Thursday, September 09, 2004

Early Morning Zen Movement

A Vignette, Not A Short Story

He preferred to get up early in the morning because he didn't like to get up early. Actually he didn't like to get up, early or otherwise. He seldom slept well any more and, besides, if he got up before everyone else, he didn't have to meet the cheery world and its cheery denizens (like his wife) while he was still completely achy and grumpy. So he dragged out of bed in a minor agony and made it to the bathroom. He didn't even turn on the light, just closed the door behind him and sat down. He liked to call it his own personal Zen Moment. The great black nothingness. Or, sometimes, for variety, and because it lasted rather longer than a moment, he called it his Zen Movement. Later, having bathed the night before, he got dressed, went into the kitchen and leaned against the counter while he took several of his medications with room-temperature tap water. Cold water might make the pills catch in his throat. He never used to choke—he used to be able to eat glass, more or less—but that was then.


He could only choke down so many of these different-shaped and different-sized pills at a time. There were others to take later in the day. It wasn't as if the pills made him feel particularly better; they just kept him from feeling like hell.

He went outside to get the newspaper, dragging his moccasin-style house shoes through the dust the last few steps between the edge of his lawn and the mailbox. Back in the kitchen, he fidgeted with his coffee cup, almost blindly putting water in it and chunking spoonfuls of instant coffee at the liquid. Most of it went into the cup. He sat at the kitchen table and read the front-page headlines while his coffee nuked. When the microwave beeped, he got the cup and sat down with it, grimacing at the bitter unreal taste. If he could come awake quickly enough, he would never drink instant coffee. Later in the morning or in the afternoon, he'd use the coffee maker, but this was all he could handle at present.

He settled in to read his paper, usually paying more attention to the local news, since TV would tell him the national and world news repeatedly through the day. He was not surprised to see the debacle still going on about how operations of the local civic center was still draining the local coffers at a rate exceeded only by the amount of indebtedness already incurred by its construction.

"Goddamn county commissioners," he grumbled. "I wonder if they were born morons!"

Forgetting for a moment that he was in the house and not working in the yard, he wanted to spit, but caught himself. He swallowed hard and washed it down with the last half-gulp of tepid coffee.

"Life is so beautiful when you're retired," he muttered as he stood up. He waited a few moments for his back to adjust itself a little before he ventured once again in the direction of the bathroom.

"I'm going to put a TV in there," he thought, not for the first time.

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