – when it was warm, of course, for she could never stand the cold. Her visits lasted no more than ten days, and she spent an equal allotment of five days with each of her boys and their families. It was just as well that her visits were so short, because his mother’s hurtful observations and inappropriate suggestions drove them all up the wall.

As Larry later found out, his mother’s untreated high blood pressure led to congestive heart failure which led to kidney failure. The kidney failure, in turn, led to neuropathy which led to her slipping and falling, for she insisted on wearing worn-down Kmart sneakers plucked out of the bargain bin, the only ones which comfortably fit her refused-to-be-operated-on hammertoe. She took the medication needed to control her blood pressure only when she thought she needed to. She took medication to control her thyroid condition only when she wanted to. And she took Zoloft to control her depression only when she thought it was necessary. And, of course, her agitated depression told her to not even bother. Larry wanted to scream “Waddya mean ... why fucking bother?” and to shake some sense into her, but he felt powerless when she pooh-poohed him via long-distance, at the sixty-five percent A T & T discount rate available on Saturdays. Nothing he could say could or would change her mind. Worst of all, she would subsequently have to endure kidney dialysis for the rest of her life, a prospect that she had always feared so greatly.

It was Larry’s mid-winter break, and his mother was to be discharged in two days from the rehabilitation center because the health insurance company refused to pay for even one additional day of care. He took the Delta evening flight down and stayed in her condominium. The next morning, when he visited her, he could not believe what his mother, now shrunken and skeletal-looking, had become. After his initial shock and a few deep breaths, which he hoped his mother would not notice, he engaged her in small talk that totally ignored the emotional monster lurking overhead.

He called five home-care agencies that afternoon and went to visit several assisted living facilities recommended to him by the rehabilitation center’s social worker. When he returned in the evening, he presented the possible choices to his mother and was relieved when she made the decision to stay at home with 24-hour care. He didn’t want to get involved with moving her out of her apartment, of setting her up in one of those assisted living facilities that required six-month leases and bitter compromises. He knew of course that it would be best for her if she stayed in her own home, to sleep in her own bed, to be able to blow a kiss across the room to the picture in the gold-colored frame on the dresser, the one of her oh-so-handsome husband wearing his pharmacist’s jacket, smiling back at her. And she could sit in her own armchair listening to classical music on WTMI, with the tree just outside her second story bedroom cloaking the room with cooling shade and a much-needed sense of protection.

The next afternoon, Larry signed his mother out of the rehab center for several hours. Unlike the soft round woman who had hugged him in the past, she felt so stiff and fragile when he helped her into the front seat of the rented Dodge sedan. As usual, she complained that the air conditioning in the car was too drafty, but her complaint was no longer so harsh. When they walked from the parking lot to the main branch of a bank close to her apartment, he stayed beside her to steady her, especially when she was stepping onto a curb. He caught her several times when she was about to lose her balance. At the bank, Larry was able to have her sign and then have notarized a durable power of attorney form, as well as a health care proxy with the DNR clause and the “no heroic measures” caveat. Before they returned they stopped at another bank to empty out her safe deposit box.

When Larry got back to the rehabilitation center he once again spoke to an administrator about the broken remote control in his mother’s room. He went back to say goodbye to his mother, maneuvering around the patients hovering in wheelchairs in the hallway, sitting and waiting for nothing, as if waiting were an activity unto itself. One was plaintively whining ”Mamele” to him as he passed by, but he refused to be affected by that or the pervasive and unforgettable odor of urine and disinfectant. When he reminded his mother he’d be back the next day to bring her home, she smiled and hugged him. Larry had it all set up.

That night, as he was dozing in front of the television, a telephone ring awakened him. He had already spoken to his wife, having gone through an emotional debriefing, so he knew it wasn’t her. Instead, it was the night nurse-in-charge at the rehabilitation center. She told him that his mother had had an accident, that she had gotten out of bed to change the television station and that she had slipped and fallen. She added that his mother had probably broken her hip and had been taken to the North Broward emergency room. Larry felt sucked-punched. He immediately got his clothes back on and sped down I-95 to the hospital.

His mother was about to be taken to the surgical wing when he arrived. Her fall had occurred sometime earlier in the evening and it had taken them – those bastards! – several hours to call him. He held his mother’s hand in the elevator and as she was wheeled down the hall. They waited together outside the surgical suite and he rolled over a stool to sit next to the gurney. She began to cry and he couldn’t find the right words to say. Larry felt emptied and devoid, as if there was nothing left inside.

