Bertie Layman was just trying to find some peace and quiet. That didn’t happen anymore, not since he’d gotten married to the love of his life. He thought his father-in-law’s den would be the perfect place to hide because Maddie said it was repulsive. He liked it, though. It was a man-cave with dark wood-paneled walls and honey leather furniture worn soft as butter. The trophy animals staring at him with dark blank eyes made him feel powerful.

The soft footsteps had passed by the door a couple of times before it slowly cracked open. An irritated face floated through the gloom into his line of sight.

“You need to at least look for a job. My parents aren’t going to let us live here forever, after the baby comes.” She looked down at her swollen belly and her face softened a little, but then her gaze rose up to settle on Bertie’s and her scowl returned. “And shave your face—you know I hate facial hair. It makes you look like you’re homeless.”

“Which I am, actually”, he deliberately stood and walked to the small bar in the corner of the room. He smacked a glass onto the counter and poured himself some rum, never taking his eyes off her sullen face. She hated when he drank.

“You have a Master’s Degree for God’s sake! I can’t believe after all that work you don’t even want to try!” Her cheeks became splotchy and she wiped at her nose with the back of her hand. “You’re going to be a father”, she almost whispered before turning and slamming the door behind her.

He flopped into the chair and stretched out, staring up at the ceiling. Bertie had never seen the abyss before, had never witnessed rock bottom. The interview he’d had at the high school hadn’t gone very well and he didn’t expect a call back. A deep breath shook out of his lungs.

“Dear Man in the Sky—if you exist—otherwise I’m just talking to myself I guess. I know we haven’t talked since I was a kid, but I was wondering if you could do me a favor. I’ve never asked for anything”, he chuckled to himself remembering all those times he had said please and realized he was lying. “Ok, I know, but—I need a job that will pay the bills and make Maddie happy. You know how she is when she’s not happy.”

Bertie sat alone in that savage room and drank rum until the sun set and darkness settled into the corners. The streetlamp was his only light when he finally stumbled out the door.


About Janelle McGuire

My imaginary friends love me
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