The Garden, Chapter III

The next morning dawned cold and gray in Vancouver Washington. Inside Apartment C it was cold and gray as well. Charlie emerged from the condition that he called sleep with a headache and no will to move off of the sofa. Neither did he want to go back to sleep. His dreams had been haunted by visions of Stevie riding horseback and playing soccer, Jack at the piano recital and Maureen coming home from work and wrinkling her nose in mock disgust at the perfectly delicious lasagna that he was pulling out of the oven. As is the nature of all dreams there was little cohesion, just a series of disconnected snippets of a life that Charlie could now hardly believe he had once lived.

At last the images of his dreams faded to obscurity and Charlie arose, dressed and got busy filling his mind with something other than painful dreams. He had been tormented by his dreams off and on after Stevie died and as his life melted down, but they had been stilled of late by the numb pseudo-existence into which Charlie had settled. Work, eat, stare at the television, sleep, work again. Not much room in that routine for dreams. This morning, in the aftermath of the unexpected dreams from a happier time, Charlie wished for a return to his numbness. Even his occasional bad dreams failed to cause him the pain that these unwelcome good ones did.

The only food Charlie had in the apartment to was some instant oatmeal and a couple of sausage patties that he had cooked several days ago. He gnawed on the cold patties, unconcerned by their tastelessness and the cold, gray grease that was congealed on the bottom of the unappealing discs. While the water boiled for his oatmeal. A cheap aluminum coffee pot was bubbling on the stove, turning the cheapest coffee he could fine into the bitter brew that Charlie would drink. It was not unlike the bitter life that he now lived. Charlie’s kitchen was a good deal cleaner this morning than it had been for a long time, but it felt to Charlie more like a rebuke than a victory.

“What business do I have with hope?” he asked himself. “All that brings is memories, and memories haven’t been my good friends lately.”

But what was the alternative to hope? The bridge? Charlie shuddered as he thought again of the bridge and how close he had come to taking a final step off of it the night before. Even now he thought of it as possibly the best of a very limited number of realistic options for whatever remained of his life.

The spartan breakfast completed, Charlie placed his bowl and cup in the sink and turned out the light. The remains of the coffee would sit in the pot until evening, when he would reheat it and drink it to the last bitter dregs.

Charlie still owned a few of his once vast set of tools; things necessary to do the small jobs that earned the little that he needed. He kept these in a storage shed near his apartment that he rented by the month. It was to this shed that he drove and extracted the tools that he would need to cut a fiberglass bathtub out from where it rested against a wall. He would also remove the toilet, sink and cabinets, and prepare the room to be put back together. Charlie had once loved doing remodel work. Now it was just a payday.

None of the tools that he needed included the ten pound sledge hammer that rested next to the wall. Charlie remembered the rock that at this moment was resting on the path next to Rachael’s garden plot however, and his promise to break it into manageable pieces. He didn’t feel much interest in that rock right now; in fact, he didn’t give a shit about the garden at all. He regretted that he had ever begun the garden or promised to break up the rock. Still, he had said that he would, so he grabbed the sledge and placed it in the bed of his truck. “Perhaps I’ll need it for something else today” he justified as he rolled away towards the job and the diversion from painful thoughts that he hoped it would provide.

Today however Charlie was only partially successful. Demolition requires less concentration than does construction and Charlie’s mind perversely refused to be quiet. “I’ll be back tomorrow and break up this rock” Charlie had promised. Then Charlie remembered another promise: “I, Maureen Prentiss, take you Charlie Hamer, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health—-“ Maureen had made a promise too. And then that other promise: “Don’t worry Dad. I’m good at this. I’ll be home by dinner.” Yeah, Charlie knew a lot about promises.

Charlie had sawn through the tub and was now trying to remove it in small pieces, one of which stubbornly refused to come out without a struggle. “It must be one of those screw-type nails” Charlie thought, “or somebody put some glue on it before they drove it in.” He picked up his crowbar and placed the curved end as nearly under the offending nail as possible and gave it a full-bodied jerk downward. The nail came out, and the crowbar came down hard with Charlie’s fingers between it and the floor.

“Shit! Damn it! Son of a Bitch!” Charlie howled as the pain crescendoed and a little blood began to seep out of his damaged knuckles. The homeowner was away and Charlie was glad that she had not heard his outburst. He thought of Walt and how he wouldn’t have cared whether she was there or not. “Maybe Walt’s onto something” Charlie muttered softly.