His mother had again found a way to emote for both of them, like when she had listened to a Mozart piano concerto and started to whimper and Larry could do nothing but stand before her, waiting for her tears to subside. Or when she was saying goodbye at the Delta terminal at the end of one of her annual visits and she started sobbing, and then abruptly stopped and dismissed him, saying, “Okay. See ya. You don’t want to pay extra for parking. Ya better go. Have a nice life.” Not only did Larry always feel so manipulated, but his own feelings were minimized or neutered while she was had been always free to so openly express her own.

But he did reach down to find words to reassure her. With a newly-found conviction, he said that he’d be there for her, that he’d take care of everything. That things were going to be okay. And then he stood watching as she was wheeled through the whooshing-open double doors under the sign that warned “Authorized Personnel Only.”

Larry decided against waiting for her to come out of surgery. Instead, he drove back to the condominium his mother had often called “God’s little waiting room.” There were things that needed to be done.

= = = = =

Larry’s mother hadn’t invested in stocks or bonds because the risk – or any risk, for that matter – was too great, due to another kind of depression mentality – the 1929 kind. Rather, she made the rounds of an ever-changing lineup of local banks by foot, by tram and by bus, methodically opening and closing certificates of deposit, always chasing the slightly higher annual yield or the free gift premium, always making sure to serve herself a complimentary cup of coffee lightened with non-dairy creamer, always leaving with a free pen or calendar that she stashed in her oversized carry bag.

Before she had become so infirm, Larry’s mother had spread out a couple dozen manila folders filled with past and present statements from each bank and securities company on the corduroy-covered foam couch that doubled as guest accommodations in the second bedroom. He could always find annoying things about his mother to complain about – his mother’s penurious habits, her unkempt appearance, her unmatched clothes, her prejudices, her loudness, her invasion of his privacy when he was anywhere nearby. But he could no longer complain about the idiosyncratic way she kept track of her finances. She might have been disheveled but her record-keeping was well-organized, albeit in her own absurd, yet systematic, way. She kept track of interest payments and expiration dates on the blank sides of faded yellow, green, pink and blue bank slips, which she replenished from a multicolored stack that she kept in the kitchen next to the water heater. In her supply were bank slips still left over from long-defunct Long Island banks.

He decided to set up an overview of her finances, for he knew that at the time of her final accounting, the job would have to be done anyway. On this humid, ominous night, Larry could sink his teeth into the numbers, get to know them, get lost in them, get to relate to them as friends. Numbers never lied. Numbers were always trustworthy, despite the sad truths they often revealed.

Larry wished he had a laptop computer. He briefly considered buying one but it was already after midnight. For some reason he had brought along a calculator and a columnar pad that he used for programming his school. He started going through each of the folders.

His mother’s deteriorated physical condition and the overall demoralizing situation soon became a background abstraction. But the job became daunting. The first manila folder he opened contained a series of statements from one bank arranged roughly in chronological order, and attached to each were the scribbled-upon bank slips. Larry was struck by the sloppiness of his mother’s handwriting on the more recent slips. But he stifled the sadness brought on by the image of his mother’s trembling hands as she made the entries, and her unavoidable awareness of her own awkwardness and frailty.

He studied the statements, made notations, wrote the particulars. He found that his mother had had the intelligence and foresight to have both sons named as trustees on all of the savings accounts, and to be joint tenants on her checking account. He had, of course, signed signature cards in the past, but he had not fully realized, until then, what the purpose of his signing had been. His mother, now lying anesthetized, immobilized under the bright lights of the operating theater, had the prudence and good sense to set it all up.

One of the last folders he opened contained a copy of his mother’s federal tax return for the previous year. Although it was mid-February, she already had her accountant complete and file her return. For Larry, this was the mother lode, the numerical godsend, for attached to the Schedule B were all of her previous year’s 1099s. By matching them with the statements and bank slips, Larry was able to piece together a list of all of the current banks his mother had accounts in, along with each of the bank’s multiple account numbers. He set up a written database on his columnar pad, with each bank’s name, address and telephone number, account numbers, yields and dates of maturity. The next day, Larry knew he would have to bring copies of his durable power of attorney to each of the banks so he could make sure that all future correspondence would be sent to him.

