Kenneth is a rural citizen of Hamilton, Ala., and has begun to observe life and certain things and people helping him to write about them.
An Introduction to the Question
What is Rob’s Life is Really all About?
As many people in the USA, then there are that many
different answers. Probably the hardest question may
be: What is Life all About? What does it all mean? That’s
two questions. I shall deal with one. Only one. Rob’s life.
Much Like the Perfect Clockwork of a Well-Built German Clock and on
every Saturday afternoon around 1, when the July sun was scorching high, and Rob was happy that he had went on First Shift for being able to be off on weekends, to be with his wife, Edna, and be able to take care of his lawn. When he worked on the “Graveyard Shift,” he was too spent when he got home, around 7:30 am., to think about mowing his lawn, much less anything else. Rob, a Middle Class American, with a BS Degree in Computer Sciences, was a master at hiding his problems. Now going on for over four years, Rob had a tough problem, a bone to be chewed, something that ate at him sometimes so much so, that he wept silently. Many of Gen. George Patton confided after WWII, that Patton suffered from mental anguish from things in his past that he couldn’t control. Patton, a trusted aide found out that he too wept silently.
Rob, when “the” problem would bite him—sinking in its filthy tushes in his body, would laugh, grin, and think, if Patton can suffer from things that he couldn’t control, so can I, and make Rob’s life so miserable that he and Edna, his lovely wife, started sleeping not just in separate beds, but separate rooms. A drastic-but-needed move. Edna was not one for grieving over things that Fate cannot change, but inside her soul, she loved Rob although he was found to be sterile. Edna was also not one for “crying over spilled milk.”
Even with their new sleeping arrangements, Rob still loved First Shift and getting to drink ice cold beer after his half-hour of mowing was finished. “Nothing like a cold brew, and getting to gaze at my lawn that has been mowed,” Rob would remark to himself. Edna was not that much of an outside woman. She loved Tea Rooms, Ballet, and books written about Lovers Betrayed. Sometimes she had a dark side, but kept it hid from Rob, who never made any fanfare about being slow-minded.
Then on one certain hot June Saturday morning when Rob had finished mowing his lawn and washed off his brand name riding mower and parked it in his storage building, he popped a top on one of his cold brews and “the” problem hit him again—taking a huge bite of his self-confidence into its teeth. Rob wept silently due to the emotional pain, and that Edna was gone to The Cherokee Mall, to go shopping, one of her main hobbies. As Rob sipped his beer, he thought, how was great it was that “Big Vinny,” was not prodding him when the worked on the Third Shift and Vinny, who weighed every bit of 288 pounds, would torment Rob about men shedding tears being The Weak Animal who always gets eaten.
Little did Rob realize it, but Big Vinny was a girly girl in men’s clothing—and only pushed Rob’s buttons because he was inwardly a coward who did not know how to use his fists either in self-defense or just to reek trouble on innocent people like Rob. Oh, if Rob only knew.
Then, on other afternoons, Tuesdays after work, he would grab a cold one and sit on his favorite place: The back porch where he could think private thoughts and about life issues. And while sipping his beer he would see L.R. Renfroe, 22, unemployed, divorced three times, and Meth Addict, drive up to his shanty-of-a-house, (But it was home, Renfroe would say), in his ‘89 Pontiac Firebird that smoked worse than a circle of “Grass Heads” sitting in someone’s dark basement blazing up as many times as humanly possible, and wave to Rob before going into his home. That wave linked to L.R.’s wide grin was something that Rob valued. He would look at L.R.’s life with all of its external and internal problems and let out a silent sigh of relief and say to himself, I sure do not want to be in L.R.’s shoes.
But just like a freight train that is being ran by a 33-year Railroad Veteran, right on time, every time, “that” problem that was asleep at Rob’s feet would awake angry and carrying a bad mood and bite Rob in the shins sending a harsh message from his brain to his nerve endings. Rob would only grin, laugh, and do more thinking about “that” ONE question . . .”What is The Meaning of Life?”
Rob, bless his soul, had yet to realize that the very next day that he was to mow his lawn, something great, something nicer than nice was about to happen to him and Rob’s life would be complete. So much so that Rob would start thinking about putting something back to others like L.R., maybe Big Vinny as well. Yes, Rob was about to be exposed to What Life Was Really All About.
The next Saturday rolled around and Rob continued working on the First Shift and ceased being gigged by Big Vinny and now, Edna was coming around to letting Rob sleep in his sleeping bag next to her bed in their bedroom. Rob never complained. To him, sleeping in this manner was a first step to fidelity. And if during the course of going that 50-50, Give and Share Part of Marriage did not work, so what? Rob was himself and happy. A divorce although nasty and sad, would not cause Rob to brood on something that he could not change.
Rob whistled as he pushed his brand-name riding mower out of his storage building. He straddled his friend, “Jimster,” the nick-name Rob had given to his mower, and started it up and it was like the mower was singing melodies to Rob as he started on his almost perfectly-manicured lawn; Rob smiled and the two were in perfect union—Man and Machine, what a perfect day.
With the lawn now mowed and the mower washed off and pushed into the storage building, Rob dusted off his hands, walked to the back porch and grabbed a cold one and sat down in his favorite lawn chair. Man, that was hot work, Rob thought. It’s just too bad that I do not sweat. Rob’s thinking although mostly positive, had become a bit off kilter, not staying centered, but he did not pay it any mind. He was glad to have his lawn mowed, a cold one in his hand and Edna just might speak kindly to him when she arrived home from visiting her mom in a town three hours away.