Charlie then went to his truck to retrieve his first aid kit. The bleeding from the abrasions on his knuckles was not bad, but he didn’t want to get blood on the walls or on his clothes, and infection would not help anything either. He poured a little alcohol on the knuckles, making not a sound as the sting set in immediately, and then placed bandages over his wounds. The design on the bandages was “Hello Kitty.” Charlie couldn’t remember where he had gotten those and he

wasn’t inclined to plumb his memory too deeply in order to solve the mystery. He wasn’t sure that he would like the answer.

“You should wear goggles or something” Rachael had told him and now he remembered that warning, and how he had buckled his seatbelt as a result. Today he had driven to work with belt unbuckled as usual, and worked without gloves, and now he had paid for that laxity. “Know-it-all!” he hurled at her memory, but Rachael’s simple human concern for him had moved him once before to take the prudent step of buckling his belt. The memory of that compassion softened Charlie’s thoughts again toward this odd girl who was into religion and growing food and comforting old stray dogs like himself. He looked in the cab of his truck for the gloves that could have avoided the blood, if not the pain, but they were not to be found. They were probably somewhere in the storage shed. “I’d better get those before I screw with that rock” Charlie thought, although later he would forget that resolution.

The day ended with the bathroom cleared of all old fixtures, cleaned up top to bottom and a low step built from wall to wall where a tiled walk-in shower was to replace the cheap, stained tub. The homeowner gave Charlie an advance to cover the next day’s purchase of construction materials and part of his pay. Charlie liked it that way; clean and easy with no loose ends, as he saw it.

Charlie wanted to go home now; not because he enjoyed himself there or even because he was hungry. It was just what he did. He didn’t want to think about much, and he didn’t have to think about much of anything there. He would have to cook something that he would pick up at the store on the way home, but that didn’t require much thought. Maybe fry some hamburgers, boil some potatoes and heat some frozen corn; that sort of thing. Charlie couldn’t remember the last time that he had eaten anything green.

But he had promised to break that damned rock. Charlie put his tools into the back of his truck and climbed into the cab. He started the engine and reluctantly pointed the truck in the direction of the garden. The traffic wasn’t bad and before very much time had passed he came to a stop in a church parking lot across the street from the garden. Walt was there (“Doesn’t that old bastard have a home?”) but not Rachael.

The rock was there too. Big as a house, it looked. Yesterday’s mud had dried, and the formerly wet, brown soil was now a gray covering over two thirds of the thing. Charlie didn’t feel like listening to Walt today, and didn’t want to be seen by Rachael without gloves and goggles. In fact, the more he thought about it as he sat in the cab of his truck, the more he realized that he didn’t want to see Rachael at all.

Charlie was surprised at that and pondered it for a while. She was a nice kid and all, but what did she have in common with him? Young, optimistic, probably had a good boyfriend who wanted to be her partner for life, or would have one soon enough. It was not like he had any sort of romantic notions towards Rachael. Charlie wouldn’t have believed that such a capacity remained inside of him, if he chose to think about it at all. It was just that Rachael represented many of the good things that Charlie could no longer claim to have access to. Rachael represented a fullness of life that highlighted the emptiness of life that was Charlie Hamer. The very idea of Rachael caused Charlie pain in the same manner that his good dreams had caused him pain the night before.

Even watching old Walt caused Charlie’s emptiness to grow. He was not an attractive fellow but he had cut his own deal with life. He cursed and leered at Rachael and didn’t show as much as one soft edge, but he seemed content to proceed with life as it came to him. It didn’t seem to Charlie that Walt cared a lot about life, but he didn’t hate it either. Charlie decided that he was not ready to

deal with Walt or the rock or Rachael. They all stirred up thoughts and feelings that he was trying to avoid. He started up the engine and drove to the shed, then to a store for that night’s meal, and finally home. His safety belt lay unbuckled on the seat beside him.

Arriving home, Charlie exited his truck and walked up to the front door of his apartment. The mother who had been sitting on the porch yesterday was nowhere to be seen, but Charlie probably wouldn’t have seen her even if she had been seated at her previous post. He entered his apartment and set to preparing something to eat. It was the predicted fried hamburger patties, but only with a can of blackeyed peas to go along with them. He cooked the burgers and then began to eat the unseasoned meat out of the skillet. He ate half of the peas and then left the mess where it lay.

