Sunday, February 9, 2014

Think #12: Peter the Postman

This story was inspired by one of the "Thinks" proposed by Dr. Seuss's "Oh the Thinks You Can Think!". If you are unfamiliar with the book, you can find an online version of it here. Every day from now through February 15th, I'll be posting a short story or poem based on one of the "Thinks" in the book. Enjoy! 

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Peter woke up Thursday morning with his face on the floor. A deep throb radiated from where his flesh touched the rough burber. The rest of him, still on the bed in an unfortunate upside down position, was partially covered still with the wool blanket. He didn’t know where he was or how he’d gotten there. He just knew that if he didn’t get up right now, the rest of his body would not be far behind.

Shoving his hands in front of him, Peter pushed off the floor and the pain from the fall immediately lessened. He flopped his head onto the pillow and faintly touched the goose egg forming on his forehead.

Looking around, he half expected something to look familiar: an article of clothing, a portrait, some random knick knack on a shelf—something to give him a clue to his location. Instead, his brown eyes scanned the room and not one thing stood out as something he recognized. Nothing.

He turned over and looked at the clock. Almost noon. Man, it’s late. He rolled to his side noticing for the first time the blue and red plaid flannel pajamas he wore. 

Where was he?

Confused and concerned, Peter threw the blankets off, the chill of the morning waking him up a bit. He sat up, arched his back and yawned. With his large, leathery hands, he attempted to rub the sleep from his eyes. It didn’t work. He whipped his head to and fro, as if to dislodge not only sleep, but some sort of memory as to what he was doing in some random house wearing clothes he couldn’t  distinguish.

He searched his mind for the last thing he remembered. A rose. That was his last memory. Well that’s helpful. One single red rose. Wasn’t much to go on. Hell, he didn’t even know if it was a memory. For all he knew, it was from something he was making up in his mind, a sort of association game he was playing with himself. Rose:red. Red:love. Love:hate. Hate:death. Death:Peter.

Wait.

That last association, that one freaked Peter out a bit. Why would he put those two words together? Goosebumps covered Peter’s arms. He shivered. Peter slapped his cheeks lightly with his hands. Maybe if he got some coffee, maybe that would help clear the fog which cut him off from the world he was in.

Peter pulled himself onto his feet; the pain in his head returning for a moment, and then fading. Turning toward the window, the only thing he could see was a sea of white, some evergreen tree limbs weighted down by mounds of snow, and a few tracks in the road left by a snowmobile.

Peter got lost in the dreaminess of white, and a memory fluttered through his mind, briefly, like the trace a dragonfly’s wings make on the surface of the water or a wisp of smoke trailing on a breeze. A young girl, a soft giggle, and then it disappeared.

To his right, placed on a small wooden end table next to the head of the bed, laid a brown leather bound journal. Sticking out from among the closed pages, a yellow post it caught Peter’s attention. The words “Start reading from here, Peter” were scrawled in messy cursive. Something stood out as familiar about the penmanship.
 
Peter shrugged, picked up the journal, tucked it under his arm and headed down a long hall. Light poured in from the end of the hallway illuminating a number of framed pictures hung on the wall at the far end. As he neared them, he noticed on in particular. A young woman holding hands with an elderly couple. Dark brown tendrils of hair framed her face. And that smile, for some reason Peter couldn’t quite grasp, that smile tugged at his heart. Peter stopped in front of the picture, taking it in. She looked happy. And the elderly couple, they had huge smiles plastered on their faces. The older man shared the same smile and one dimple as the young woman.

As Peter continued into what was now obviously a living room, he noticed the kitchen to the left. That’s where he headed. He’d get a cup of coffee, read whatever he was supposed to read in this journal, and figure out where the hell he was.

The kitchen was a cozy space. Oak cabinets framed by warm golden walls surrounded him.  A coffee pot sat on the beige Formica countertop, next to a stainless steel toaster. There were still crumbs from someone making toast. Peter shuffled his feet against the cold tile floor and made his way to the small oval table in the nook. The light from outside, made even brighter by the reflection of the sun off the snow, lit the entire room.

