My wife asked if I could drive them. Usually she takes my son to school and I pick him up, but we’d had car trouble and it was at the mechanic’s. In our Ford’s stead we had a substitute, which had been kindly lent us by the dealership. My wife hadn’t driven it yet and felt more comfortable if I drove the borrowed car that morning while she got to know it.
So, as commonly as almost every morning we have, we were running late … not late late, but not with time to spare. My son had not yet obtained the concept pertaining to the passage of time and was daydreamingly floundering. I truly believe that he believes that when he slows down, everything else slows down too. I have to admit there is something very deeply philosophical about that, along the lines of taking time to smell the roses … and at moments when I’ve been impatient I’ve really considered following his demeanor … but … not on a school morning when he of all people will be the first upset at being late. So, I grabbed the new car key that hung alone with its cardboard tag stating the car’s make, model, year, and color, which the dealership had attached to displace any confusion that might arise from any other keys, and any other cars than the one, which belonged to this.
We jumped into the new car, a Kia, Amunti … black, in case you were wondering, at about ten to eight. My son strapped himself into his car seat, which I had moved to this one from the Ford, and we headed out. The blower was blowing, but the car was not warmed up yet, so it was a nice breeze of cold air for a colder winter’s morn, which my wife was fonder of shutting off. Anyhow, in two minutes we were there. The school buses were pulling out of the school’s drive when we arrived, which was a sign that the time was nearly at hand. I pulled in in front of the village office and kissed my son goodbye, wished him a good day, and watched him and my wife walk across the street and down the path to the school entrance.
“Oh,” I thought. “I’d forgotten to tell him to smile.” Today the school kids were having their pictures taken with Santa. “Well that’s too bad,” I thought as my wife came back.
My son had been given quarters, nickels, and pennies for a school coin drop to raise money for the local food pantry. My wife had told him the previous day, at least three times, where the coins were when they were placed in the outside pocket of his knapsack, but he’d failed to find them and claimed later that she’d never told him. Well, today was the second attempt. After she’d repeated where the coins were a couple of times, my son’s head finally came out of the clouds and a spark suddenly lit as he said, “Oh, that pocket.” before disappearing into the school.
Well, I shook my head as my wife recounted this to me. Sometimes he’s just in his own world I thought as we drove home, which was only a matter of about a quarter mile before we pulled into the driveway. I shut off the blower, which I’d turned back on when it was heated, and got out of the car. I held the key in my hand with the cardboard tag … the car key and a piece of hard paper … and nothing else. My stomach and brain seemed to bend together.
“Uh … do you happen to have the house key?” I asked my wife … hoping. There was a slight delay, only a second, as if she wished she could say yes, but knew she couldn’t, and could not see the point in lying about it either.
“No,” she answered.
“Crap.” I’d done it again. The previous day I’d run back with my son to his school to retrieve his lunch bag he’d forgotten there, and returned home to realize I’d not brought the house key. Fortunately my wife had been home to let us in, but unfortunately now, she was looking blank-eyed with me on the same side of the door … which was not inside but on the deck in 25 degree weather (Fahrenheit).
We always kept the keys together on one ring, so one grab was usually sufficient enough for house and car, well that was until yesterday, not since the dealership key hung alone with its piece of cardboard. I’d grown accustomed to a rhythm of one beat for picking up the keys, which I’d failed to see now needed two. Stuck as a monosyllabic Neanderthal, I’d done it again (Duh?). “I didn’t bring it either,” I said.
“Oh no, what are we going to do?” my wife asked. Either she was being rhetorical (not expecting an answer) … or being kind (not thinking me a total moron and thinking I might possibly have an answer) … or being kinder (not wanting me to know that she sincerely believed me a total moron, and any answer I might give, she’d try hard not to laugh at). Well, I’d already figured out what I was for myself: I was a moron … but I’d fix this … and how would I do this? First and foremost I complained about our having removed the spare key from the garage for moments like this … of course knowing … I … hadn’t removed it.
“It was an old key anyway,” my wife said.
“Oh … right.” That’s right. I’d changed the locks on the doors. Well that killed that waste of time that I could have milked for another three minutes. What the hell was I going to do now to remove that “total” in front of the “moron”? A moron could lift himself out of a hole, but a total moron wouldn’t even know which way was up. At this moment I was finding myself very vertically challenged. For some reason I kept seeing police in my head, as if I had to go to them and get a permit to break into my own house to save from being disgraced at being arrested for burglary and having to plead my case in court on the grounds that it was my own house and shouldn’t count, followed by heavy guffawing from the jury box, judge, and the filled courtroom … or worse, spending two years in jail for a crime I didn’t feel I’d committed. Well with this line of thinking I knew I couldn’t let my wife try to get into the house. Her son would miss her too much.
Wait … my son … that’s right, I’d lifted my small son through one of our windows a few months ago when we’d gone for a family walk and come back to find ourselves in this same situation (My head is shamefully bowed). I juggled the idea for a moment … and then picked it up where I had dropped it. But balderdash, I would have considered my small son as the means to getting out of this situation if we hadn’t just left him at school.
I could only imagine the P.A. system barking through the classrooms and halls of the building, “Will Roger McManus’ son please report to the office so that you can help your father break into your house?” Child welfare would be all over that. Father trains son for a life of crime. No, closets are for keeping family secrets. My imbecilic nature will have to fit into one of them. I’m sorry, but my family will have to suffer this alone.