Charlie plopped in front of the television again with the volume turned low and stared at the moving images, trying to get his mind to quiet down. He tried to resume the numb equilibrium that he had achieved over the past year. It hadn’t been much, but it had helped him to keep his sanity. The effort was in vain.

No arguments came through the open window tonight; only cool air as the clouds which had parted late in the morning came back to reclaim mastery over the Vancouver skies. Afternoon bled into evening and Charlie fetched his blanket to keep out the chill, dank air. Closing the window did not occur to him.
Wrapped up in his blanket sleep overcame him, and Charlie slept with his head lolling against the side wing of his chair. The images on the television screen flickered all night, making little sound and entertaining nobody.

In the morning Charlie was stiff and utterly unready for the day. The television was still on and Charlie turned it off. Now the apartment was still and silent, without color or motion or anything like life. Charlie saw that it was nearly nine o’clock and was surprised that he had slept so late. Hell, he was surprised that

he had slept at all. There had been no repeat of his dreams. No visitations from his lost family had come to him in the night. For this he was both pleased and at the same time saddened even further. He picked up his phone and called the homeowner where he was working and said that he was not feeling well. He wouldn’t be coming in today, and hoped that he could make it tomorrow.

“I hope that I can make it tomorrow” Charlie had said. “I hope I can make it UNTIL tomorrow is more like it” is what he thought. Charlie sat in his chair nursing those and similar thoughts for much of the rest of the day. Hunger grew, but he had no energy to make something to eat. He found no joy in eating, and it just took more energy to fix something and eat it than it was worth, so he sat in his chair and did nothing, trying to make his mind stop its brooding on things lost.

His appetite Charlie could ignore, but not his bladder or bowels. By five in the afternoon charlie had to take a dump. “Maybe I’ll just sit here and shit my pants” Charlie thought. “Nobody is here to tell me I can’t.” The image of Walt came to mind; vulgar, uninhibited, not caring what anybody thought of him. Walt would shit his pants if he felt like it. “I can too. Or maybe this is when I go off the bridge. How about that? With this brick in my ass I’ll probably sink like a stone.”

The bridge once again captured Charlie’s mind, and he forgot about his bowels and what lurked within them. He simply could not go on this way any more. Anything that looked like hope, or peace, or comfort, was just a fading memory or a mirage. It was similar to people who had lost the use of their legs. Memories of dancing, climbing a tree, or running along a beach were sources of torment rather than comfort. Rachael could go home, make a cup of tea and read a book. Maybe her Bible. Walt could sit in a bar, hoist a mug of beer and leer at the young women. Charlie didn’t really know if either of them did those things but he imagined that they could, and he imagined – no, he knew – that he had nothing like that sort of freedom in his life.

Pain was his lot. Pain was his now. Pain was his tomorrow. Numbness was only an illusion. Pain had lain incubating under the cover of a false numbness and now this illusion had been torn off to expose the raw, suppurating wound that was Charlie’s life. It was stupid, thinking that he could ignore this hungry and devastating truth; like putting one of his “Hello Kitty” bandage strips over a leper’s sore. No matter what he did, the pain lived. It was all that Charlie could ever hope to feel, and there was only one way to put an end to it.

Charlie pushed himself up out of his chair and almost leapt for the door. Now that he had realized there was no other answer he longed to get to the highest point on the bridge, near the middle of the wide Columbia River and get it over with. The north end of the bridge was only three or four blocks from his apartment, and he made his way through the last gloom of the evening in only a couple of minutes. A light drizzle had begun and it was cold, even though this was a spring day. Once Charlie stepped onto the bridge the southbound traffic was only a few feet from his left ear, and the noise should have been almost deafening, but Charlie didn’t really hear it. He walked on with urgency, eager to get to the place that he had imagined hundreds of times before. Thousands of times maybe.

Charlie almost ran the last fifty yards that separated him from that gateway to peace through which he had made up his mind to cast himself, and at last he arrived. Night was almost fully upon him, and the river was a silver ribbon flowing beneath his feet and off into the west. Directly below him the water was shadowed by the gloom underneath the bridge and could be heard churning around the concrete piers that supported the middle span of the bridge.

Charlie leaned over the rail, and as he did so he saw images come to him out of the dark. Stevie came first, bubbling with life and shining her ebullient soul light into all dark corners that dared come into contact with her world. Then

Maureen, who had stood by him as he built a company, and who he had stood next to and spoke comfort to as first Stevie came into the world, and then Jack.

