Love is a four-letter word

mail room

He was down in the mouth.

His buddy Horace saw him sorting letters in the mail room, read the look on his face and sidled next to him.

“It can’t be that bad,” Horace said.

“It is,” Montrose replied.

“Betty?”

Montrose sorted a few more letters.

“What’d she do this time?” Horace asked.  He already knew.

“She’s leaving me.”

“But you’ve been together so long.”

“Nineteen years, five months and three days.”

Horace took one of the bags in the mail room, cinched it closed, replaced it with a clean sack made of heavy, thick cotton, its texture rough but versatile.

Montrose waited for him to place the bag in its assigned spot, tossed another letter in as soon as Horace moved his hands.

“She said it was time,” he said.  “I couldn’t argue with her.  I know she’s right.”

“You remember when the same thing happened to you?”

“I do.  I didn’t realize at the time how hard it was on other people, people who loved me.  I just acted like it was a walk in the park.”

“It was.  It’s the way life goes,” Horace said. “One day you’re at home with your folks, acting a fool, eating your mom’s cooking.  The next you’re a man.”

“Or a boy who thinks he’s a man.”

“There isn’t much difference between the two,” Horace said.

“Just the difference between life as we’ve known it and life as it will become,” Montrose said.

full sail university students

“What does your wife think about it?”

“We can’t talk about it.  I think we have an unspoken pact.  Maybe next week we’ll let something slip, ease into it, laugh more than we cry.  I don’t know.”

Horace stood next to his friend, the man he had worked with for more than twenty years, longer than Betty had been alive.

“I’ve been there, Montrose,” he said.  “My boy left on a baseball scholarship, blew his arm out the second week of practice.  He lost his scholarship, but found that home was where he hung his hat, not where he grew up.”

Montrose looked at the letters in his hands, laid them on the counter, put his palms on the bench and leaned forward, his head slumped.

“I remember,” he said when he lifted his head. “It was the same with me. I thought I was going off to a new place to get an education.  Really I was learning what it meant to be my own person, for what that’s worth.”

“It’s worth a lot,” Horace said.

Montrose picked up the letters and began sorting them again.

“I suppose,” he said.

Montrose’s cell phone rang.  It was Betty.

“How you doing, sweetie?” he said when he answered.

Horace watched the expression on Montrose’s face as he listened to Betty’s reply.

“I know, baby.  You’re going to have a great time.  We’ll get everything packed tonight and be ready to leave early in the morning.  Tell momma I’ll bring some supper on my way home.”

Montrose ended the call. He looked at Horace.

“What’s a man to do?” he asked.

“Just what you’re doing, old friend.  Just what you’re doing.”

Montrose nodded, sorted a few  more letters, sat down on his stool and stared at the clock until it was time to go home.

 

 

 

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