Dinner and a Swim to Tomorrow

“Consider the lilies of the field; how they grow; they toil not; neither do they spin…”

Matthew 26:28

He sat at the dinner table and stared at his plate. He hadn’t touched a bite since he was served the ham and potatoes. The truth was: he wasn’t hungry. How could he be hungry? This was the first time he had met Marcy’s parents and they weren’t doing anything to make him feel at home. Marcy’s dad owned his own construction company and her Mom worked at a beauty salon.

Marcy’s brother was an overgrown baboon who acted like he belonged in a zoo. He was very suspect of Thomas. Thomas wanted to do everything right. He wanted to treat Marcy well. He wanted to give her a good life. He wanted to make her happy. However, he was nervous. Dreadfully nervous all the time. He tried to kill it with pills. He tried to kill it with booze. He tried to dull it with exercise. Vitamin supplements. Orange juice. The doctors called it anxiety disorder. The philosophers called it existential ennui. The priest called it a turning away from god. The politicians called it flip-flopping. The guy on the corner called it life. The bus driver called it work. His father called it weakness. His mother called it yearning. His sister with four kids called it lazy. His brother who was a corporate exec called it lack of ambition. Thomas called it “the shit.” The shit is what soldiers in Nam called heavy gunfire and deep battle. While Thomas was fortunate enough not to be in war, he had a private war raging in his heart. In his mind.

“You studied philosophy at one time right,” asked Marcy’s Mom.

“Philosophy, huh” said Marcy’s Dad.

“Thomas is going to be a teacher,” said Marcy, trying to rescue Thomas from the raging sea of expectation.

“What do you do now?” asked Marcy’s Dad.

“I work in a convenience store, and I study,” replied Thomas.

Marcy knew about the shit. She knew how it sometimes turned Thomas the man into the lost boy. She saw how his life was being chipped away at by dark forces, numerous and unseen.

Thomas put down the crystal water glass and spoke, “Yeah, I also might teach at the university.”

“You must be a smart guy,” said Marcy’s Dad.

“I’m not bad,” said Thomas.

“I was never much on that stuff. Then again I never went to college. We wanted Marcy to be educated though. Education is a good thing.”

“Yeah I think someone said its better to leave your kids without money and educated then, wealthy and ignorant.”

“Wow that’s pretty smart. Isn’t that smart Betsy,” said Marcy’s dad,” Gee, that’s smart.”

Thomas’ heart started to pump blood really fast. His adrenaline was blasting away, but for no particular reason. Thomas felt like he would explode. Explode! Vaporize in his chair. Nothing but a small blotch on the chair-that is all that would be left of him. But for no particular reason. Only for the pain, the expectations, the appropriate words, the courteous gestures, the right thing for the right reasons for the right occasions. Was he good enough for Marcy.?Was he the one that they would want to take their daughter’s hand in marriage?

But he was smart. Dreadfully smart. Articulate. Young. Educated. Bright future. Car. A little money saved. He had scrupulosity. He would drive all night. He was committed. Deeply. Painfully. He loved Marcy. Deeply painfully. He had his code.

And he had the shit. The shit that was welling up inside him. Not joy. But pain.

Marcy looked over at Thomas. Thomas was shaking. He reached over to the carving knife that lay next to the roasted ham. I am a man of faith. I am a man of values.

“Mr. Gadson,” said Thomas, “Would you like more ham?”

Thomas could feel the ooze coming from between his toes. He felt the prickly scales protruding from his back. He wondered if anyone noticed. His fingernails were growing.

“No, but please help yourself,” said Marcy’s dad. There was a painful silence.

“How about those Mets, “ said Marcy’s dad.

Tentacles sprouted from Thomas’ chest. His eyes bugged out of his head and fell onto the table like two olives stuffed with pimentos. The tentacles wrapped themselves around Thomas and slowly he began to shrink. He finally took the shape of what resembled a large lizard- like cockroach with tiny little tentacles writhing around.

“Yeah, I’m really looking forward to the playoffs. They’ve got a good team this year,” said Thomas, “Mrs. Gadson, by the way, you’ve really outdone yourself. That ham was delicious.”

After the dishes were cleared, they had coffee and pie. There were still awkward silences and Thomas kept wondering if he said the right thing. Or did he pass the potatoes correctly. Or did Marcy’s dad think he was a walking pile of bullshit. Overeducated and foolish. Was he going to provide the type of life they expected for their daughter?

Finally, when the evening was over Marcy and Thomas began to make their exit.

“Goodbye, Mrs. Gadson,” said Thomas,” Dinner was absolutely wonderful.”

“Gee, I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Have fun kids.”

“Mr. Gadson, it was a pleasure meeting you,” said Thomas, standing erect and offering a firm tentacle., “and let’s see what these Mets can do.”

“Yeah, it was a pleasure meeting you too. Have fun.”

The front door of house number 257 on Pine street closed, and Marcy and Thomas began the walk to Thomas’ car. Thomas’ thoughts began to race again. The handshake.. it was too weak. The comments were trite and stupid and fake. He was a fake. He knew nothing about nothing. He was never going to do anything with his life. He was living a lie. Marcy would leave him. She was too good for him.

Suddenly, Marcy grabbed a hold of Thomas and kissed him. She opened her mouth and he did too. Their tongues were entwined passionately and turned to long slimy green tentacles emeshed in a chaotic ballet. They both felt warmth shoot through their bones. Thomas’ love, hate, passion, doubt, faith, hope, pain, suffering, disillusionment, worry, fear, promise, loyalty, strength, and honor was sucked from his inner core and landed on his tongue and was swirling around both of their mouths. Their scales erupted from their backs and their skin slipped from their scaly bodies.

Finally, the kiss was over. The two looked into each other’s eyes and felt absolutely drained. Thomas’ pain had left him. Marcy smiled and the two and walked down to the lake where they slipped off their flesh and their scales glistened in the moonlight.

They swam under the water in the lake into their future.

Ω

William “Bill” Blick , when he isn’t thwarting humanity’s demise, tries to be a writer from the mean streets of Bellerose, New York. He has an M.A in English Literature from Queens College and is pursuing a master’s degree in Library Science. He has published stories in Mysterical-e, Ascent Aspirations, Inscribed: A Magazine for Writers, The Clockwise Cat, The Pulp Pusher, Underground Voices, Revisions, Scribal Tales, Alien Skin, Thrillers, Chillers, N’ Killers, Soul Fountain, Seven Seas Magazine, Straitjackets Magazine, and Bewildering Stories. He also writes film criticism and has published work in Senses of Cinema. He has been invited to present academic papers on film at the Midwestern Conference for Popular Culture and the Comparative Literature Department at the University of Georgia on international film and film noir.