And then Jack. The sad eyed boy who preferred the piano to playing football. The boy who wanted to be like Dad and would hang out around Dad, but who was not good with a hammer or the rowdy play of classmates at school or the other kids at the neighborhood park. Charlie had always been busy, and didn’t spend a lot of time with Jack. Not nearly as much as he should have. Jack looked back from the swirling water and spat at him.

“Why wasn’t I good enough for you?” he accused “Why did I have to be something that I am not? Why couldn’t you spend some time with me? What did I ever do to you that made you turn your back on me? Why couldn’t you answer my questions? WHY DID YOU LET STEVIE DIE?”

There it was! From the mouths of babes. “Why did you let Stevie die?” “Well, why did I?” Charlie asked himself. Jack’s face Stevie’s returned, but it didn’t stay his vibrant and lovely Stevie for long. Gashes appeared across cheek and forehead. The beautiful, roundish face that he had loved morphed into the bloated, pale blue face that he had identified at the morgue as being that of his dead daughter. The full lips that had seemed always to be framing a smile now formed a blue slit, one corner torn where fish, or possibly crabs, had made a meal. Those cold, dead lips parted and spoke: “Come on Dad. I’ve been waiting for you for two years. Why do you leave me looking like this? Come and join me and I will be young and beautiful again. I will be your daughter again.”

Charlie leaned further over the rail, stretching his head downwards toward the dead daughter whom he could now see from head to toe. She was whole, blue and bloated, and bumping up against the concrete pier. “Come to me Dad. I need you. You weren’t there for me before, so come to me now. I need you now more than I needed you then.”

“Yes” hissed a second voice. “Do something right for once in your life.” It was Maureen. Her face glowed in the ripples of the river, and it pulled him further over the rail as if it was a magnet. “You said that you would be a husband and a father, but what were you really? A failure! A failure! A failure who wouldn’t save his own daughter! All of your money! All of your success! What was it good for? Jump. Jump, you bastard. Jump, damn you, and save your daughter!”

Charlie could hardly breathe, and decided that there was no point in breathing anyway. He would have scant need of breath in a couple of moments. Charlie coiled the muscles in his legs, reading himself to spring over the rail, and as he did his one last thought before he left the world was how a rock tied around his leg would guarantee success, and a guarantee of success was something that was important to someone who was usually a failure. The image of a rock formed instantly in Charlie’s mind, tied by a short rope to his ankle, but on the end of that rope was the rock that currently lay on the path next to Rachael’s plot at the garden. He stopped at the very moment of his leap at the thought of that rock.

“Come on Dad” Stevie cried out from her watery place against the side of the pier. “Yes” sneered Maureen from her shimmering manifestation in the waters below him. Are you going to fail again? Jump, coward!” Now even Jack had joined into the chorus. Charlie couldn’t see him but he heard him. “Won’t you help Stevie? Won’t you finally try to make me happy? Die Dad. Die!”

Charlie edged back again toward the rail, but as he looked over it this time he saw the rock; the rock he had promised Rachael he would break up. Then he heard Rachael ask him to keep his word. “You said that you would do it, and I certainly can’t. I trusted you then and I still do. I could ask Walt, but I would rather not. He makes me uncomfortable. I need your help Charlie.”

Stevie, Maureen and Jack began to hurl threats and curses at Rachael, who vanished into the darkness. Charlie pushed back from the rail, nearly fainting from the extremity of his anguish, and fell backwards, coming to rest against a steel girder. The spell, or whatever it had been, was broken. Now there was just a middle aged man sliding down the steel girder to wind up seated on the concrete walkway that lay a girder’s width outside of the traffic, coming to rest on his butt and sitting in the large pile of shit that now filled his underwear.

Charlie was dazed, only dimly aware of the malodorous pile of feces in which he was resting or the urine which drenched the front of his pants. The voices though were gone; silent, for the moment at least. He sat there staring into the pitch dark night sky, and felt something snap in his heart. The tears began again but not in response to some physical pain or even some thought of deeds; deeds undone or done wrongly. Charlie felt something like a steel band that had been getting tighter and tighter around his chest for the last two years finally release, and he felt as if he could truly fill his lungs with clean air again.

