Along with the other men in the family, Conlin headed for the living room after the feast. With a deep sigh of contentment, he plopped into his recliner as his brothers and brother-in-law began discussing the perks of their respective jobs. Phil, his younger brother, had been promoted to district manager back in August and chattered enthusiastically about his new position.
Conlin could have put in a few comments about his own job — he was happy enough doing what he did in Human Resources and could tell a few tales out of school — but today he didn’t feel much like talking. Maybe he was too full of turkey and trimmings?
No, that wasn’t the whole picture. At the moment Conlin was sated physically and more or less content with his life, his home, his job. Yet he sensed a void but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He brushed the feeling aside, flipped up his footrest and leaned back. Totally comfortable now, he listened to the others until their voices became a fading drone and his eyes closed.
In a dream he saw a long road that stretched before him as far as he could see, with neither curve or hill to vary the route. My path through life, he thought, nice and easy.
Too easy. Same old, mile after mile, day after day.
Next he was running on a treadmill, round and round, like the gerbils he and his boys had watched at the pet store. They made that wheel spin, but they got nowhere. What a life! Anything would be better than this, he thought. Suddenly he spotted an open door on the side of cage. Yes! He jumped up, grabbed the frame and threw himself through the door. Then he was free falling… The sensation made him jerk.
Phil’s voice penetrated his dream. “Dozing off, brother? Too much food?”
Conlin lowered the footrest. “I guess so. Had a dream — you know those ones where you feel yourself falling?”
“Yeah. Wonder what causes those?”
Conlin was awake now, listening to the conversation, but the dream remained in the back of his mind. He saw himself trudging along the road, then running in the treadmill, going round and round, getting nowhere. Did the dream mean anything? Was his subconscious mind trying to send him a message?
Two days later:
Conlin drove his son to the hardware store the Saturday after Thanksgiving so Tyson could pick up paint and nails to finish his birdhouse. As he stood beside the hardware store counter waiting for Tyson to collect everything he needed, another fellow came along and set four identical light fixtures on the counter.
Conlin nudged his arm. “Hey, Larry. Good to see you. What are you up to?”
The man turned toward him. “Conlin, old buddy. How are you?”
“I’m good. And yourself? Are you doing some renovations at your place?”
“Actually, these are going to be for our new club house. A couple of other guys and I have been concerned about the youth in the low-rent housing in the next subdivision. They have no place to hang out, and you know how it is…a lot of single moms…very few male mentors…drug peddlers and gangs looking for recruits. We figure the boys might need a hand if they’re going to stay out of trouble, maybe a supervised place where they can go after school.”
“Sounds like quite an undertaking.”
“Maybe. We can’t save the world, but we decided to do what we could and half a dozen other guys have offered some volunteer time every week. So we chipped in and got us a small abandoned garage on a paved lot. We’ll fix it up, maybe put up some hoops for basketball, that kind of thing. A lot of these boys have been shifted around from school to school, too, and need help with the basic subjects. Come to think of it, you were always a whiz at school. Maybe you’d be willing to put in a few hours now and then?”
Conlin hesitated. It seemed like a worthwhile project — and it would definitely be a new adventure for him. “Tell you what. I’ll come around and have a look at what you’re doing, then we’ll see.”
Almost a year later:
Conlin’s stomach growled as he leaned over the boy studying the textbook. He glanced at his watch. Supper should have been half an hour ago — no wonder he was hungry.
When his stomach growled again, Manny looked up and grinned. “Better fill it up soon, Mr C, or it’s gonna eat ya alive.”
Conlin mussed the lad’s hair and grinned. “I’ll survive somehow. You’re almost done, Manny. Just finish this page and I’ll drive you home.”
“Sure.” Manny got busy on the last few math problems and five minutes later closed his textbook. “All done.”
“Great, buddy! Let’s go home.”
“Thanks for staying and helping me, Mr C. I really appreciate this,” the boy said as he opened the car door.
Conlin climbed behind the wheel. “Glad to do it. You’re worth it, you know.” Manny gave him a huge smile in response.
As he drove Manny home he remembered. “Hey! Thanksgiving is next week. Is your family doing anything special?”
“Maybe going to my grandma’s,” the boy replied. “I hope so, anyway. She knows how to make great mashed potatoes and gravy. Mom’s are always lumpy and her gravy’s like glue.”
“If that doesn’t work out, let me know. Your family’s welcome to join us.” He gave Manny a big wink. “My wife makes good mashed potatoes and gravy, too.”
Conlin dropped Manny off and headed for his own home. His stomach growled again as he turned the next corner. His mind went back to last Thanksgiving Day, to the void he’d felt and the dream he’d had. He may have the same day job, but he’d escaped the treadmill. Yeah, he thought, glancing at his watch again, I may be late for supper sometimes, but life’s a lot more satisfying now.
Word Press Daily prompt: Sated