MARIO ALIBERTO III
Tuesday May Never Come
Grief is a persistent theme in my work, and I’m constantly examining how loss affects us. In this story, I began writing about an elderly man losing his wife, and I considered how devastating it must be to be the one left behind. Breaking a rule of writing, Law & Order happened to be playing on the television in the background as I worked on this story, and the concept of detectives having new partners during their careers meshed with the story I was telling. I thought that must be a loss in itself, a detective losing a partner, but on television a new partner always shows up, and off they go working the next case. I wondered what my grieving husband would do if presented with an opportunity to form a connection with another elderly resident, if he’d be brave like the detectives on television, and take a chance on a new partner, on beginning again.
The Price is Right is on television in the media room again, and no matter how many times Bernie’s seen it, he can’t guess the price of a can of Hunt’s tomato sauce to save his life, which Laura teases him about every time he gets it wrong, and she guards the remote on her wheelchair’s armrest where he can’t reach it from the couch, hasn’t been able to reach it in the three months since his kids sold his house and abandoned him at Suncoast Senior Living, where Laura is always first to the media room and the remote, and he wants to complain about how unfair it all is to Patty, his wife of fifty-something years, who knew the exact dates of the kids’ birthdays, the anniversaries, all the grandkids’ names and ages, just like she would have known he doesn’t want to watch The Price is Right because Law & Order reruns are playing on another channel, the original L & O, none of those spin-offs which he hates, and Patty would know what day it was, because all Bernie knows is it isn’t Tuesday, because if today were Tuesday, Laura would be wheeled off to bingo with her clucking girlfriends, and he’d have the remote on the couch next to him, and he could play detective for a little while, solve cases with Detective Briscoe, the grizzled vet who doesn’t have time for anyone slowing him down as he hunts murderers and brings them to justice, and Bernie wonders who Detective Briscoe is partnered with this episode, he’s had a few partners over the years, and on Tuesdays that’s how it is for Bernie, he’s the new partner, and Det. Briscoe assesses him, wondering if he’s up to snuff, if he has what it takes, what horrors he’s seen, and Bernie could tell him about his thirty years on the road as a corporate accounts manager for a national coffee chain, and true horror is all the time he spent away from his family, and when he thinks back on the years the images cycle through many things he wishes he could forget, peeking over the curtains during Patty’s three C-sections, watching the doctors pull the babies past her intestines, wondering if she’d ever be put back right, or Patty’s voice on the phone calls to him on the road, the phone call when their oldest boy cut his wrist in their bathroom, or the phone call the first time their baby girl returned home with a purple bruise on her cheek and claimed she fell, or the phone call about how their middle-child moved out in the middle of the night without saying goodbye, or how after fifty-something years he rose out of bed one morning and Patty didn’t, though they agreed when it was time for them to go he should go first, how after all those years of being a husband, a father, he didn’t know how to be either, and all those retirement years of watching Law & Order reruns he didn’t have the first clue what to do when he couldn’t wake his dear, sweet Patty, didn’t know which of his kids to call or if they would answer, didn’t know how to tell them, didn’t know how to talk to them, had never really talked to them, and what does he have to say other than he’s sorry, it should be him, but before he can tell Det. Briscoe any of that and settle the question of his fitness for duty, they’re grabbing their suit coats and rushing out of the precinct, because there’s always another body on Tuesday, another case to solve, and he knows to stay close because Det. Briscoe knows exactly what to do, who to call, what comes next, he’s a great partner, and Bernie hasn’t had a new partner for fifty-plus years, and yes, he could ask Laura to change the channel, could tell her all about Tuesdays and the cases he investigates while she’s stamping green ink on numbered squares, how life is unfair, how little people value it and how quickly it can be taken away, how one day will be the last day he watches Law & Order, and he’ll be under a sheet and his life will remain a mystery he was never able to solve, and Bernie turns to Laura, and her head slowly creaks in his direction, and she’s squinting at him, hand on the remote, studying him as if he’s a prize on the Showcase Showdown she’s never seen before, while he wonders if she’s up to snuff, if she has what it takes, what horrors she’s seen.
Mario Aliberto III is a Pushcart-nominated writer whose work is forthcoming or published with The Sonora Review, Rejection Letters, Tahoma Literary Review and others. He lives in Tampa Bay with his wife and daughters, and yet the dog still runs the house. Find him on Twitter @marioaliberto3.
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