Acting the fool. That’s what he planned for. That’s what he presented to those who would come close to him. On a Thursday, he woke up late, feeling the effects of a hangover from the night before. On his bedside table were three scratch tickets and a dime. He had won ten dollars from one of them. The tickets were pink with silver stars and bright font exclaiming promises. Gray scratched surface revealed mostly disappointments but that one square had kept true to promise. Ten dollars. Not much, but enough to give his heart a jolt of satisfaction for a moment. Why was it that when he woke up in the morning he immediately felt dread? The room was cold and the floor below, on top which he must swing his bare feet was made of linoleum and underneath that was cement which held cold. He pushed his face into the pillow and closed his eyes.
Outside his window, an eagle called across the bay. The eagle was resting on a high branch and looking out over the water. The water was calm this morning, a smooth blanket of gray-blue. The heads of seals bobbed up and down far from shore. The eagle was watching the orca whale leap out of the sea to show off its white and black skin and massive body. The eagle considered the whale, before flying off of the branch and diving down to grab a fish out of the water that it had spotted in its peripheral vision. The fish, a pink salmon was flailing and gasping for breath out of the water in the eagle’s mouth, but the eagle just ate it, bite by bite.
The man heard the eagle call out and got out of bed. He dragged himself to the coffee maker and turned it on. Over the kitchen door, his uniform shirt was hanging, from the convenience store. It had the brand of the store “Luckies” and had their store colors, yellow and black. the uniform made him look like a bumblebee. He was fifty and his head was bald except for a few scraggly thin hairs growing from the sides of his head. He had slept in his boxers and walked to the kitchen in them. His mind felt blank and still. He was supposed to get to work early, six AM. It was six at that moment and so he was already late. Probably he’d lose this job, he supposed. He wouldn’t mind that, except that he needed the money. He’d wait for the coffee though, even though he was late. It wasn’t worth it to miss that. They could fire him if they wanted. He could stand to do the job if only he had the freedom to be late and drink his coffee.
He poured the coffee into a mug that was printed with an image of an eagle on a pine tree next to the name of his town and a smiley face. Last week, they’d taken his son away and placed him in foster care. As if he needed another loss. His wife’s death weighed on him. She had been the one to care for the boys, including him. Without her, there was no one in the world who could understand him. He felt so alone. He wanted to feel concerned for his son. He wondered where he was now. He was certain his son wasn’t thinking about him. He felt a blistering heat in his chest when he thought of his son. The one who always wanted more, who asked him to take him to the park, who asked him to pack his lunch, who wouldn’t just leave him be. He didn’t blame his son, but then again who was there to blame? His limbs were tense and coiled. There was no one and nothing to blame for her death. No one and nothing to blame for the stupidity of his useless days. There was no one and nothing to blame for how his life had gone from full to empty in a single moment. His son wanted it to be like before, still lived like there was a fullness to his days and how dare he? He looked at him like he was stupid for working as a cashier. He looked down on him and finally, he felt rage, soaring swooping from his limbs, that propelled him into flight. he would leave the branch of his empty flattened days and feel at last the heat of his fury. He was the eagle chasing his son the fish around the oceanic apartment. For no one could understand his anger, how satisfying it was. They took him away and left behind shame.