But the window … yes … yes, the window, I could try that same one. It might open again. It could. Before my mind lapsed to something less conventional, I hustled around the house, without saying anything of my plan, less it fail. My credibility was already suffering. I was hoping the neighbors weren’t watching. This had to remain a hidden blot on the family name. I got to the window and pushed, and banged it with my palms … better chance of not breaking the glass … even better chance of not being heard by anyone. I kept this up for about thirty seconds, even though I reminded myself that I’d secure this window from the inside after that last instance, but I had no other window I could think of … and more importantly I was hidden behind the rhododendron bush where no one else could see me. I was quite foolishly content there, prolonging my stay from humiliation.
“How about that window?” my wife said, having snuck up on me. “I’d had problems closing that one. It might be less solid.”
O-o-okay … I hadn’t actually solved this problem that I really wanted to, to mend my stupidity to something better … but I had to weigh it compassionately, she would already suffer from my stupidity unless a divorce was in the works, so I didn’t see it right for her to suffer the cold too. I mean, it was only humane I thought.
“This window?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
Decided, my palms went to work again, knocking on this new window frame … and, glory be, it budged on one side. The images of policemen and courtrooms suddenly vanished. Child welfare wouldn’t be taking my child away … and there was still a good chance the neighbors wouldn’t come out of their houses, pointing at me, saying, “There’s the idiot.”
“Thank you, God.” I pushed once more on the window … and it folded down and in. The blinds were caught under it though, a television was preventing it from going beyond thirty three degrees also, but it was open.
“T.V.’s in the way,” I said. “The window won’t go all the way down. I don’t know if I can fit through.”
“Let me,” she said. “I can fit.”
“Wh-what?” I thought. No, no, she’d found the window, my only act of redemption lay in me climbing up and falling through this window. Of course if I broke the television during my tumble, my purgatorial redemption would find itself transferred to hell. I had to weigh it: a total moron … or … a complete total moron? I’d aim for the complete total moron and hope for the better.
“No, I can do it,” I said, and quickly stuck my hand in and pushed the T.V. back a bit so that the window cleared it … and after removing the blinds that were stuck on it, was able to lower the window sufficiently enough. “Yes.” I hoisted myself up onto the sill, seeing the end nearly there, but still concerned with winding up on the floor impaled by the shattered window. The window wasn’t shattered, but I had this knack of foreseeing the future and avoiding it, which some would say was an incredible talent while others, being most, would say was the wandering of a ranting mind.
Well anywho, I carefully leaned on the dresser inside and managed to step over the window, which was now dropped parallel to the floor. My back foot caught on the ledge, but I was able to shake it loose. “Huh,” I thought as I found myself finally safe inside with not only the bushes, but a wall between me and prying eyes, “the neighbors still don’t know I’m a moron … good.” I could hear the grass crunching behind me outside. My wife was heading back to the door for me to let her in.
Once inside and our coats off, my wife had her breakfast and I began washing some dishes.
“You know, I’m … I’m used to grabbing the keys and having them all together,” I said, looking for an excuse that would work and look less the fool. “That’s why I didn’t even think about it.”
“We’re creatures of habit,” my wife said. That was a kind thing to say I thought … she’d said, “We’re.”
“Maybe,” I said, “but I’m a creature of stupidity. I did the same thing yesterday.”
She laughed, but didn’t agree … which was also good. “Maybe you should put the keys together,” she said … and after what we’d gone through … I heartily agreed.
I walked around the counter to where the keys hung on little hooks … and found one hook empty … and a set of keys missing. “Oh … no,” I thought to myself as my bottom lip hung like a wet snail. I was going to need another closet for my shame. I went over to my coat hanging on the back of the chair, and checked its pocket … and jiggled something.
“That sounds like change,” my wife said. She was obviously really rooting for less of a moron in her husband … and fortunately for both of us; it was change as she had said … just some coins.
Well I have to say I was relieved I hadn’t found them … but then I thought, and the thought entered my mind the way termites get into wood, “How about the other side?” That side of the coat, especially the pocket flap, seemed to be holding back, as if on the verge of erupting due to hilarity. I ambivalently put my hand in and suddenly felt a dunce cap emerge onto the top of my head like a permanent horn. No wonder my son couldn’t remember what pocket the coins for the coin drop were in; I was genetically to blame for that. There in my coat pocket, the same coat I’d been wearing, the same bloody coat I’d had on my back as I climbed through that window were the house keys.
My wife stared at me in disbelief. “You had the keys all along?”
I was understandably mute, but held them up as proof of my foolishness … and not able to sink any lower, at least I thought that at that moment, attached them to the car keys with no guarantee that this wouldn’t happen again.
“Yesterday when you couldn’t get in … did you have the keys then too?” my wife asked as if it had dawned on her how even more ridiculous it all was … if it was.
“God have mercy on the cognitive invalid,” I muttered as I ran through yesterday like a movie reel in my head … and … heaven help me … it was true. I’d had that stupid key with me then too. Keys aren’t stupid, I know, but I didn’t want to be stupid alone. I had done what was not thought possible. I had sunk even lower than before as my wife inflated my stupidity. My wife laughed, but she was kind about it, I mean how could she not laugh? All she could say was, “Roger?”
“I guess it’s like that saying,” I said, “‘Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.’ I was asking for something to write about. I … I think God heard me.”
With that enlightened thought, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t stood a chance … and if I hadn’t stood a chance, then I couldn’t have been a moron. There was divine intervention I’d been put up against. Anyone better would have fallen just the same. If anything, I considered, I was intelligent. That’s right. I was intelligent. I was intelligent enough to recognize a good story when it was put in front of me and grab those reins … even though in most likelihood they were glued into my hands already regardless … but give me a break; I had to climb through a window … some sympathy, huh?
Wh-what? You’re all out of sympathy? Oh … oh, I see. You gave it all to my wife.
Well ………. that’s all right.
Real: Yes … yes!!!
Not Real: Wasn’t a real light bulb, you know it was metaphorical