Paul has a plan.
He always has a plan. This is one of the things that I love about him. Without provocation, he says “Huh, that’s a cute idea” as if I can hear the conversation taking place in his head, which is another thing I love about him. He thinks that I can read his mind.
“What?” I say, proving that I cannot indeed, read his thoughts.
“The Powerball lottery is now three hundred million dollars. We’ll pass through eight states on our drive home. Let’s stop and buy a ticket in each one.” He says.
This makes me very happy. We are going to drive seven hundred miles; eleven hours in the car and this plan makes me happy. Perhaps I cannot read his mind, but surely he can read mine.
We have come to Virginia to move my oldest daughter into her off campus apartment. I am such a fool. I thought that because I had already experienced the pain of separation when my ex-wife left with my daughters the first time that this would not be difficult. But last night’s parting loops through my mind like a broken record.
Walking through her apartment, I search for things left undone. The trash needs to be taken out. The nightlights need to be plugged in. “Make sure you keep that window in your bedroom locked.” I tell her. But it is of no use, if I look hard enough I will always find things left undone.
“I will Dad. I don’t want you guys to leave.” She says holding her arms out, signaling that it is time for us to leave. I pull her to me and hold on, inhaling the scent of her. Not the soap she uses, or the shampoo, but the scent that parents love when they smell the top of a baby’s head; because it is a part of themselves.
When I let go and look up, I see Paul’s face. He wears an upside down smile and his eyes answer my question.
“OK, I’m leaving now, goodbye.” I say looking away.
As I walk to the car, a part of me reflexively expects Katherine to follow shouting “Daddy, wait” because this is what would occur when as a child she tarried. I would say the exact words “OK, I’m leaving now, goodbye” and make an exaggerated exit like a vaudevillian actor.
This time, she does not follow.
We wake up early the next morning and begin our trip home. We stop to fill up the car with gas and purchase our first lottery ticket in Virginia. The day is wrapped in promise as the slanted early morning sun shines through the car windows.
“Will we change anything when we win?” I ask as I turn to face Paul in the driver’s seat.
“You know I don’t think that way.” He says looking straight ahead.
But as our cache of lottery tickets grows we begin to discuss what we will do with the winnings. We would most certainly keep working, but just until we get pissed off by some transgression at work, which is estimated to take fifteen minutes, tops. Paul would purchase a Bentley automobile and I would become a full time writer. We begin to mentally cancel upcoming social engagements because we’ll be busy meeting with our financial advisors and accountants.
Of course you know that we did not win the lottery. But that was not the plan. Turns out that Paul can read my mind. He knew that eight tickets, a mere sixteen dollars, would be enough to keep my mind occupied during the eleven hour car ride home; to keep me from thinking about things left undone.
Paul had a plan.
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I recognized the all too familiar look on her face. It was the one she used for things such as, oh, the discovery of “nasty” magazines stuffed between my mattress and box spring. But I was an adult man in my forties now and if I wanted to use the F-bomb, then fuck it, I would use it.
At night while lying in bed I could feel the phantom
undertow of the ocean: pull and release, pull and release, pull and release.