When he was finished, he gathered up all of the pertinent file folders, alphabetized them, and placed them in a zippered nylon bag, itself undoubtedly received as a premium for opening a new account. He intended to bring it all back to Long Island, rolling over accounts as they came due, and writing checks from the jointly-held checking account to pay for the monthly maintenance assessments and the bills for electricity, telephone and insurance. And he knew that there would be one additional ongoing hemorrhaging expenditure – the payments to the health care agency. Larry’s fervent hope was to take care of her finances by phone, fax and mail for a only short while until she recuperated and then FedEx back a box filled with all of her file folders.

Exhausted but exhilarated, Larry finally got to bed just before five in the morning. Instead of sleeping on the foam couch, he slept on his mother’s bed; she wouldn’t be coming home anytime soon. Overstimulated and restless, he had trouble falling asleep. He stared at the ceiling, then turned and watched the changing red digits on the clock radio. The bed was too soft and it was too warm, although the glass door to the patio was wide open, which he had to keep open because the apartment still reeked from the rancid odor of ancient perfumed soap bars his mother had placed in every drawer to overcome the smell of moldiness and mildew. Larry shook his head and thought: God forbid she should have used her air conditioner one second more than she had to.

Larry finally drifted off as dawn approached. The sky was brightening over the identical four-story building directly across the artificial lagoon. The resident anhinga was standing on one leg near the far bank. The water rippled in the slightest breeze. It was also the time of the morning when dreams were most vivid.

Larry was with his mother in a large department store, maybe the old Abraham & Straus in downtown Brooklyn. He was a small child and she was holding him by the hand. It was hot and crowded, and he was terrified by the gigantic people closing in around them.

His mother pulled him along, saying, “C’mon ... let’s go upstairs,” and they edged their way over to the escalator. “Hold on to the hand rail,” she warned as she held his other hand. He reached up and grabbed the rubber rail. They stepped onto the first step, and started going up. When they had ridden a half dozen steps, his mother suddenly lurched backwards and toppled down the stairs to the bottom. His hand had slipped out of her grasp. The escalator continued upwards. He looked back in horror. He saw his mother lying sprawled on her back in a slowly-expanding pool of blood. Her legs were splayed apart at an impossible angle. People began to gather around her, shielding her from view. His mother was disappearing; he was being drawn away from her. What was happening below appeared ever smaller, as if it were telescoping away.

He had to get back down to her, so he turned and tried to walk down. He kept grabbing onto the hand rail but he was being pulled in the opposite direction, away from her. As much as he tried, his six-year-old legs could not outrun the relentless escalator. He started to cry. There was a crescendo of undifferentiated noise. In desperation, he screamed down to her, “Ma! Ma!” Only then did the escalator stop. All of a sudden it was quiet and still, as if a pause button had been pressed.

Then it continued. People made way for him as he ran down the steel-teethed steps. The crowd parted for him and he knelt down next to his mother. She grabbed at his hand and he watched her lips quiver without sound. Then she whispered, “I’ll be okay.” She looked like she had the previous day, with glasses that were far too large for her head, with thinning, gray hair and with the lost look of resignation. She whispered again, “You shouldn’t worry about me,” but then stared past him, over his left shoulder. She looked startled, puzzled, confused. She murmured, “Where are you Larry? Are you still there?” Her gnarled, arthritic fingers held onto his wrist as he tried to get up, tried to get away. Where did she get all that strength? With her words, “I’ll be okay” reverberating in his head, the dream dissolved and he woke up, sweating, heart pounding, to the grinding wail of a leaf blower just outside.

But his mother was not okay. He wondered how the surgery had gone. If she was awake, yet. If she was suffering any pain. If she had any awareness of the enormity that had befallen her. If there was anyone there to talk to her, to hold her hand, to allay her fears. In that ever-so-dangerous time between sleep and wakefulness, when he was completely alone and his emotional self-defenses had not yet kicked in, it had finally gotten to him. For the first time in three days, he started to sob. It was all too goddam much.

The tears flowed, then slowed. He reached for a tissue, dried his eyes and blew his nose. And, at that moment, he knew, with absolute certainty, that he would never be FedEx-ing back that box of files, because she would never again be okay.

Then, Larry did what he had done so often in the past. He composed himself and forced the non-feeling iciness with which he was so well-acquainted to envelop him and close him off from any further encounter with raw emotion. Once again clad in that shroud of indifference, he reached for the nylon bag and lifted it up onto the bed. He pulled out his pad, held it close to his chest for a few heartbeats, and then got down to business.

There were a number of banks to be visited that day.

Rev 12 / December 11, 2003 .. Rev 26 / October 18, 2010

Up to the beginning of the story

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 17, November 2010

October 2010…Copyright © 2010, Lloyd B. Abrams
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