Saturday, March 20, 2010


Egbert stood with his hands on his hips in new calf-high black socks, baggy, white, cotton-blend Hanes boxers and a white, year-old Polo undershirt with the beginning signs of yellow pit stains. He stared at the right side of the closet - not his side. She had so many clothes, he thought, nine feet deep. He had but two feet. You better pull some magic out of those feet, he thought, or you may not go through with it.

A honk from the garage brought him back from his meditations.

He reached to the left and tore into the bag from Oceanside Cleaner's to get at his nicest, navy blue, dress slacks. He got them at Men's Wearhouse last February for his job interview. He got the job and moved his family to the beach. They lived right on the ocean, cooked out hamburgers on weekends and sometimes went body surfing in the mornings. Fresh sea air purified their city-clogged lungs. A chemical smell poured forth from the dry cleaning bag and invaded Egbert's memory with a hint of hospital cleanliness that greatly disturbed him. Carefully pulling the pants off the wire hanger, the paper cylinder base became uncatched, and his pants fell to the floor. "NO!" he shouted. He bent down, left leg stiffly jutting out behind him for counterbalance. "POP!" went his aching lumbar. The slacks fell upon the dusty phalynx of black and brown slip-ons. The loafers hid there, stalking his threads like pitiful, cast-aside lovers. For some reason he could not bear to part with them. There's spiders in those shoes, he thought. He grabbed his pants and winced in pain upon rising. He fastidiously brushed at them and snatched off the dry cleaner's tag. Egbert sharply snapped the pants in the air, slipped his feet down the chutes one leg at a time, then tucked his undershirt into his underwear. Fastening his slacks over his Dorito, meatball-sub-and-whole-milk belly, its button shot off into the canyons of Morgana's wardrobe with the velocity of a misfired bullet from a Bonanza gunfight. "NO!" he shouted.

Three more honks came from the garage. The first one lasted a full eight seconds, followed by two short ones - Morgana code for "Get your ass down here now!"

He reluctantly took off his favorite pants and did a quick, mental, damage-control inventory of his remaining wares. Well, he could be comfortable, why not, he thought. When kids want to look nice today, they wear jeans and a sport coat. Why couldn't he? He went to his dresser by their high bed and opened the bottom drawer, his only drawer. "Why is it on the bottom?" he asked his lumbar. "POP!" it replied. He reached down into the drawer under his underwear and socks and handkerchiefs and bag of foreign money with the pig tooth in it and the book of yo-yo tricks and the Timexes and the gun and the Penthouse and the broken remote control for the TV that the Salvation Army came to pick up last week and found his jeans. So old they were as thin and smooth as a knick-knack table doily in some places, they still fit. He last wore them on a Saturday six years ago when he had erected a Sears jungle gym for Ethan. Planting the poles in the small, city patch of grass behind their townhouse, he got some wet cement in his eye and panicked. He shrieked out to Morgana and Ethan to bring the hose. The boy had not brought it to him fast enough, and Egbert smacked him hard across the face. Egbert sat on the edge of their high bed and began to cry.

Honk, honk, honk, honk, honk, honk, honk.

He threw the jeans on the floor and went back to the closet. He had another suit - the black one. He pulled it out of the closet and laid it on their high bed. It hadn't been cleaned since he last wore it a month ago. Fumbling in its pockets, he found two crunchy handkerchiefs, three swizzle straws, a bottle cap from a Bud, and the crumpled eulogy he had written for Ethan.

He had been wearing his burgundy pajamas with the missing collar when he got the call that Sunday morning. An image of the phone and his moccasins would be seared into his memory for the remainder of his life. The call came from Oceanside's county coroner. Ethan's body had been found by a jogger a mile down the beach from their new home. It appears that his ten-year-old son had gone body surfing without him. Egbert had to identify his son's body and called out "NO!" when the coroner opened the body bag. His son was wearing the turquoise Lightning Bolt bathing suit that Morgana had got him for his birthday.


Egbert took off his pit-stained undershirt, slipped out of his baggy, white boxers, pulled off his calf-high black socks and walked down the hall to his son's room. He snatched the Charlie Brown sheets off his son's bed and fashioned a hasty Roman toga. He walked downstairs and out into the garage. He hit the button closing the garage door and got into the car next to Morgana. She was naked. He understood. They looked at each other and embraced. She buried her nose into his Charlie Brown toga, breathing her son and began to scream. Egbert started the car, and they waited to die.

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