by John S
Chris returns to his small town home from the big city hoping to find happiness.
His mother had passed away a few months before and his sister had been after him to help her with their mother’s belonging since the funeral. She wanted to put the house on the market before too long. Their father had died so long ago very little of him remained in the house. Chris had been a freshman in college when his father had passed away so not much was expected from him in taking care of the nasty details after a death in the family. This time things were different, he was in his late thirties. He was a man of the world, twice divorced and living in a studio apartment in the big bad city.
Susan, his older sister, insisted that he help her clean out the house where they had grown up. She was also divorced, but only once, and had two teenage kids. So, he and Susan had spent the last few days painfully packing boxes full of clothes and other household items getting them ready for Goodwill. He’d forgotten how much he liked Susan. Their parents had both worked so as kids they were on their own quite a bit. Susan, being five years older, was almost a surrogate mother to Chris. He liked her kids too. He even enjoyed being in his old hometown, the one-horse town he couldn’t wait to escape after college.
He’d been staying in his old room since he gotten there. Most of his childhood stuff was still there. He thought it might feel creepy staying there, to his surprise, it didn’t. He hadn’t felt as comfortable anywhere in some years. Susan and her kids lived a few blocks away so he’d had dinner at their house every evening. It felt good to sit around the dinner table with people he really liked. It was nice to be with family.
The last box was packed and ready for Goodwill. The furniture would be left behind and have to wait until a larger truck from Goodwill was available. He sat on the couch looking at his tree, enjoying the quiet and feeling somewhat sad. Sad because someone else’s family would be living in this house making their own memories. Susan entered the room and sat beside him on the couch.
“Hey sis, what if we don’t sell this place?” he didn’t know why he said it.
“We have to sell it. It’s such a waste just sitting here vacant. Mom and dad put a lot into this place, they would want some other family to enjoy it. Besides, the taxes will be due soon I can’t afford to pay them, can you?”
“What if I paid the taxes, bought your half, and stayed here?”
Susan looked at him as if he were speaking Martian. “You mean live here? I thought you loved the city Chris. You wouldn’t last a month out here in the sticks.”
“Don’t be so sure. I did love the city for a while. Now I think I only liked the idea of the city. Let’s face it sis after two failed marriages I’m ready for a change. I’ve felt so comfortable here. I feel like I belong in this house. I miss you sis, you and the kids are the only family I have left. I miss being with family.”
Chris could see that Susan was starting to warm to the idea. She loved her brother, as did her kids. He was a successful writer so he could work anywhere and make a living. “Tell you what little brother why don’t you try it out for a while and see if you still want to live here?”
“Sounds good sis. I’ll keep my apartment for a few months, just in case. By the way what’s for dinner?”
Of course, this is the point in the story where everyone is supposed to live happily ever after. Unfortunately, real life has a way of getting in the way. Chris moved in and met the woman of his dreams. Stacy had that small-town charm that his first two wives couldn’t come close to. They met in the post office where Stacy worked as a clerk. Their courtship was quick and to the point. Susan wasn’t so sure about her brother rushing into matrimony, but it was always impossible to tell Chris anything he didn’t want to hear.
Susan was having her own difficulties. Her son, Andy, turned sixteen and turned into a totally new person. Andy had always been an outgoing friendly kid. It seemed to Susan that a switch was turned on inside Andy’s head on that sixteenth birthday. Her sweet, funny, adorable son turned into a secretive, sullen, man-child who reminded her of her ex-husband. The last she heard her ex was doing time upstate for selling meth. Growing up Andy and his sister had very little exposure to their father. It was his choice, he never cared much about anyone but himself so his kids meant nothing to him.
Wedded bliss was short lived for Chris and Stacy. After a few months they were barely speaking. Truth be told Chris was bored, he could only stare at his favorite tree for so long, nothing else was of any interest to him. He stopped writing. Boredom turned into depression, soon even the thought of turning on his laptop or picking up a pen to start a project sickened him. A writer who doesn’t write can’t make a living. The money ran out right around the same time Stacy did.
The bank eventually took the house from Chris. The first thing the new owners of the house did was have that old, ugly tree cut down. Chris moved in with Susan and his niece, Cindy. By then Andy was out on his own. Susan hated to admit to herself that she was almost glad that Andy had left after what seemed like their thousandth argument. She wished Chris would take the same route and get out of her house. He wouldn’t even look for a job, anything but writing seemed to be beneath him. After a particularly nasty argument she didn’t know what had happened to him, suddenly he just wasn’t there on his well-worn spot on the couch. She didn’t spend a great deal of time looking for him.
Chris packed his bag and hitchhiked to the city. He’s now one of those bad smelling, rag wearing, homeless guys you see at Grand Central Station begging for a dollar. Andy became a meth head and eventually started selling it. He’s now doing time upstate with his father. The two have finally bonded. Susan remarried, the guy turned out to be a drunk and a serial abuser.
Cindy went to college and after years of hard work became a doctor. She married a great guy and had two beautiful daughters. Some stories do have happy endings.