An Ordinary Sanctuary


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4. Jitters

 

 He was back in the office. Nothing had changed. They were the same signs he remembered from four and six years ago. Dave scanned back and forth over the decorations. He was alone. He'd been told to wait, and so he waited.

 

The door opened and a robust, casually dressed man with thinning hair came bounding in. Dave slowly got to his feet and shook his hand. They exchanged half-smiles and Dave extended a hand, but he was met with open arms instead.

 

“Oh, jeez,” said Dave.

 

“Davey boy.” The man laughed and clapped him on the shoulder, and motioned towards the chair behind him.

 

“How you doing, Jim?” said Dave. The nameplate on the office door said 'James K', but he'd never heard anyone call him that.

 

“Clean today,” said Jim. “How's life?”

 

“Oh, you know, it's okay.”

 

“Dave, come on. Christ. She left you yet?”

 

“I think so,” said Dave.

 

“You think?”

 

“She said, uh, she said not to come home if, you know things didn't work out here.”

 

“She said that last time,” said Jim.

 

“Yeah, well,” said Dave.

 

“And they didn't work out here, did they?”

 

“No, I guess they didn't. I mean they almost did.”

 

Jim sighed, and paused to take off his spotless glasses and clean them. Dave remembered this wasn't a good sign.

“There's no almost,” said Jim. Dave nodded in agreement. He'd heard this spiel before. Twice. “No fucking almost. She either stays or goes. You either get it or don't. You chickenshit out again and leave so much as a minute early, and I'll never let you in this goddamn house again.”

 

Dave managed a weak smile. “You said that last time.”

 

“Dave, no one gets a fourth chance here,” said Jim. “That's set in stone. We clear?”

 

Dave nodded.

 

“How's the little one?” said Jim.

 

“Oh, not so little, you know. She's seventeen.”

 

Seventeen? Christ, it flies by, man. It flies by.” Jim reached back and rubbed his thinning temples, and there was a long silence while she crossed both their minds.

 

Finally, Dave said: “I'm really scared this time.”

 

Jim looked nonplussed. “Well, good,” he said softly. “You should be.”

 

“I just see her trying so hard—trying, just—not to hate me. And it just kills me.”

 

“The old lady?”

 

Dave looked up. “Hm? Oh, uh, no no, I meant my daughter. The little one. Karen, she—she does hate me.” He paused. “She doesn't try to hide it anymore.”  

 

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