Forecast For The Future

“Oh, Art,” Donna responded. “I’m standing in a puddle in the kitchen! The fridge is shot and everything in it has turned to liquid. I’ll get this cleaned up now, but better plan on us going straight to the appliance store when you get home. Just honk when you pull in the driveway, OK?”

The lump in Artie’s throat began to tighten. “OK,” he managed and hung up. How nice. On top of a job loss, Artie now needed a major appliance and enough groceries to restock the darn thing. He inhaled, filled the box, and walked proudly to his car. He no longer wanted to whistle. No scene, no lashing out for the others to talk about once he was gone.

“If a man has nothing else,” his dad always said, “he has his dignity.”

He could feel the eyes staring at him from every window in the

building as his car left the lot and the plant came into full view in his mirror.

Mental Notes

Around the corner from the plant was a small park with picnic tables and swing sets amid a grassy hill and a grove of trees. Artie often came here at lunch to dream. He dreamed about a quiet, relaxing future with his daughter working at a fine job. Someday she’d have a husband, a few kids–how he would love some grandkids someday! And he always though he would retire young enough to enjoy them. How blessed his family was!

Those dreams seemed far away as he parked the car and shut off the engine. It was very quiet now except for the birds singing and the hum of traffic faint in the distance. Life was going on, and Artie was unemployed.

But this was day one, he told himself, and he had become indispensable at one place and he could do the same at another, right? Of course. After all, the severance package was fairly good, unemployment benefits would get him through the next few months, and he had made a lot of contacts through his former company. This would be a minor setback–nothing more. He’d get another job in no time.

Instead of heading to a bar to drown his sorrows, he went straight to the copy center where he prepared a new resume, and had 50 copies made. Artie was always a guy quick to rebound, ready to roll with the punches.

Time Marches On

Eight months later Artie stared into the “new” refrigerator. He grabbed the other half of yesterday’s sub and began to eat it cold. It was hard as a rock, but he didn’t notice. He sat in the family room and turned on the television. He solved two puzzles on a game show, finished the sub, and walked to the back window.

Snow had piled high in front of the garage, but it seemed his wife had pushed her car through it, so why bother to shovel? She’d taken a job at the doughnut shop by the community college so she could both drive her daughter to class and work the opening shift five days a week.

The family had decided that the regular college tuition due, even with Keely’s scholarships, was just too extravagant for now. In fact, more than half that fund had been drained to put a new transmission in the car and repair the roof leak that had ruined the ceiling in the upstairs bathroom.

Keely had complied quietly with her parents’ decision, and was reminded constantly by her mother that in her day, kids were lucky to go to school at all, but Artie knew they both resented him for his job loss. Keely felt she had done her part and earned the grades and scholarships, so why couldn’t the old man hold up his end and keep his stupid job? What a loser.

Artie now began to agree with that opinion. His 50 resumes had become 150, and the contacts from the previous job had the same regretful story for him every time he called. “Nothing right now, Art, but you’re at the top of my list!”

He wandered throughout the house, keeping as few lights lit as possible and the heat turned low. The utility bills had become a nightmare. He stared at the unopened newspaper with the depressing want-ads inside, and let his gaze drift to the computer, where no one had responded to his many postings and applications.

He half-heartedly walked into the bathroom and shaved the five-day growth from his face. He then showered and stood in the remaining steam before the sink while brushing his teeth. As the haze disappeared from the mirror, Artie saw his reflection and stopped brushing mid-stroke. What had he become? The light in his eyes was a mere ember. His cheeks had grown puffy with junk food and inactivity. His increasing depression had put bags beneath his weary eyes, and the pallor of his skin was pale and unhealthy-looking. Thank God his dad wasn’t alive to see this.

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off

“No retirement for me, Dad,” Artie said loudly. “Nope, no retirement, no savings, no career, no pride left,” he shouted. “No man,” he finished in a whisper.

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