Walking through the woods James was wishing he had his umbrella with him. The morning dew was covering the trees so much it was dripping off like rain.
James was thinking. His brain was pondering over whether or not he should quit his job. I've worked there for 23 years and now I have been asked if I want early retirement. What an insult.
" I am not ready to retire!" James exclaimed into the fresh morning air. A few birds fluttered by startled by his outburst. Their fresh red and yellow specks aggravated James; he felt as used up as the egg shells they had hatched from months before.
Walking back towards his house James noticed his wife had already begun her Saturday morning routine. The clothes were already hanging up to dry in the back yard and he could smell the bacon that she soaked in maple syrup. Her cooking was always perfect on Saturdays.
James could hear the logging trucks already lumbering up the hill towards the mountain. Those men have real jobs, James thought to himself. They will work until their bodies can't take it anymore and then they will retire. Not like me, computers seem to not have a use for anyone over the age of 50 anymore. We don't learn fast enough, I guess.
"James! Breakfast is ready!" James' wife yelled to him from the porch.
James waved at her absent mindedly as he walked up the grassy hill in front of his house. It was a sturdy house, one that he had designed and partially built himself. Two stories with a full basement sure sounded like the end all when I was 32, James thought. Since building the house James had added a garage, a separate art studio for his wife and a separate building originally intended as a place to keep his tractor in the winter but had now been converted to house his 15 year old son's drum set, anything to keep the noise out of the house.
"What's for breakfast?" James asked smelling the bacon still sizzling in the pan.
"Bacon and eggs, you can make some toast if you want."
"That's ok; I'm a little burnt out on toast." James chuckled.
James sat down to breakfast and looked at the front page of the Saturday Chronicle. "
What James thought wasn't entirely true, he was on the team that designed the computer for an earlier mission and was the project manager for this particular missions' landing computer. What bothered him most was that they seemed to treat him less like an employee and more like an old man. Especially since one of the younger guys at the office had found out he was offered early retirement and circulated the rumor that he was retiring. By the time James had heard the rumor he was dying of cancer.
James wife noticed him reading the paper and remarked, "That's exciting isn't it Hun?"
"Not for me," James grumbled. Why would a corporation landing on Mars be exciting?
Finishing his coffee, James washed his dishes and went downstairs to be alone with his computer. It had been giving him problems lately and James was afraid he was going to have to start over. He had built it out of old parts for his wife to use in the kitchen. All of its parts were outdated, they had been sitting down here for at least a year, but his wife didn't care, as long as she could look up the recipes without running up and down the stairs to check measurements.
James looked out the window of his basement. The sun had cleared the trees and the dew was steaming off them. A slow breeze blew through the pines, spring was coming, James sighed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It was a dark and stormy night. James woke with a start; he could hear the thunder crackling outside along with the bark of a dog. I left the dog outside again, thought James. Fortinbras was a black and tan German Shepherd and
James walked out onto the porch and called Fortinbras. The black dog came running up from the woods drenched as if he had just come from swimming in the pond. James had never put a fence in to keep Fortinbras from running away, he never had too. When he bought the land he had built his house right in the center of the property which was around 130 acres. James had never taken the time to calculate it exactly, but 130 acres was what the realtor had told him and that was what James’ was going to believe.
Fortinbras walked up to his side and nuzzled his nose against James' pant leg. Thanks, these pants were just washed. Why do you always seem to be outside during the rain? James thought towards the dog. James walked back inside with the dog and noticed that the clock on the coffee maker said .
James groaned. I have work in the morning. Thunder boomed above the trees in his back yard. I am never going to get back to bed with this racket.
Fortinbras sniffed the trash can and then plopped down in front of the vent on the wall. It was his customary spot, especially when it was cold, because it was so warm there. He was still dripping wet.
James grabbed a towel from the pantry and wrapped it around Fortinbras.
"Well at least you seem content," James sighed to Fortinbras. James had found the mutt one day when he was walking into town to get some groceries. His wife had just had their son and they needed some more baby formula. James, tired of the screaming baby, had opted to take his time and walk into town.
He passed a sign that read, "Free dog, good with kids." What James found was not a free dog but an ugly dog with matted fur who seemed to have been treated rather poorly. The man who was taking care of the dog was wearing overalls with no shirt and was chewing tobacco. As James walked up the man spit his chewed cud and hollered at James, "You figurin' on takin' this dog? Nobody else bin' up here till I put that sign up."
James shrugged. "The dog seems rather dirty."
"Oh, that’s just cuz he's been rollin' around out back in the mud pits."
Yea, I bet that’s the reason. This dog has probably not had a bath in months.
"So, the dog is free?"
"Yerp! Ole, Fortinbras is free. Tried to sell the mutt but no one would buy him. He ain't even that old ya know? Barely one years." The overall clad man spit again.
"Ok. I'll take him."
"R'ly? Damn, thought I'd never get rid of this mutt."
James, who was rather disgusted with the man by this time, felt rather emphatic for the dog so he thanked the man took the dog with his leash and led him to his new home.
His wife, rather irritable now that it was almost dinner time and James had not returned with the formula came outside. "Where is my baby formula?! Why are you all wet and soapy?! Do you know what time it is? What have you been doing this whole time?!"
That’s when the dog ran around the corner still wet from the bath and jumped on James grinning ear to ear.
