A thought. Never again will this be ever. The day was too long, the sun blessing the lawn at his feet with warmth. A cloudless sky: the eighth consecutive day of little or no clouds passing over the town.
The lawn gently slopes to the ivory sidewalk and the blacktop. Staring at it, I envisioned a tricolor flag of a country. Maybe an island in the Caribbean with beaches like Copacabana, or a South Asian state with a finance-oriented economy.
I drift along in my patch of suburbia, happy under its cloudless skies, the late spring temperature just right, and freshly mown grass cut tight to the curb.
Ahead, I can see the horizon. This is a flat line stretching to infinity across the treeless plains beyond the subdivision. Prairie living was what was advertised when I moved my family here last summer. Now it has been almost a year. Living here is heaven.
This suburban tract was on the farthest reaches from the inner suburbs, and the city where I work, in an office, faceless at times except when it comes to the bonus at Christmas.
I get a check stuffed inside a white envelope. I then receive a handshake and a thank you, accompanied with a “Andy, you are tops in sales, again.”
I work hard, on the telephones daily. Tirelessly, I talk seven hours a day, with a break for lunch I usually eat at my desk.
Damn straight I work. This got me the house on the edge of town, this, my little piece of the American pie, ranch-style, with red brick and two cars, three kids and a wife who volunteers at the Junior League. This year, after school is out we intend to drive to go camping in the canyons. That’s coming in two weeks. Paid for with my hard-earned vacation, from that last Christmas bonus comfortably resting in savings.
Closing my eyes, I daydream of the canyons. I dwell of the eternal desert sun when hiking the trails, and of the stars blanketing the night sky with us underneath, surrounding the crackling red, yellow and orange embers of our fire, as desert breezes gently kiss our skins with gentle reminders that with peace comes sleep, and that we shall, huddled under blankets in our rented silver trailer.
Lying comfortably on the lawn I had just cut with the new mower I fall sleep while imaging sparks flying like Roman candles against the endless night in anticipation of camping with my family.
I wake up, and sit at the edge of the bed. This is my bedroom. I am transported to my parent’s home. The wallpaper is still awful. Candy stripe red and white, speckled with gold stars.
My gray flannel Little League uniform is folded neatly on the chair next to the bed. There will be a game today.. Mom always had it ready for me in the morning.
I immediately realize the year. It will be five months before I meet Rachel, my wife, on first day at the new consolidated middle school.
I recall what struck me about her. The silver hairpin that pulled her auburn hair back over her left ear, and how her curls fell over her forehead when she looked across the aisle at me in second period—the teacher was Harper the harpy. She died that winter from influenza.
I get up and touch the Lionel steam engine resting on the red oak chest of drawers. Daddy gave it to me the day before. That would be the first for every month. Next month he will bring me the coal tender. Each month after a boxcar, until Christmas I receive the caboose and the tracks.
We will set them up around the Christmas tree, pulling the switch with the transformer as the train circled. I recall the pellets that when heated by the electrical charge from the tracks billowed wisps of chemical smoke as the Lionel chugged, exciting Flip, our mixed collie puppy. He leaned forward on his front paws and whine as the train passed.
Five years later, Daddy died in a war. He was a major in the National Guard. His regiment wasn’t supposed to go, but they were the only mechanized infantry available for deployment at the time.
Flip passed right after.
I have to be at the game soon. I shower, and put on my uniform. I take my first baseman’s mitt from the bedpost. I slide it on, pumping my fist into the worn oiled leather.
I stare into my reflection. I smell pancakes. Mom is making breakfast. She will be calling me in soon. Daddy is away for the weekend, fishing, so he will not be at the game.
Mom has to cook for the church picnic tomorrow. She will miss the game, too.
I speak to my reflection. “In four years I become a man.”
With that, my eyes open. I rise up, wrapping my arms around my knees, holding my right wrist with my left. I gaze toward the horizon. I see it clearly, now: my fist hitting the baseball mitt. Pancakes and bacon frying, and then I segue to Flip running in the backyard while Daddy and I play catch. Then memory moves to Rachel looking curiously at me in seventh grade during Harpy’s class.
I look around, realizing that the houses all are alike, with the same rectangle windows, angled roofs and wide-open carports, realizing that my paradise is a monotony of comfort architecture.
No one is outside. They are either watching television or shopping. Rachel has the kids at her parents.
I am feeling alone, and dwell there will come a time when I run out of existence.
I shake it off and rise. I will drive to the trailer rental lot to look at Airstreams. I better reserve one today, because vacation is soon.
This will be heaven, I promise.