The Paved Road, Part Three (Final)

Well, the woman that I loved / Didn’t quite return the favor / And the woman that loved me / Left me tinged with regret / As I ruminate about the state of my sad depression / My life seems no more worthy than an empty silhouette.

 

Bundled up in the house was a depth, perhaps the death, of loneliness, and it made Eddie recall that he’d once had a wife. He’d at least have someone to cuddle with in the darkness, not to mention bitch about why the vehicles were stuck, why they didn’t have a generator, and why couldn’t they build a fire. It had been years since they’d used the fireplace. A loveseat was in front of it.

Theirs, his and Michele’s, had supposedly been an amicable divorce. They had mutually driven each other crazy, mutually recognized it and moved on with their lives. They’d even worked together, that is, until Eddie’s job had been eliminated, and now Michele was remarrying a co-worker, Brady Arndt, an agreeable sort who, unfortunately, Eddie knew, he would henceforth find discomfort in being around. The snow might have provided an excuse not to attend, but now it was melting ferociously. A few spots in the lawn were starting to appear under the trees. When Eddie walked back to the place where he had fallen, water was rushing down into a chasm and, beyond, the creek. The squirrel carcass was gone, either eaten or washed away. The grim resignation he associated with the impending nuptials weighed heavy on his shoulders as he sat, melancholy, on the stump. He trudged wearily back to the house, carefully mounted the still-icy steps, and found electricity coursing once again through the wires and circuits of home sweet home.

The next afternoon Eddie drove to Spartanburg for the marriage of his ex-wife to his ex-friend. Brady slapped him on the shoulder and shook his hand. They lied to each other about keeping in touch. His one conversation with Michele was brief.

“You okay?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah. I’m fine.” He tried to say the four words without inflexion, but the lack of inflexion was an inflexion itself.

At the reception, Eddie felt distant. He was distant from the job he’d held for sixteen years, distant for the stigma of being yet another lifer cast off because he could be replaced so cheaply. He was a symbol of all the others’ career mortality, and they regarded him as if he were bad luck. Maybe he was. Lacking the camaraderie that had once seemed so effortless, Eddie put his effort into getting drunk and succeeded adequately and, thankfully, not spectacularly. He managed to make a small spectacle but not altogether an ass of himself. Then he drove home even though he had no business doing so. No one had even suggested that he find a room or spend the night on their couch. Maybe, as he wobbled out of a banquet hall, someone said to someone else, “Well, I sure hope he makes it home all right.” Probably not. Eddie was old news. All the way home, as he relied on cruise control to abide the speed limit, and it made driving a bit more difficult because no one else did, he toyed with the notion that he was worth more dead than alive.

The next morning, Eddie made his way for a third time to the stump overlooking the wash. He packed his heat again and thought about the snowy safari of small, defenseless animals. He thought of everything he had killed: two squirrels, a rabbit, a red bird, a marriage, a career. The next logical quarry was himself. He looked at the pistol, which he’d never wanted but felt he should possess in the event of a burglar, a home invader, or some other maniacal intruder. He’d proven he could kill, even if it was a silly bunny rabbit, and that he was a decent shot, even if it was a scarlet bird. He didn’t figure he could miss himself, particularly if he stuck the pistol in his mouth.

He got over it. He’d just keep on doing what he was doing, what he’d always done, all that he could do, in spite of that liberal-arts education that had been supposed to provide all those options.

Besides, Eddie Sylva was a practical man, and it would be such a waste of dental work.

 

Like any man I yearn / For some measure of fulfillment / My ambition lies far beyond / Just paying all the bills / As I wonder how the hell / I can make my fortune / My life’s nestled in a valley / Surrounded by hills.

 

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