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Today Is Eddie's Birthday

He is 51. A Saturday. It is his first birthday without Marguerite. He makes Sanka in a paper cup, and eats two pieces of toast with margarine. In the years after his wife's accident, Eddie shooed away any birthday celebrations, saying, "Why do I gotta be reminded of that day for?" It was Marguerite who insisted. She made the cake. She invited friends. She always purchased one bag of taffy and tied it with a ribbon. "You can't give away your birth­day," she would say.

Now that she's gone, Eddie tries. At work, he straps himself on a roller coaster curve, high and alone, like a mountain climber. At night, he watches television in the apartment. He goes to bed early. No cake. No guests. It is never hard to act ordinary if you feel ordi­nary, and the paleness of surrender becomes the color of Eddies days.

He is 60, a Wednesday. He gets to the shop early. He opens a brown-bag lunch and rips a piece of bologna off a sandwich. He at­taches it to a hook, then drops the twine down the fishing hole. He watches it float. Eventually, it disappears, swallowed by the sea.

He is 68, a Saturday. He spreads his pills on the counter. The telephone rings, Joe, his brother, is calling from Florida. Joe wishes him happy birthday. Joe talks about his grandson. Joe talks about a condominium. Eddie says "uh-huh " at least 50 times.

He is 75, a Monday. He puts on his glasses and checks the maintenance reports. He notices someone missed a shift the night before and the Squiggly Wiggly Worm Adventure has not been brake-tested. He sighs and takes a placard from the wall—RIDE CLOSED TEMPORARILY FOR MAINTENANCE-then carries it across the boardwalk to the Wriggly Worm entrance, where he checks the brake panel himself.

He is 82, a Tuesday. A taxi arrives at the park entrance. He slides inside the front seat, pulling his cane in behind him.

"Most people like the back," the driver says.

"You mind?" Eddie asks.

The driver shrugs. "Nah. I don't mind." Eddie looks straight ahead. He doesn 't say that it feels more like driving this way, and he hasn 't driven since they refused him a license two years ago.

The taxi takes him to the cemetery. He visits his mother's grave and his brother s grave and he stands by his father's grave for only a few moments. As usual, he saves his wife's for last. He leans on the cane and he looks at the headstone and he thinks about many things. Taffy. He thinks about taffy. He thinks it would take his teeth out now, but he would eat it anyhow, if it meant eating it with her.

 


Date: 2014-12-28; view: 198


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