He placed the journal on the table then rummaged through the cabinets to find ingredients and supplies to brew a pot of coffee. After measuring the grounds and starting the automatic drip, Peter found a mug and put a few tablespoons of powdered flavored creamer into it.  Lacking patience to wait until the entire carafe was full, he poured some coffee into his mug, then set the pot back into the coffee maker and took a sip.  It didn’t go unnoticed that although everything Peter was doing seemed very normal, his situation was anything but. After all, it felt a little ironic to be making himself at home in someone else’s. But whoever invited him here obviously didn’t mind.  

On the contrary, Peter couldn’t get over the feeling he almost belonged here. But that couldn’t be. Certainly he’d remember if he was here all the time. There’d be some recognition somewhere. But even still, now that he was a little more awake, there was nothing but emptiness where there should be something…not empty.

But maybe reading that journal would give him some answers. It had to.

Peter scooted the chair out, the wood scraping against the tile, then sat down, making himself comfortable. He took a sip of the sweetened coffee, vanilla almond, and settled in to read.

Opening to the post it, he read the date

February 6, 2014.
Hey Pete,
It’s me. Pete. I mean you.
I know. You have no idea what the hell is going on right now. That’s ok. Trust me. We go through this daily. Take my word for it; it never gets any easier, or any clearer. By the time you understand what I’m about to say, you won’t remember it.

Peter’s heart rate picked up. He closed the book and shoved it away. What the hell. Was this some kind of sick joke? He ran his hand through his hair, touching the goose egg and setting off a flare of pain. He stood up, paced around the kitchen unsure what to do. Should he go back and read the rest? That seemed insane. Someone was playing some kind of gag on him and he didn’t think it was very funny. But the question was…why? Who?

Peter walked briskly back to the living room and looked around. On the mantle were some pictures. Making a bee line to get a look at them, he wasn’t watching where he was going until his foot slammed against the foot of a wooden coffee table. Peter winced. A flash of something else flickered through his thoughts. A doctor’s office. The smell of hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol assaulted his senses so keenly, for a moment, Peter really believed he was there. But in an instant, the smell was gone and the pain resumed.

Walking through the throb in his foot, he continued to the fireplace and picked up a picture. The same young woman from the hallway sat on a swing, holding her very pregnant belly. Peter was struck with a strong urge to cry, but fought the brimming tears back. What was it about this woman that struck him so? Without even realizing it, Peter stroked the picture with his thumb, his eyes focused on her hand, on the belly. One tear escaped.

Shaking it off, Peter put the picture back. He turned his head toward the kitchen, toward the table, toward those pages that scared the hell out of him, toward the unknown.  He needed to go back and read the pages. Joke or not, he was supposed to read it, and something deep inside him told him in within the scribbles and words, he would find truth. He swallowed hard and with slow steps, trudged back into the kitchen.

He settled back into the chair, dragged the journal close, flipped open the pages and read.

February 6, 2014.

Hey Pete,

It’s me. Pete. I mean you.

I know. You have no idea what the hell is going on right now. That’s ok. Trust me. We go through this daily. Take my word for it; it never gets any easier, or any clearer. By the time you understand what happened to you, you won’t remember it.

You have a bit of a memory problem. Well, it’s more than a problem. It’s more like you have virtually no memory. And although things seem pretty bad at times, things are getting better every day.

For instance, you know that coffee shop up on Main? The one with your favorite cinnamon rolls the size of your head? Anyway, the waitress there, Layla, she likes you. And well, you’ve developed quite the crush on her. Matter of fact, you asked her out today. You two crazy kids will be going on a date here next week. She’s cute. She’s no Felicity or anything, but no one is.

And today, was a pretty decent day. After you finally figured out, you know, what caused the memory loss. Because that always blows. You visited Felicity’s mom and dad for a bit. Felicity’s mom, Beverly, made you apple cobbler. Even put your favorite vanilla bean ice cream on top just the way Flea used to. You and Frank watched some baseball. 

And Jim, your old boss from the post office, he’s throwing you a surprise birthday party. Which I wasn’t supposed to tell you about, but seeing as you’ll forget anyway, I figured no harm done. 

That’s tomorrow by the way. Your birthday. February 8.

You’ll be forty. Wow. You’re getting old, man.

You visited Flea. And Lucy.

So, what else do you need to know? You need to pay your mortgage today. And go to the store. You need milk and more coffee. Buy the stuff in the red can. Also get yourself some frozen meals. You’re not eating enough. You have to take care of yourself. No one else is going to.

Take your blood pressure and cholesterol meds.

