Retirement

The days of the week lined up like buckets, ready to catch whatever fell in. The idea of such vast amounts of empty time intimidated her. On the nights leading up to her last day of work, Anne had a recurring dream of floating in a listless raft on an open ocean. Every time she crested a wave, she’d crane her neck to look for palm trees on the horizon. She felt Tom’s presence on the raft, always silent behind her. She woke up annoyed at the obvious meanings of her dreams.

She imposed structure to her days on her first day off. The habits of a thirty-five-year career on the police force couldn’t just be forgotten. She filled her mornings with cream cheese Danishes and spent her afternoons on the green or talking clubs with the guys at the Pro Shop until 7 or so.

Tonight she came home early though, threw her keys on the console table, and sank into the couch. Tom plopped down next to her after putting a casserole in the oven. They watched Chicago Fire together for a while. During the commercial breaks, which she refused to fast forward through, he talked himself out of saying something to her. The oven chimed and Tom got up.  “Want any?”

“Ate at the club.”

He returned with steaming peas and sausage crumbles heaped on his plate. His lips smacked as he ate. She turned up the volume. When he was done eating, it was her turn to get up. She took his dish to the sink, poured in half the bottle of dish soap, and watched the suds form a hive on top of the water. Tom leaned into the kitchen.

“Do you know it’s been 35 days since you’ve asked me how I’ve been?” Tom said.

“You’ve been counting?” She grabbed the sponge and began to scour.

“I wanted to see how long it lasted. It’s lasted too long. I feel like a ghost.”

She turned toward him. Noticed how pale he was. “You look like one.”

He smiled. “We should do something.”

“We just ate dinner.”

I just ate dinner. You shut down in front of the TV like a robot.”

“I was just relaxing.”

“No. You weren’t. Do you remember anything about the show we just watched? What happened to Shay?” She could picture the bright-eyed actress that played the paramedic on the show, but she couldn’t remember anything that had happened on the program. Her face fell.

“My guess is you were thinking about a case. Some dark and incomprehensible character whose file is probably still sitting on your desk, and I’m pretty sure I’m right because it’s all you’ve done since you retired. You start to mope as soon as you walk into this house and I get it: you miss having a puzzle to solve. I’ve just been sitting around like an asshole waiting for you to realize it.” He put his hand on her shoulder, then left the room.

Anne finished washing the casserole dish, turned off the faucet. Tom came back in with her coat and her gun. He offered them both to her. Her hands were still covered in suds.

“C’mon. Let’s go shoot.”

 

Read the prompt and see the video clip that inspired this and other short stories by clicking the badge above.

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12 thoughts on “Retirement

    1. Glad I could bring you into my little scene, cyn. I often have a secret one of my characters is holding onto that I never mention in the story. I think I should have written Ann’s secret in this one though. The secret is that Ann doesn’t actually like Tom much, but she doesn’t believe in divorce. Her job was a way to avoid being married to him, which she had to confront when she retired. And Tom rises to the occassion by suggesting exactly what she needs in this story. I’d like to think she starts to appreciate him after this.

  1. “During the commercial breaks, which she refused to fast forward through, he talked himself out of saying something to her.” that line struck me, reading this. It’s sad in a way, but this ends nicely, too. Very well done. 🙂

  2. I recognize that you chose the prompt line, but I have to say that you worked it in so brilliantly. I love the follow-up line and the sense of emptiness – an emptiness so vast she was drowning in it. I kept thinking about filling the buckets but I really like your take on them. Buckets aside, you’ve painted these two characters so clearly, I can see them clearly as they move around their home. Loved that little detail about her soapy hands as he hands her her gun.

    1. Thanks, Silver! I was trying my hand at happier endings and stories that don’t involve an argument. But the fact that even the guy who suggested this week’s prompt had trouble writing to it is the biggest lesson learned here. 🙂

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