A Cullie Decker Original
Dale Total plot: Dale Total is a sentimental narrative about an old man who lived out his dream and now faces death.
I am old. I am lonely and I am scared.
I am eighty-one and my wife just died. She was four days older than I am, and we had so much in common. We loved the same animals, hated the same people, and had the same phobias. We got married when we were twenty-four on Valentine’s Day. Everything was red, pink, and green on that magical day. It was all about red hearts, pink flowers, and the green stems.
My wife’s name was Suzette. I think her name implied youth and adventure. She looked at me one day decades ago and said, “Dale, we need a farm.” We certainly got what we needed. Five weeks later, we had a duck and donkey farm out in the country. It was such an isolated place that we told everybody our neighbors were moths and beetles. We loved country music, jazz, and anything dealing with guns, injustice, and sex. I am no longer interested in sex, and it’s all probably my age. I have death on my mind.
One time Suzette’s mother gave me an uncomfortable glare and said, “I hate you, Dale Total. You are a skinny little punk who is teaching my daughter to hate people. I have to hear Suzette say the word ‘hate’ at least five times a day.”
I looked at her and replied, “I am not teaching my wife to hate anyone. In fact, I’m not sure hate can be taught. Everybody has a little bit of hate in them. I love your hot little daughter, and I would not teach her anything immoral if I could.” Then she yelled, “You are a serpent!” I snapped back with, “You are an ignorant infidel with no soul and your breath smells as fresh as a sewer!”
She marched out of my house and let the screen door slam shut. Our screen door had always slammed shut, but it was much more noticeable when someone left angry. Suzette’s mother told everybody that I am so full of hate that its spread to her daughter like some kind of virus or disease. I have never taught Suzette to hate anybody.
We had a duck and donkey farm, which amused almost everybody to tears. Our home was quickly known as “Dale’s Duck and Donkey Farm” or “3D F” for short. We had thirteen ducks and eight donkeys and the vet’s phone number on speed dial. Suzette and I spent years getting to know each other, and it was odd how much we had in common. I guess our phobias made us seem really odd. We hated heat so much that we joked that we belonged in an igloo. We spent a lifetime trying to find one person who took cold showers like we did.
We were afraid of fire and boiling water. There was something terrifying about those angry flames and bubbling water. Fire and boiling water are furious and brutal. Heat creates a violent energy that will kill! If we weren’t eating out, we were at home listening to rebellious tunes and eating store-bought cupcakes. We lived in the same house for fifty-seven years and never had a stove in the kitchen!
Today, my wife is gone. Everything is gone: my farm, ducks, donkeys, joy. My joy is gone. I lived out my dream for over half of a century, and now it’s all over. I’m so sorry that most people don’t get to live out their dreams. I have always been too lucky. It has always confused me how I have always had everything, and thousands of people have nothing. I suddenly don’t have everything and I feel a pain in my heart. Suzette had an enlarged heart and something went wrong. I always wanted to make some kind of joke about someone’s heart getting bigger and bigger, but I knew it would be tasteless.
I do have a few things. I have thousands of pictures, millions of memories, and a pet monkey. I live in a large apartment across from a nursing home. I think about death all the time. Thinking about death makes me think about Suzette, and then I start thinking about my life with her. My pet monkey is so nosey, and every time I shake my head at him, he shakes his head back at me. That cute little guy acts like a person. My grandson, Shawn, drops by to check on me at 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM. every day. I have a son and two daughters, but they’re too busy with their own farms. Shawn is very loyal and sweet. If you put him in a bright room and quickly turn out the lights, his eyes will still flicker for two seconds. All of my kids got that from me, and then so did Shawn. I wish everybody had that; we would all twinkle in the twilight!
Even though it is not all bad, I still think about death every day. I cannot believe how afraid I am, but I have to say that Shawn is very comforting. I have to see a psychiatrist every other month, and she says that all of my intense phobias of fire, boiling water, and now my impending death are causing me to have tremors. My pet monkey is always impersonating me. He copies whatever he sees me doing. If my hands shake a lot, he copies what he sees. If I pick up my brush and start brushing my hair, he pretends he’s brushing his hair. If I turn on the vacuum, he gets scared and hides in the kitchen sink.
Having him for a pet is not like having a cat or dog. I can’t put a leash on him and let him stay outside. I can hardly imagine what someone might do to him if I left him outside so I can vacuum. Most of the time, Shawn is willing to let my pet hide in his car while I clean. No one can replace Suzette, and that is something I could never have guessed. I was living out a bizarre fairy tale, and my life now seems gone. One day, I’ll probably end up in that dreadful nursing home just outside with no freedom, no pets, and no future. I sit around all day across from that nursing home, and even though I’m sure nice people live there, it’s just not the place for me. The only place for me is with Suzette.
How is a loner like me going to go out and make new friends, when I know for a fact that they won’t be replacing Suzette? What is the point? I want to live in the past, and pretend I’m thirty-seven again. I will be surrounded by people at Death’s door, so all of my new friends will soon be in the next life. I do not know how other people my age survive. I had lots of farmers for friends, and they all had social lives. Suzette and I were happy eating cupcakes and watching sunsets. We had unhealthy diets and we could’ve exercised more, but we were thrilled with doing what we were doing. I can’t imagine anybody doing the same thing for fifty-seven years and being miserable through it all. Life is never that unfair. Right?
Now, here I am with my grandson and my pet monkey. My whole life has suddenly changed. I lost my wife and farm, and it is making me feel old. The wrath of time has taken my extraordinary life away from me and I live at the grim crossroads of gloom and doom. Please help me.
I am old. I am lonely and I am scared.
Story word count: 1,286