And DON’T FORGET TO WRITE YOURSELF BEFORE YOU GO TO BED. Just give yourself an idea of how your day went.

Anyway, have a good day, Pete.

Pete

P.S. If you want to remember what happened, why you’re like this, look on the coffee table in the living room. (watch out for the table leg. You always bump into that damn thing)
Find the green album. Answers are in there. But my advice is —don’t. All you need to remember is you’re here. And you have to live. She would’ve wanted you to.

P.S.S. Pete and Repeat are on a boat. Pete falls off. Who’s left?
That one always makes you laugh. 

And it did. Peter tried to suppress a chuckle.

He took a deep breath, closed the journal and stared out the window. Did he want to know why he was like this? What happened?

Watching an eagle off in the distance, he experienced a twinge of jealousy. The eagle had a direction, a decided destination, something Peter did not. The eagle knew what it was. 

He made his decision.

He walked with a purpose into the living room, careful not to run into the table leg like he did before; it still ached every so often. Sitting on the couch, he saw the green vinyl covered photo album. “Our Memories” was scripted in gold on the front. Peter recognized the irony.

Peter opened the front cover gingerly, as if the memories themselves might spill on the floor. The very first picture was the same woman, cascades of dark curls falling over her bare shoulders. She wore a white beaded gown; a crystal encrusted tiara was anchored in her hair. Next to this woman, who happened to be the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, was a man of about twenty-five. Brown hair brushed neatly to the side and smiling as only one in love does, he recognized the man’s hands. He looked at his own hands. The same.

Written in cursive, it said: Peter and Felicity Montgomery: forever united.

“Felicity,” Peter whispered. “Flea.”

He flipped page after page, his eyes taking in every image of the couple. Of them. Of him and his wife. Some were on a beach in Florida. Some were taken from inside the Coliseum in Rome. Some were taken next to a snowman. Peter’s heart leapt at the memories. Like opening a treasure chest, as soon as he saw the photographs, a dream like image danced in his mind. And his heart burst with love.

Toward the middle of the album, pages were filled with Felicity, obviously pregnant and an assortment of hospital ultrasounds. Underneath one, were the words: “Baby Flea at twenty weeks.” Another showcased Felicity in a hospital bed, hair matted and sweaty, face flushed, wearing an enormous toothy smile. In her arms slept a pink infant, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket. Felicity and Lucy Harper Montgomery.

Peter’s heart almost stopped. He remembered the journal entry. “You visited Flea and Lucy.” Cold spread throughout Peter’s body and his muscles went rigid. The beating of his heart and the echo of blood rushing through his body resonated. He may not have remembered everything with his mind, but his body remembered everything.

Peter’s hands began to shake. Even though he knew whatever information residing on the next pages was necessary for him to see, to understand, something deep down wanted to resist turning the page. His mind needed to know, but his body begged for him to stop.

With a quivering finger, he flipped to the next page. His eyes widened and all the air left his lungs in one moment of panic. It was as if the whole world stopped in one moment. His eyes froze on the words in black and white, emblazoned on the well-worn yellowed newsprint.

Postal Worker Wakes Up From Coma After Tragic Accident

Peter’s stomach churned. His mouth dry, he tried to swallow back the bile rising up from his stomach. He kept reading.

Postal worker Peter Montgomery is finally awake after a two week long coma following a tragic accident involving multiple cars on the Highway near Hope Lake. Montgomery’s car was hit from behind as he and his family drove home from a family outing earlier that day. Montgomery’s car spun out of control, falling down the embankment into the frozen water. Unfortunately, only Montgomery’s body was recovered. Investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing. Authorities have been waiting for Montgomery’s recovery in order to learn more about the incident.

Like a flood breaking through a damn, a torrent of images bombarded Peter. Felicity and Lucy singing in the car, the sound of metal upon metal and Peter lurching back then thrown forward, the world spinning in a white blur, and the pain of a thousand knives cutting into his forehead as his face met the glass. Frozen water enveloped him, his breath hitching as the water filled the car. Quickly, Peter unlatched his seatbelt and turned to see Felicity, bloody and pale. Trying his hardest to unbuckle her from her seat, all the while screaming her name, he realized the seatbelt was stuck. Water was now to his shoulders. He didn’t have enough time. Over the rush of water, he heard Lucy screaming. He needed to save her. Fighting the current which was now pushing him towards the window shield, he climbed into the back, trying to calm Lucy down. His hands were so numb, and the shivering was so violent, he was unable to feel around in the icy water to find the buckles to the car seat.

