Monday, April 28, 2008

Louie and Son

It was there alright. And growing. Yesterday, it could’ve been anything—a bit of grime, a chip in the grout, some standard shower mildew. But today, today there could be no doubt it was something more. And it was all Louie’s.

This was the Y of course and many individuals frequented the shower stall in question. Some made two, three trips a day in fact. But overly-clean individuals were the exception rather than the rule. And besides, that corner—the corner of the stall where it was growing—that was Louie’s corner. It was the corner where he…well, finished.

Louie examined it closely. About the size of a dime and slightly dome shaped. It was fuzzy and if one did not know better it might be confused for a nasty spot of mold. But Louie knew better. The fuzz was a dull, grey-brown, not unlike Louie’s own hair. Yes, he thought, this is certainly the fruit of my loins.

* * *

While never a family man by anyone’s standards, Louie always had a soft spot for children. During periods of unemployment, which were quite frequent, Louie would wander the park and nod approvingly as children ran and jumped and slid and laughed. So happy, Louie would say to himself. In these moments, they all seem so happy.

But Louie was not of the stock that settles down. Not the type to marry and breed and jockey a gas barbeque grill on summer evenings. If it was due to his chronic bouts of unemployment or his semi-permanent residence at the Y, Louie could never be sure. What he knew was this: some men are not made for family life and he was one of those men.

So explains why Louie took such an immediate liking to the growth in the corner—his corner—of the shower stall. What fellow residents would dismiss as a normal development in an unsanitary bathroom was to Louie a unique chance at fatherhood, however unconventional. More than a chance, it was a responsibility. A responsibility, Louie decided, not to be taken lightly.

* * *

First order of business: what would Louie name his spawn? Garret was the first name that came to mind but Louie quickly dismissed it. Far too strong a name for creature destined to be small and fuzzy it’s whole life. After all, Louie wanted neither himself nor his kin to look ridiculous. Herbert, it was decided. To be referred to affectionately as Herbie. When he matures, Herb. A fine name indeed.

Great. With that settled Louie was free to tackle a far more pressing matter: how to protect, or at least preserve, young Herbie. The current situation was unsustainable. Weekly cleanings of all communal areas at the Y meant the clock was ticking. Who was on bathroom duty that week? Oh…Flannigan, the bastard. There would be no persuading him to lay down the bleach. If anything, a request on Louie’s part would only fuel Flannigan’s cruel streak.

So there it was. Louie had two days to act. Two days before Flannigan and a big bottle of diluted bleach reduced little Herbie to a smudge on the bottom of a paper towel. That, Louie thought, would be unbearable. He was a father now and it was up to him to ensure Herbie’s survival. Two days. Louie needed a plan. Two days.

* * *

A sleepless night was spent weighing options. One plan Louie developed involved transferring young Herbie onto a slice of bread. Mold grew handily on bread so surely Herbie—the fungi-offspring of Louie himself—would thrive in such an environment. However, this plan was not without complications. Would Herbie survive being uprooted, transferred to a new locale? Would the yeasty new abode not eventually develop a mold all its own and would Herbie be able to cohabitate? This will not work, Louie decided in the wee hours of the morning. There are too many variables.

As the sun rose on what could well have been poor Herbie’s last day on earth, Louie had all but run out of ideas. Slowly, quietly, on tippy toes he snuck through the hall and into the communal bathroom. Back against the wall, he slid down the tile and sat by the corner—his corner. The corner Herbie called home. I don’t know what to tell you little bugger, Louie addressed Herbie, things are looking pretty darn grim.

We’re a lot alike you and me, Louie continued. Not just because you grew from my seed. Both of us Herbie, both of us have had it pretty rough. Now, maybe you’ve only seen a couple days but son, if you coulda lived to a hundred you’d realize these couple days have been pretty darn typical. They were mean and cold and sad. But somewhere in there we had ourselves some moments. Those moments, they’re what life is all about. And I hope when my time comes I can go out like you will kid. On my own terms.

Louie choked on his words a bit but managed to say all he had to say. His eyes were wet and he turned, Herbie should not see him cry. He had to make a move today. By tomorrow Flannigan would have done the job quickly, carelessly. The bastard. Louie left the bathroom and snuck down the hall on tippy toes. He opened a door marked Supplies, removed a large spray bottle.

Back in the bathroom Louie knelt before Herbie. I’m sorry it had to be this way, Louie said, I’m so sorry. He lowered the spray bottle and squeezed. Once, twice, a third time. Deliberate and accurate. The small fuzzy growth in the corner of the shower—Louie’s corner—withered and darkened. I’m sorry, Louie said, but we had ourselves some moments. That’s what life is all about.

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