That sense of release, and an approximation of peace that accompanied it, swept into Charlie’s heart and mind and produced an unstoppable torrent of tears. These were healing tears though. There was at least a hint of joy and hope in those tears. Stevie was still dead. Maureen lived in another state and could be even at that moment in the arms of another lover, and Jack still thought that his father was a loser and a failure, but Charlie still had a purpose even if it was only breaking up that rock, and at least one person who cared if he lived or died and in fact even needed him, even if for such a small reason. That, it seemed, would be enough to get him through one more night.

Charlie sat back against the girder and let the tears flow. In a way, he was sad that he was still alive. The hard battle still lay before him, and he had no idea if he had the strength to win it. In some way however, a way hard for him to

explain, he was glad that he still lived to fight that battle. As the tears began to slow their progress down his face Charlie kept seeing the rock that could have carried him to the bottom of the river, but instead seemed to have brought him back up to the top.

“Man, you look like shit” came a voice out of the night that cut through Charlie’s reverie like truth through a lie. “You smell like it too. You just try to jump?” The voice belonged to a black guy of indeterminate age, homeless by the look of him. Charlie wasn’t in a mood to judge anybody and had no energy left to fuel any lies.

“Yeah. Looks like I don’t have the balls to do it though.”

“Well, I don’t know nuffin’’ ‘bout your balls, but I’d say you made a good choice.”

“How the fuck would you know” asked Charlie, using rare profanity.

“It’s just that life is precious. Warn’t yours to throw away. You chose to stay alive. You smarter ’n you look.”

Charlie stared at this apparition with a mixture of amazement and annoyance. “Where the hell did you come from?”

“I was watchin’ to see if you were goin’ to do the deed. You ain’t the first loser I watched off hisself, here or somewhere else. I sure did think you was goin’, too! How come you didn’t pull the trigger?”

Charlie just continued to stare at this interloper onto the scene of his crisis. At last he said “Look. I’m not having the best night of my life. In fact, I’ve had a pretty screwed up last couple of years. If you don’t mind I’d like to be left alone right now.”

“Yeah, I s’pose that’s so” the black guy replied. “In fact, bad as you stink, I s’pose leaving you alone is good advice. Hah! And they say that I stink! Hoo boy Dog, you sure done got me beat by a mile. Before I go I’m gonna tell you

something though. White as you are, all them good cards done fell into your hand. What you sniveling about? Somebody walk out on you? Somebody rip you off? Somebody die? Shit, that stuff happens every day of the week. Ain’t nuffin’ new, and ain’t no big deal. Death be part of the drill Bro, and you ain’t the first boy, black or white, what life’s put a big-ass whuppin’ right alongside yo big melon haid. Won’t be the last neither. So I recommend that you jump yo punk white ass off this bridge or get on home and clean up. You smell like the Devil hisself.

Charlie wanted to argue but he was tired. Besides, he knew that he really did smell like shit! He leaned forward to grab the rail and then, instead of pulling himself over it, he pulled himself upright, stabilizing himself in order to walk back to the north side of the bridge and back to life. Charlie turned to deliver another criticism to the homeless man but saw the back of that worthy gentleman walking away from him, already a dim figure heading towards the south side of the river.

Charlie regrouped and look one last time over the railing. Below there was nothing but water which Charlie could not see. The water, as the current divided around the one hundred year old pier and then continued, reunited, on it’s way to the sea some seventy miles to the west, could only be heard. Faces filled neither the evening sky nor the darkened river. No homeless black man stood on the pathway dispensing rough wisdom. Only a tired, broken, very smelly white guy stood on that pathway and looked in the darkened direction in which the river flowed.

Maybe that was a metaphor for his life, Charlie thought. Standing on the brink of suicide, staring into a future obscured by darkness, while covered with shit. “Yeah, that pretty much describes me” Charlie thought. The major question of course was where did he go from here? Charlie looked one last time over the rail, thinking that the water below might be very hospitable to fish and seals and

other creatures of the water, but it was not especially friendly to humans. Then he looked back at the lights of Vancouver and saw life, pulsing and optimistic, and he reflected on how little that description resembled himself. And then Charlie caught a good wiff of his own aroma.

That was shit. No dodging around that odor! That turd that Charlie should have expelled hours ago had blown out into his shorts when he was about to take a nose dive into the Columbia. The faces he had seen and the voices that he had heard were very likely not real, he now believed, but log he had dropped in his underwear would not admit to second guessing. Charlie had a lot to think about; to process. But right now what he wanted to do the most was get the stinky soiled clothes off of his body.