Water was now at his neck. Peter cried out. He looked toward the front of the car, toward Felicity. Her face was underwater. In another second, Lucy’s would be too. He couldn’t save both of them. He had to choose. He fought the tears, and clawed at Lucy’s car seat buckles. He yelled. He screamed. He cursed. He pulled and pulled, but his hands had lost all feeling and he was now completely underwater, as was Lucy.
He wailed, fighting the silence of the lake. He watched as life left Lucy’s eyes. He would stay here. He would die and welcome it. What else did he have to live for? Then everything went black.

Another memory: a funeral. Peter put one single red rose on Felicity's closed casket. And the he placed another on Lucy’s. Pain gripped Peter from every part of him, inside and out. It was like being inside of a pressure cooker about to blow. The room closed in on him.

He closed the album. The words “Our Memories” stared back at him. He should have listened to his own warning. He should have just gone on with his day, blissfully unaware. He shouldn’t have pushed so hard to remember. For what are memories to the dead? And Peter realized even though he was breathing, he was not living. He merely existed. Peter Montgomery and everything he was, died that day in the frozen lake.
***
Peter stood at the edge of the frozen water staring into the icy grave. Tears rolled off his cheek, falling onto his wool jacket. The wind whistled through the trees and Peter could have sworn he heard Felicity and Lucy’s voices, singing.
***
February 7, 2014

Hey Pete. It’s me, Pete. You.

Hope today you didn’t wake up on the floor like you did yesterday. You probably still have a bruise on your head. Sometimes your dreams are so real, you find yourself in some pretty strange positions the next morning. But considering what happened, it’s understandable.

What can I tell you…well, I guess I’ll start by saying you write to yourself daily. Helps you keep track of things. I know what you’re thinking. Where the hell am I? Why can’t I remember anything? This is your house and you can’t remember because a few years ago, some pretty horrific things happened. You almost died. So, a part of your brain isn’t functioning right. That’s really all you need to know. Trust me.

No, this isn’t a joke and you’re not crazy.

Anyway, you have to write things down in order to know what to do daily. So here’s your to do list:
·   Get some coffee
·   Eat breakfast. The little diner on Main is your favorite. Those cinnamon rolls are amazing. Size of your head. Plus, there’s Layla. Tell her she looks pretty. She loves it when you tell her that.
·   Take your blood pressure and cholesterol pills
·   Call Beverly and Frank, they like to know you’re okay

Let’s see, yesterday was great. You visited Flea and Lucy. Then walked down to the store and bought some food. They had that rotisserie chicken you love. Made a meal with it and cooked up some garlic mashed potatoes. You’re not a half bad cook when you put your mind to it.
Caught a movie with your old boss, Jim. Wolf of Wall Street. Not bad. That Leo DiCaprio is a pretty amazing actor.

Oh yeah, it’s your birthday today. You’re forty! Happy birthday, Pete. Get out and celebrate.
Anyway, I think that’s about it. Don’t forget to write yourself before you go to bed.
Have a great birthday.

Pete

P.S. If you really want to know what happened to you and why you’re like this, you can read the green album in the living room. But I don’t recommend it. Some things are better left forgotten. Just know you had a family. You loved them and they loved you. Don’t dwell. Felicity wouldn’t have wanted it.

Also, watch out for that damn coffee table leg.

P.S.S. Pete and Repeat were on a boat. Pete jumped off. Who’s left?

That one always makes you laugh.

Pete put down the pen, marked the page with a sticky note and turned off the light. He rolled over and went to sleep, memories like icicles, dripping and vanishing into the vast unknown.
Peter woke up Friday morning in a strange bed.

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Carey Torgesen is a writer and a teacher in the Pacific Northwest. She writes things that you might call "chick lit" or that you might just call "awesome". She's the sometimes handler of west coast #WriteClub, she blogs at The T Files and tweets from @CareyTorg . She's funny. She's sweet. She's The Torg. And her butt looks great in jeans. 





3 comments:

  1. Ouch. I hurt reading this. But wow, is it good.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Careeeeyyyyyyyy I lurve this. Gorgeous. Absolutely wonderful.

    ReplyDelete