“I just can’t do this anymore, Ed.” She was serious. “It’s just not going to work.”
“But Kathleen,” I pleaded, “it’s not my fault!”
I knew it was pointless to argue – this wasn’t the first time I’d had a girl break up with me after all. When a woman tells you it’s over, it’s never because they’re looking for stimulating conversation. It’s an expression of power, not an invitation to discussion.
“I don’t want to hear it. We’re done, Ed.”
There it was, the brick wall statement I couldn’t hope to bust through. I hated to hear it – we were so great together, Kathleen and I. Well, obviously she didn’t think so, but she’s not the first, like I said.
My name’s Ed. Ed Thomas. Ed Phono Thomas. ‘Ed’ is actually short for Edison. Yeah, as in Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph which, incidentally, should explain my middle name. I know, parents can be cruel.
Speaking of cruel, as I stood there watching Kathleen walk away I could only imagine that maybe I’d rather be burned with irons than by females. Not that I’d ascribe the word “cruel” to my new ex, necessarily, but at that moment I couldn’t think of any more appropriate adjectives.
Oh well, win-some-lose-some. Trouble is, I can’t seem to get the “win” part right. My record stands at 0-5. And that’s only counting this year since January. And it’s March. Yeah. Maybe I should go after Kathleen and thank her for helping me keep my perfect record. Maybe I should just go home.
I went home.
“Lost another one, huh?” said my roommate Soren from the kitchen of our little one bedroom apartment as I slammed the door.
“How’d you know?” I asked, collapsing just inside where our mangy couch broke my fall.
Soren walked in, the coffee cake my mother had baked for my birthday decorating his reddish-brown beard. He was chewing a carrot stick, no doubt trying to throw me off the trail. Little did he realize he was wearing the evidence.
“You know me,” he said through a mouthful of orange mush. “I’ve got the ESP. Ain’t nothing you can hide from me.”
“Dude, she had her profile updated before you even left.” Soren took another bite of his carrot stick and chewed noisily. “I thought about saying somethin’, but I guess I figured you should hear it from her.”
So, a coffee cake thief and a roommate deserter. I gave him what I hoped was my best evil eye and made a mental note to add habanero sauce to his stock of V8 juice at my earliest convenience.
“Thanks a lot.”
“Hey, it ain’t my fault you don’t have a facebook account,” Soren said by way of defending himself. “And it ain’t my fault you’re too skinny to keep a woman once she meets me and my friend.” He reached down and jiggled his belly, the biggest feature on his 300 pound, 6 foot even frame.
“Jimmy Stewart was a sex-symbol in his time,” I argued.
“So was Jack Black,” Soren countered.
“Oh yeah?” Soren had finished his carrot stick and sat down in the recliner he’d picked up on the side of the road last month. “Then why do I always sell more tickets to women than to men for his movies? And don’t you dare say it’s because he’s funny.”
Soren wanted to be an actor in the worst way. He worked in the local Cineplex, supposedly because it allowed him to “study the pros”. Personally, I think it’s because he knows that cleaning the silver screen is the closest he’s ever going to get to being on one, but he won’t admit it. He also has a vendetta against Jack Black, who he claims, “is stealing all my parts!”.
“By the way, dude, your grandpa called here earlier for you. Geez, why do you never carry your cell phone?” Soren grabbed the remote and clicked on the TV. “He said he’d call back later.”
That news cheered me up. My grandpa was one of the funniest, kindest, most down-to-earth people you could ever meet. Before grandma died the three of us would go down to the lake every summer for a week on the water. He’s gone downhill a bit since she passed, and we don’t keep in contact like we should, but even so, I’m always eager to hear from him.
For a moment I thought about just going ahead and calling him back. Soren, who was now absorbed in the movie “300” (“I could totally have been a Spartan; maybe there’ll be a sequel.”), read my mind and pointed to where my cell-phone sat on the arm of the couch. While I was deliberating, it rang.
I picked it up without looking at the caller ID.
“Grandpa?” It was not. Nor was it Kathleen, though I confess to hoping for the possibility. It was my mother.
“Oh, hi mom,” I said into the speaker.
“Tell her we’re out of coffee cake,” said Soren without taking his eyes off the battle of Thermopylae. I pitched a pillow at him and darted from the room before he could retaliate.
“That’s not why they’re called ‘throw pillows’!” he called after me, then I heard the volume go up.
“Sorry, mom,” I said, walking into the bathroom and closing the door to drown out the sound of dying Persians. “How are you?”
The other end of the phone was silent for a moment before my mother spoke up.
“I’m doing okay, Edison.” She was one of the few living people I’d allow to call me by my full name. “I’m calling about your grandfather.”
“Yeah, grandpa called me earlier today.”
“Did you talk to him?”
“No, I was out with Kathleen.” I couldn’t tell her that story just yet. “I was actually just about to call him back. What about him did you want to say?”
The other end was silent again, except this time the quiet was broken by a loud sniff, followed by what could have been my mother blowing her nose.
“What is it, ma?”
Do you know that feeling you get when you become aware that bad news is coming – you just haven’t heard it yet? Sometimes it’s accompanied by tunnel vision, or sometimes a chill in the sternal region of your chest cavity? I got both, and my mother’s next words told me why.
“Your grandpa went to the doctor this morning. I guess they sent him to the hospital for a CT scan. They found a brain tumor.” Now I could tell, she was definitely crying. “It’s inoperable, Edison. The doctor gave him six months.”
Outside, on the TV, I could hear Leonidas talking with one of his men.
“It’s an honor to die at your side.”
“It’s an honor to have lived at yours.”
Written by Thomas Lemke. You can follow him at tjelemke.com
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