Walking home completely under the radar was not possible, but to Charlie’s relief only a few people passed him along the way. He didn’t look back to see their reactions to the stench that followed him like a banner. In fact, by the time charlie got home he was proud of that stink. “That’s the price I paid to stay alive one more night” he thought. “I could have jumped and not given it a second thought. But I did give it a second thought and then a third, and at the end of things I smell like shit, but I smell alive. That will have to be enough for now.”

Charlie arrived at his apartment complex and walked his fragrant ass right up to his door, grossing out several apartment dwellers who were close enough to smell him on his way. He unlocked his door, walked into the bathroom and then stripped off his soiled clothing which he then stuffed into a trash bag. He started the shower and didn’t wait for the warm water to come. Cold, warm, it didn’t matter. The water would wash him clean of his filth no matter the temperature, and Charlie wanted to be clean more than anything he could think of. The cold water hit him and he flinched, but as it slowly warmed up Charlie turned again and again, first front and then back and then front again.

The cleansing water washed over him, and then the soap bubbled as he scrubbed himself again and again, washing shit and sweat and tears and mountains of grief off of himself. Of course, there were more mountains of grief left to take their place, but for tonight, this night, it was enough to lift ever so slightly the pall of guilt and dread that had held Charlie down for more time than he wished to remember.

After finishing the shower Charlie toweled down and got into some clean clothes. He carried the trash bag full of shitty clothes outside and pitched it into the big dumpster in the back of the parking lot. A vision of the homeless man who he had met on the bridge diving in this dumpster crossed his mind and he smiled at the vision of him opening THAT bag. Charlie then returned to his apartment and dug into the refrigerator. A pound of bacon and some eggs remained from what he had purchased earlier in the day. Charlie cooked up two eggs and half of the bacon and wolfed the whole thing down with gusto.

After eating Charlie looked over at the television but decided not to turn it on. “Ain’t nothing but shit to look at” he reasoned to himself, “and I’ve been covered with enough of that for one night.” Instead, Charlie washed the day’s dishes and then sat in the chair in his silent living room. He had no interest in the television, and jumping off of any bridges would have to wait for another, more desperate night. “I’ll take a walk” he decided, and stepped out into the damp air of the Vancouver night.

Charlie walked along the sidewalk toward the light of downtown, drawn to the life that he knew throbbed among the businesses which clustered there. Along the way he became aware of the life that went on behind the windows and doors of the few downtown houses that hadn’t been converted into offices for lawyers, architects and bail bondsmen. As Charlie walked along the streets, he saw the light pour out of those windows. Inside the houses people could sometimes be

seen through those windows. On window showed an elderly couple watching the television and having a glass of wine, or maybe some other drink. In another, two small children were wrestling with their father on a sofa, while a mother held her infant and looked upon her brood with a big smile. The serenity that Charlie saw through those windows and the love; yes, the love, were not a rebuke to him tonight like they would have been only a few hours earlier. In fact, he took comfort from it.

Charlie came to the Catholic cathedral and stood outside, watching as people came for the evening mass. He stood in the shadows, not inclined to enter himself but once again feeling comfort as he watched the people walking up the stairway and into the building. Charlie didn’t enter the cathedral tonight but was glad that it was there and was offering comfort to those who chose to enter therein, or even watch from a distance.

After standing in the shadows for a while Charlie moved on, past O’Tarnahan’s Irish Pub, past Luigi’s Pizza and Suds, past the Guild Theater. Within all of these establishments was life, and Charlie felt no animosity toward them for it. He was tempted to enter some of those establishments but didn’t feel quite ready for that much stimulation. Instead, he turned and walked back to his apartment. Inside, the apartment was clean, his old, fouled clothes were outside in the dumpster, and there was little to do but go to sleep.

And that is what Charlie did. Stretching out on the sofa by the window Charlie felt the warmth of his blanket as a contrast to the cool and damp night air. Outside the window Charlie could hear the rain begin to fall. Tonight however, the rain did not seem to be a reflection of the emptiness of his heart falling upon the travesty that was his soul. Tonight it was just rain. Water falling out of the sky, refreshing the plants growing in the good earth. Probably good for his garden. Charlie decided to go see if that was the case when he finished work

tomorrow, just before he fell into a deep and, for the first time in a long while, refreshing sleep.

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