Pickled

"Many reports have said that—"

Click.

"—More death and destruction as—"

Click.

"What up, homies?"

Click.

"I mean—"

Click.

Click.

Click.

"Hurricane Rita is now heading towards—"

Click.

Fred listened to the silence following the pressing of the power button. It was serene, calming. But it was no more than an illusion for his senses that his soul was at peace. He knew that…

Sighing, his joints groaned as he got up from his "TV chair," a giant blue chair/couch that had belonged to his father. It was comfortable; very comfortable. It could always get him to sleep if he was having trouble.

Well, except for this night, that is.

He grunted as he heard his shoulder crack loudly, but he welcomed the physical pain: anything to distract his distraught mind.

The sound of a police car screamed past his window, but he took no notice, not even flinching as the invasive sound wailed in his ears.

The lights and sound faded into the distance, once again leaving the insomnia-stricken man in dark silence.

The sound of his foot landing on the tile floor of his kitchen seemed louder than usual, he thought. He stopped walking for a moment, tapping his foot lightly against the floor experimentally.

TAP tap tap tap tap tap…

TAP tap tap tap tap tap…the floor echoed with each light touch, the sound ricocheting from rotted cabinet to refrigerator to wall and finally out the door to where the TV and blue chair sat.

He had never felt so alone.

Even his shadow had abandoned him in his time of need, blending into the dark caverns between the appliances, disappearing from sight, fulfilling the wish of this man who would never get it.

He let out a tired sigh, and slugged his way over to the refrigerator. There was nothing there. At least nothing that he particularly wanted. Its contents consisted of old steaks, a half-rotted carrot, cabbage, some sandwich supplies, and numerous unknown items that had expired months ago.

He grabbed a pickle jar out of the door rack and closed the fridge door roughly for reasons he didn't understand. The fridge's contents rattled somewhat, and somehow it calmed him slightly. He nearly laughed at the sheer stupidity of it all.

Fred unscrewed the lid to the jar, and picked up a pickle slice as if to pop it in his mouth, but stopped. He raised it up to his face, looking at it closely.

A light flickered on over his head as he grabbed a knife from out of the drawer. With three quick motions, the knife stabbed into the pickle; then he withdrew it.

He stood for a moment, panting slightly at the emotional exertion he had just withstood. Before him, his creation, however horrendously stupid it might have been, rested in his hand.

It was a face.

Fred stared at it for a few moments. It certainly wasn't a masterpiece: the mouth wasn't even, and the whole thing smelled like…well…pickles.

So much like the "pickle breath" his wife had on occasion in the morning.

The mouth of the crooked face wasn't pouting like the classic yellow unhappy face. But the lips weren't really uplifted either. It was stoic unemotional, but it was….what? what was the word he was looking for?

Screaming. That's what it was.

The mouth was open in a sheer vocalization that was bellowing in fear and rage form his heart, but it could never be heard. This inhuman sound, neither joyous nor content, welled up from his heart to his lungs and then out through his throat in an agonized shriek.

The silence of the sound would have deafened anyone who heard it.

The pickle soon found itself thrown against the window, landing with a wet plop on the windowsill. Tears, that until now had remained unshed, cascaded down his face. There was no way he could stay standing: his knees buckled simultaneously with a racking sob and he fell to the floor, dropping the pickle jar. It didn't break: that kind of sound may have helped; instead, it tipped sideways on the floor with a clunk, pouring its contents over the tiled floor. He was so pathetic he couldn't even break a jar if he had wanted to…or protect his family…

"Marina…"

He didn't know whose voice it was. It certainly wasn't his, as he was strong, independent. He was…he was.

On the ground and crying.

A scream of frustration escaped his throat, his fist slamming against the tile. Was this really what he had become? This weak blob of a man who was blubbering on the kitchen floor?

Yes, a voice said.

Yes it was.

He was weak without her. She was his strength, his joy, his…life.

Fred hadn't heard from his wife in weeks, as the thrice-damned hurricane had destroyed much in the way of communications; he couldn't contact her. And, chances were, it was possible he'd never see her again.

His fist smashed into the floor once more, the echoes from the contact booming around his kitchen. He listened to the sound as it faded, leaving an omnificent silence in its wake.

His head lay on the floor, a puddle of cold pickle juice and salty tears gathering about his nose. God, he was pathetic. He could see his reflection out of one eye: puffy chocolate eyes with streams of water reflecting off his cheek.

Yeah, some hero he had turned out to be.

His mind was reeling with worry. He may not see her again, she could be hurt. She could have been trying to call him every waking minute and exhausting herself to the point of no return. She could be dead, she…

Worry wart.

"Huh?" One of his eyes opened, and for a moment he could see her face; her laughing eyes sparkling in a way that he had only seen a few times. Her hand was on her hip, almost indignantly. She laughed slightly.

I said, "Worry wart."

Her face faded, her hand making a small, but loving wave, a knowing smile fading into nothing.

She…Wouldn't want him to life like this.

His sorrow abated somewhat, the thought caressing his tormented mind with a soothing brush of a feather of hope. She was always strong, able to fend for herself, she wouldn't have wanted to have him be this…thing…that he had now become, would she?

No, she wouldn't.

She'd have wanted him to live his life.

She'd have wanted him to be strong.

She'd have wanted him to be independent…

She…

He chucked, snorting pickle juice. He couldn't think of anything else. With an exhausted heave, he lifted himself up off the floor, a few drips of salty green liquid following the path of his drying tears.

A cloth dried his nose and face.

A sponge cleaned up the floor.

A picture of a beautiful brown-haired woman was righted on a dresser.

A tired head lay down to sleep for the first time in many days.

He would wait.

He would love.

He would live.