"A dog! We don't need a dog! We just had a baby! Of all the things in the world James THIS is what you were doing?"
"I figured it would be a good companion for the baby." Which wasn't necessarily true, James knew the dog would be a good companion but he didn't expect the baby would think so.
"Well does it have a name?"
"The owner said it responded to Fortinbras."
"Hmpf. Well Fortinbras, welcome to the family," James wife sighed.
James looked up from petting the dog. It was already . Work is going to be quite a drag tomorrow. Why do I still go? James thought. Early retirement sounds nice if not also insulting. I could get a job teaching at the University.
James locked the sliding door that Fortinbras and he had come through and walked back up the stairs. As he passed his son's bedroom he noticed a faint blue glow coming from underneath the door. James didn't feel like lecturing his son on the errors of staying up way to late especially since he was up to late himself.
He pushed his son's door open just slightly, trying to see what his son was doing without his son knowing. What he didn't expect his son to be doing was sleeping in front of his computer.
James figured his son would be playing one of his video games. Luckily, James’ son was in his bed. James walked over and picked up his laptop but as he was closing it he noticed something peculiar his son had been looking at. The wind outside howled.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It was still raining when James got in his Jeep to drive to work. He still couldn't believe what he found in his son's room last night. He had neglected to tell his wife out of fear she would blame it on him. It's your fault, if you hadn't of done it in college then he wouldn't be doing it now, they say it’s genetic you know. I did it twice.
James sipped his coffee. He usually didn't drink coffee in the morning, coffee was his wife's morning drink, he preferred a nice cup of tea but this morning he needed a jolt. Something to bring him back to reality after what he dreamed last night; something to help him compose himself enough so he could do his presentation today.
James was almost to work when he realized that he had left his laptop at home. He usually worked from home, he had a nice office. It was in the basement with the rest of his computer equipment. It was one of the few sanctuaries he had where his family knew not to bother him. Probably because they assumed he was doing work.
James phoned his wife. They had always had a happy marriage. . .RING. . .They had their share of fights but everyone does. . .RING. . .Why isn't she picking up. . .RING. . .I wonder where she could be. . .click. . .You have reached the mail box of. . .5. . .4. . .1. . .James always hated computer voices . . . 3. . .2. . .6. . .3. . .8. . .2. . .7. . . please leave a message after the tone . . . James hung up. She never responded to his voice mails except in person so he stopped leaving them years ago, might as well right it on a post-it note.
Not having his laptop wasn’t going to be that much of an issue. He had everything he needed for the presentation he was going to give today but he knew that whenever he forgot something he always ended up needing it.
Flashing his ID card to the guard James hopped onto the elevator almost tripping. Sixteenth floor, I need to be on the sixteenth floor. James was always nervous on elevators. He never knew why, maybe he was claustrophobic, or maybe he just didn't like being so close to people, especially ones who had hairy nostrils and a rather rotund belly. James had seen this man before; he usually waited for the next elevator so he wouldn't have to share it with the man but today the man stepped on just as the doors were closing.
James felt bad. It isn't this man's fault, I just feel uncomfortable around him. Why haven't we reached the sixteenth floor yet! The panel on the wall said fifth floor. James was about to scream. Seventh floor. Good we skipped a floor. The doors opened on the eighth floor and by the time they closed on the ninth the two people in the elevator had turned into twelve and James was being pressed uncomfortably against the man he had dubbed Orson Welles.
James fiddled with his keys in his pocket. A woman from the eighth floor flashed him a look. James stuck his hand in his back pocket to feel his wallet and elbowed a man in a silk shirt and tie who was holding coffee. The man yelped as the steaming coffee spilled on his silk shirt. James jumped into the fleshy arms of the hairy beast he hated. The fat man looked startled as if he had not noticed the commotion that was going on between James and the silk shirt and tie man. Orson took a jump back.
All of this happened just as the elevator had reached the sixteenth floor. By the time everyone knew what had happened James had bolted out the doors of the elevator and was down the hall before anyone could give chase.
Walking into the conference room James became much more comfortable. Most of the members of his team were already there, as well as the customers. James seemed to be the last person they were waiting on. So he took his place in front of the projector.
Several hours into the presentation the group broke for lunch. James picked up a sandwich and walked down the hallway. He needed some alone time, presentations like this always drained him. He also needed to call his wife.
She answered rather quickly this time, surprising James; she usually takes at least three rings.
"Hello dear," James wife answered.
"Hi, I was just checking on how you were doing . . . ummm . . . I tried calling earlier but you didn't answer. . ."
"Oh, I had an appointment, don't worry about it, we do have some things we need to talk about though."
"Yea, I agree."
"What?" She sounds startled, like she already knows what I found. She already knows that I am a failure, she is just waiting for me to bring it up so she can tell me how it is my fault he is doing this now. Why did I bring this up, I should have waited till I got home, at least.
James sounded anxious now. "Oh, it’s about our son. I found something in his room last night that we need to discuss."
"What was it?"
"What do you think?"
"Wait, you didn't find. . ."
"Yea, and I know what you are going to say, how it's my fault, how if I didn't do it in college. . ."
"No, James, it doesn’t really matter now, we have other things to talk about, how about we meet for dinner some where after you get off work."
"Ok. That sounds fine."
"I love you, James."
"Yea, I know."
James hung up the phone and finished his sandwich. He didn't like where this was going. He didn't like it at all.