Jack Altomare unlocked the front door of the condo and stepped inside. His wife, Charlotte, was stretched out on the couch in the living room reading a book. The hinges on the door squeaked as Jack closed it and she lowered the book to look across the room at him.
“Oh, hey.” Charlotte said.
Jack smiled and turned the deadbolt back into place. “Hi.” He said.
“How was work?”
He rolled his eyes and dropped his keyring onto the small table next to the door. “A waste of time for the most part, still don’t have any new leads.” Jack said.
“I know. How’s the new book?”
“Eh. Not what I expected. I get so sick of fiction sometimes.” She had moved to a sitting position while folding the corner of the page down where she had left off. She closed the book and slid it onto the coffee table.
Jack crossed the room to where she was sitting. He reached out and gently pinched her left earlobe. “You look about as cute as a bunny eating a dandelion.” He said.
Charlotte chucked. “Um, thanks, I think.”
Jack leaned over and kissed her on the forehead, then turned and walked toward the hallway, the bathroom.
“Missed you!” She called.
“Missed you too.” He said. “I have to jump in and out of the shower, it’s already a hundred degrees out there and I was sweating the whole way home.”
She could hear him turning on the water and getting a towel out of the cupboard as she walked over to the open bathroom door. He had already removed his shirt and socks and was just unfastening his belt when he realized he was being watched.
“Would you like to join me?” He said.
“No. But I did want to show you something when you get out.”
“Oh yeah?” He winked at her.
“No, nothing like that. I was going through some old boxes in the art studio today and I found something that I think you’ll get a kick out of.”
“Why were you going through stuff in there?” He moved the cloth shower curtain back and stepped under the water.
Charlotte shrugged. “I get bored on my days off and it was too hot to do anything outside.”
“Okay, be out in a second.” Jack said.
She switched the overhead fan on and closed the door.
* * * * *
Jack found her sitting at her computer in the makeshift office they had set up next to the kitchen.
“What is it you wanted to show me?” He said.
“Hold on a second.” Charlotte said. She paused the game she was playing on the computer before standing up and leaving the room. She returned a moment later and handed him a photograph.
“Whoa.” He said. He took hold of the photo and looked down at it.
“That was in a box with a bunch of old papers.” Charlotte said. “I sat and looked at it for a while. Brought back a ton of memories. That taken around the time that we first met, right?”
“Yeah, it was.” He said. “Jeez, look how young I was!” An expression of sadness flashed momentarily across his face and then quickly vanished. He stood in silence and studied the photo for a full minute and then handed it back to her.
“Pretty crazy, huh?”
“Yeah, those were the good old days.” Jack said. “It really wasn’t that long ago, but a lot has changed in the last fifteen years. That was before there were security cameras everywhere. Before drones and spy blimps and control freak crap like that– When the economy was good and a job was easy to find.” He looked down at the floor and frowned. “We really took our freedom for granted back then, I guess.”
Charlotte shrugged and sat the picture down on the desk next to her computer. “Well, at least we lived it up.” She said.
Jack chuckled. “Good point. I just get so tired of all this fear casting a shadow on people everywhere. I just want to see them snap out of their trances and start acting like free Americans again.” Jack walked to the refrigerator in the next room and grabbed a can of iced tea. He popped the top and drank half of the can’s contents in three long gulps.
“These guys at work, you wouldn’t believe it–” He said. “They are all grown men and they’re constantly talking about all of these comic book movies that are coming out! Constantly, they’re obsessed! Like kids talking on the playground. They have to turn to fictional heroes because they can no longer identify any in reality! How sad!”
“Yeah, seems like a lot of the guys are having difficulty ‘manning up’ these days.” Charlotte said. “Not you, but you know what I mean.” She had joined him in the kitchen. The old photo was clutched in her hand again. She used a magnet to hold it in place on the side of the refrigerator.
“I thought I had lost that photo.” He said. “That was around the time that I first started selling artwork and living on my own.”
“You were around seventeen then?”
“Yep.” He smiled. “What are we doing for dinner?” He said.
“I was going to make that one pasta dish you like with the mushrooms and something to go with it.” Charlotte said.
“Mmmm. Sounds good. You know what? I have tomorrow off and I think I’m going to sit down for a few hours after we eat and work on my novel.”
“I was wondering when you were going to pick it back up again. We’re not exactly getting any younger, you know…”
“That’s true.” Jack said. He suddenly realized that was standing under the clock on the kitchen wall and that he could clearly hear the tick – tick – tick of the second hand as it moved. He twisted around and squinted up at it.
[Original writing & photography by J. E. Lattimer]
© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved