Writers Garret is pleased to feature short fiction by Lori Fitzgerald, a local writer. Lori Fitzgerald is blonde, like Britney Spears, but somewhat older, and has never been linked romantically to either Justin Timberlake or Madonna. This piece was written during A River Runs Through Us writers conference.
By Lori Fitzgerald
The thought of being an empty nester both thrilled and terrified me. As they became teen-agers, both my son and daughter morphed into demon spawn, and I had barely kept my head above water the past four years. Then thered been that trouble with the police. And our stint at rehab.
I survived by counting the months, which became weeks. I treaded water and time passed. My son moved to Champaign, taking his ball of anger with him. Our house became less scorched, a bit calmer. Still, between my daughter and myself, we had enough emerging and retreating hormones to fearlessly tackle terrorists. Colin Powell should have requested us to jump out of a plane over the Middle East. We would have done it for designer clothes. My fears loomed large in regard to my baby girl. Would she graduate? She did. And months became weeks, then days, and she was headed for Macomb, Ill., the college town with the highest number of police per capita. God does have a sense of humor.
Two weeks before she left, I began to worry. OK, part of it was the strange letter stuffed in my mailbox from my SECREAT ADMIRERER. He was either very young or a very bad speller. I panicked. Did I really want to be alone? I knew I no longer wanted to tiptoe around stray bras and underwear, but I hadnt lived alone in 20 years. The men came and went, but there had always been my children. Maybe I should start looking around again, making SOLVENT a priority.
Get a dog, my mother said. Forget men. She had a point. I could go shopping for a dog. It wasnt like I had to wait for one to call. I would get a full-grown dog, already trained. I went to the pound and fell in love with a puppy.
His name is Bernard, I told my daughter as we wrestled her thong underwear from his mouth. And they told me anything on the floor is fair game for him. Hell have fun with your wardrobe. For the first time in years, she reached for a hanger.
A week later, Bernard and I had the house to ourselves.
Is he sleeping with you yet? asked a friend.
Of course not. He sleeps in his cage. We had always had dogs growing up. Well-behaved dogs who were not allowed on furniture, carpets or in bedrooms. But two nights later, I got tired of his crying. Its only temporary, I told him. Ill get you a dog bed soon.
Bernard started out circled in a ball at the foot of the bed. A week later, he became a bigger ball in the center of my bed, forcing me to sleep diagonally. Now he curls up next to me, yes, with his head on the pillow. Snoring gently. Its sort of like being married to someone who doesnt talk much. And chews furniture.
My daughter e-mails daily. My son calls when hes out of money. Its me and Bernard now, and my days are full and busy. The house stays clean, except for a few spots on the rug. No one talks back to me anymore, and if they do, they go in a cage.