When Scott arrived home from a long day at the office, he immediately transformed into military mode, scanning the physical environment for signs of unrest, hints of chaos, indications of insubordination. To a family outsider, it was just another vintage home, but to him, it was a private battleground. It was a place where lacy curtains and potted plants obscured very real—but very extinguishable—threats.
Sometimes the threats were spatial: a knife out of place right here, a chair not pushed in all the way there, a light left on over here. Far from insignificant, these disordered items indicated a fundamental lack of respect.
Other times the threats were auditory, with more noise and nonsense that Scott could feasibly handle at one time. Of course he had to raise his voice to command attention on important family topics. And it had grown worse since his elderly mother came to inhabit the already crowded space. At moments like a willful toddler and others like a heat-stroked vagrant, she cluttered the air with even more senseless chatter.
Half the time, the boys spoke over her. They’d be chattering about the music festival they wanted to visit to next weekend, and she’d be performing a monologue about Elvis in the background. “I remember when I first saw him perform on TV,” she mumbled. “His front thrust was so shocking. I had never seen anything like it. Daddy told us to turn it off, but we didn’t want to.
The worst threats were moral, though. Today, while Scott was away at work, clawing his way into each consumer insurance deal he signed, he was convinced that productivity at home was at an all-time low. Validated upon returning home, quick scans of the computer revealed his wife’s excessive online shopping, while the open Victoria’s Secret catalog in the boys’ shared bathroom meant that neither of them had done any homework to speak of. It seemed to him that he was the only one truly invested in the family’s well being.
As he marched toward the dining room with plans to re-establish order over dinner, he ignored the sharp, razor-edged pains in his chest. With the current state of things, he had much more important problems to worry about.
published 13 May 2015