Friday, July 3

(fiction)

Harold looked at his watch. He let out a sigh and shook his wrist. It had to be later than that. He peeked around his cubicle to the clock on the wall. Nope, his watch was right on. He bit his bottom lip and looked at his computer screen again. Now was the time to stay focused even if it was Thursday, July 3rd.

He knew how he wanted to spend the holiday weekend. If it were up to him, in five minutes, he would call his wife and tell her to get ready for the weekend. He imagined she would sound exasperated at his whims and complain she needed more time to get the kids ready. But she wouldn’t be upset at all. She would be excited for the chance to get away.

His dedication to his job would pay off and he’d finish work and be able to start the long weekend an hour early. He’d turn in his spreadsheet on the boss’s desk. The boss would comment about the excellent work Harold consistently produced. Harold would blush a little and wave his hand as if to wipe away the comment.

Harold would race home in his Jeep Cherokee. His home in the suburbs would be a modest three bedroom house. It worked for his family. His two boys, ages 9 and 4, would race to him. He’d wrestle with the oldest a moment. The youngest, who looked like his mother, would lead him by the hand inside.

His wife would have everything ready to go. That was one of the many small reasons he loved her. They’d exchange a soft kiss and he’d rub her swollen stomach. He’d ask if she wanted to go camping for the weekend since the due date was so close. She would smile and reply, “Of course.” He would have to kiss her again. Their boys would make gagging sounds and pull him away so that he could pack.

They would find some secluded spot to camp for the weekend. For the next three days, the world’s population would consist of just Harold’s family. He’d teach his youngest to fish. The oldest would catch the biggest fish of the day and there would be many pictures taken to prove it. His wife would fix the fish just right that evening. Fish never tasted as good as it did on their camping trips.

That night, he’d bring out the sparklers that he had bought for the weekend. His boys would spend the evening trying to spell their names or draw designs in the dark night.

During the night, it would rain just slightly to give the air a wonderful perfume.

“Harold,” a gruff voice yelled causing him to jump. “Are you paying attention?”

It was his boss. It was still the 3rd of July and Harold was still at work.

“Yes, sir,” Harold muttered and sat up straight in his chair. He shook his head trying to clear the elaborate daydream he had just been in.

“Get that spreadsheet done by five,” his boss said shaking his head. His round face had turned red and he was spitting as he talked. “Or you’ll have to stay late or come in tomorrow.” He turned his roly-poly body and stomped back into his office.

“Yes, sir,” Harold hissed. He tried to stay focused but he still didn’t finish until an hour after everyone else had left. He sent the spreadsheet to his boss’s email and sighed.

His blue Ford Escort with the peeling paint job was the only car left in the parking lot. He climbed in and tried to start it. It sputtered but didn’t catch. He tried again. Still nothing. He rubbed his hand on the steering wheel. “C’mon, old girl, please start.” He tried again, this time it started.

He drove to his one bedroom apartment. A couple of kids from his apartment building were out on the sidewalk. He rolled his eyes. “Hey, Tubby,” they called to him and threw noisemakers at his feet making him jump. He put his head down and walked faster.

His landlord’s door was wide open so he tiptoed past it. He didn’t need a reminder his rent was due. Slowly, he made his way up the narrow stairs to the fourth floor. Each step up he took reminded him of his doctor’s orders to lose weight. He rested a moment to catch his breath before opening his apartment door. He opened it and hoped he would see some semblance of his daydream. But the only thing that waited for him was a beat up brown leather recliner with a piece of duct tape across the back. He plopped in it and reclined. At least his tv still worked and he clicked it on. His right hand reached into a bowl of Cheese-Puffs he kept to the side. This was how he would spend the long weekend because this was how he spent every weekend.

Someday, he would start a tradition of camping with his family. He just needed the last piece in the puzzle – a life.

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