“Hey, you hungry, Rob?” Edna said politely as if when Rob’s thoughts centered around Edna, she appeared.
“Uhhh, yes. Are you?” Rob asked, finishing his cold beer.
“I thought—and this is only an idea, but why don’t you get out the grill that I gave you two Christmas’ ago and you changed shifts so you couldn’t grill for being so tired,” she explained from inside the house.
‘Well . . .if you really want me to, I will,” Rob said standing and holding in his excitement about getting to cook a meal for the two of them—not Rob and “Jimster,” his mower, but Rob and Edna, who had not eaten a grilled meal for months.
Rob was happier than happy. The lawn was mowed; Edna was home and hungry and he had drank one brand-name beer. Life was pre—tty good, he thought to himself pulling the big box with the wording: “Man’s Meal Adventure Grill” Enclosed. Handle With Care—stenciled right on the sides of this box that like Edna said, Rob had went to Third Shift and was so tired when he got home, he just forgot about the grill.
As Rob had to bend over to lift the box over the edge of the storage box. . .there it was. Right in front of him. A multi-colored photo printed with professional paper, no doubt, stamped securely on the very side of the box that Rob believed fate made him look right at the colored photo which had a generic-looking, all-American guy wearing a white chef’s hat and apron grinning wider than most men are allowed and his pretty wife, prim and pretty sitting at their red wooden backyard picnic table and she was engrossed at just gazing at her husband as he looked to be turning the steaks.
“. . .HUN-EEEEE,” Rob yelled without standing upright.
“Rob? Was that you yelling? What’s wrong?” Edna said looking out of the back door to their porch.
“Come here . . .Now,” Rob said so excited that he was ready to burst.
“Uhhh, why, Rob? You know how I am allergic to Kentucky Bluegrass, the kind you use in the lawn,” Edna said halfway irritated.
“Aww, hun-eee! This is really important and I am only asking you to look,” Rob explained and now Edna, who had viewed him almost getting into the grill box, was now in a balletic trot to see what was the matter.
“Look! Do you see this?” Rob said pointing at the man and woman in the picture. Rob’s eyes were not batting, but glued open as the excitement had sank into his spirit.
“Whatttt, is it, Rob?” Edna said with her arms crossed.
“ Okay, you know, well, you don’t know because I’ve never said anything to you—but for the longest time, I’ve been bothered by a super-tough question that has been on my mind for over six months and it was not until I looked at this couple in the picture on this grill box . . . I did not know what the Secret of Life Really Was, Edna,” Rob said weeping uncontrollably.
“Rob! You are weeping! Uhh, I don’t see what you are saying—The Secret of Life?--this man and woman in the photo? Rob, dear, did you drink over ONE beer?” Edna said very sternly.
“No! Don’t you see? It, The Secret of Life is not the man or woman—and maybe not the grill, but look at this couple how happy they are and it’s not anything but their relationship . . .that’s it. Their relationship. That meat on this guy’s grill looks so tasty, but the man is looking at his wife . ..that is it! The Secret of Life is How Husbands Should Look at Their Wives, Edna. Do you see it too?” Rob said sitting on the ground now Edna was sitting on the lawn with him.
“Well, Rob, I have to be truthful, I haven’t thought it all out, but if you’re happy about “Our” relationship, then I cannot argue with you. I really think that this is sweet,” she said giggling.
Edna did not sneeze or heave with congestion while she sat and ate the steaks that Rob grilled himself and she even went inside the house and made some good potato salad—together the two of them were really evolving from a place that Rob had found. A place where both he and Edna belonged.
Rob, who went to clean up the grill, rolled up his flannel sleeves, something that Rob never done because he was modest and lived a modest life.
But this commentary, although written in a slanted American Gothic tone, cannot be finished until . . .Edna who went to the living room after eating half a T-bone steak and potato salad and was now drowsy, just sat in her recliner and turned on their TV to watch the evening news.
Maybe an hour passed; maybe two, Edna will never know. But Edna was shocked awake with this horrific blast from the TV saying, “Try the new, ‘Man’s Meal Adventure Grill,’ comes with FREE utensils shown here; a warming area for up to 76 hot dogs, 22 hamburger patties and 12 Ribye steaks . . .you can own this Super Deal for only Five Payments of $34.95 each, tax included. Do what this man is doing in the photo . . .smiling and enjoying life . . .” the TV announcer said.
Edna looked pale. So pale that she almost phoned 9-1-1, but ran to the storage building for she just had to see Rob.
“Rob! Rob, are you here?” she yelled. Even the neighbors who had never heard her voice, all came running to see what was bothering Edna.
And after realizing that Rob was not going to come back—EVER, she just looked at the lawn. Mr. Jim Sturr, a retired railroad engineer, took Edna’s hand and said, “Edna, is something wrong over here? Can we help?”
Edna just looked off in a whimsical way and replied, “Have you seen THE man in this box that holds our grill? Don’t you think that he favors Rob?”
What did become of “Rob?”
And pray tell what will “we” do with the “Edna’s” who are right now walking around with No Answers to situations such as “Rob,” or “Gene” or some other generic name and some of their manly things such as: Man’s Meal Adventure Grill?
I’m scared right now—really scared.
© 2018 Kenneth Avery