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Flames on Achan Common
Susan Parks stood at the kitchen window, admiring the garden she had recently planted. The garden had obviously taken more than a day to plant. It had a dozen tidy rows of brilliantly colored flowers and other attractive plants. She even had a prick or two on her delicate, slender hands to prove it. Although the garden was magnificent to look at, there was something eerie about the scent in the air this particular day. “Dear?” She called to her daughter, Alexandra. “What day is it today?” Alexandra was busying herself with washing the already clean windows.
“The 1st? Or is it the 2nd?” Susan, unsatisfied clicked over to the wall calendar, containing all of her children’s daily activities and play dates, each child’s color coated. Alexandra’s in pink, Benjamin’s in green, and Caroline’s in purple. It was the 2nd of September, and the calendar read that her husband, Charlie, was due to come home from work that evening at 6:25, just five minutes before dinner. The gigantic New England house was saturated with the aroma of baked chicken and potatoes. She did not forget a dessert, Apple pie was scheduled to pop out of Susan’s oven exactly 10 minutes after dinner, giving her enough time to tidy up her kitchen and put a pot of water on to boil tea. Susan was now satisfied with her planned night, and gracefully glided into the living room with her not too hot coffee. She made her way to the unwrinkled, unstained white couch beside the enormous, old grandfather clock. She anxiously glared at the minute hand when it turned 6:24. She immediately remembered how Charlie usually arrives a minute or two early when he comes home from work. What if he got in an accident? Susan giggled to her self, “What nonsense, I bet he’ll be home even before the chicken is ready!” In one swift move she sat up from the couch and wandered over to the extensive bay window, to contemplate the threatening, dark clouds overhead. Susan briskly tapped on the window with her polished fingers, notifying Benjamin to hurry inside. He shot back a look that said, “But mooom!” but saw the anxious look on his mothers face and dropped the football that had been previously gripped in his hands. The second Benjamin was safely inside; Susan went back to her spot on the couch with her lukewarm coffee, and continued to look at the clock. 6:28 PM. Late.
Each miniscule sound occurring in the room pierced through Susan’s ears, making her more, and more tense every second. Oh no, the big noises didn’t bother her. It was the soft ticking of the grandfather clock, slowing down each tick. The beginning of raindrops pitter patting on the window, or the distant sound of the oven timer that meant the chicken was ready. Susan’s eyes, glued to the clock began to water. I’ll just wait until 6:30, she thought. Then we’ll eat. By then he will be at the most five minutes late. No more. She quickly thought back to remember if Charlie was ever late from work. Deep in thought, Caroline came pouncing into the room with her Dolly, Princess.
“Where’s daddy, mommy?” Susan snapped back into reality, and the sound of Caroline’s soft voice sounded like a very loud alarm.
“SWEETIE!” Susan gasped, and her coffee fell out of her quivering hand onto her paisley skirt. Susan didn’t even look down, while Caroline, still standing there wide eyed started to back up. “Sweetie, never startle mommy like that ever again.”
“But I just wanted to know when…”
“Am I clear?”
Little Caroline never got scolded by her mother in her whole short life of 8 years. Princess fell out of Caroline’s hands onto the floor. Susan and Caroline stared at it, almost as if one waiting for the other to go and grab it. “Mommy…” Caroline started. “Your oven smells like…”
“You know, it would be nice if you set the table dear, wouldn’t it?”
Caroline was probably amazed, thinking that mommy always set the table and made the dinner, no matter what.
“Oh and dear?” Susan managed to get out through clenched teeth, “Tell you brother and sister we will be eating dinner...” Susan fiercely swallowed, “without your father tonight. He decided to come a little later than usual.” Susan couldn’t believe what was happening! The clock read 6:34PM and Charlie was nearly 10 minutes late to a family dinner, one of the most important parts of Susan’s day. She wasn’t surprised at the fact that some was 10 minutes late to dinner. She was surprised that her husband, the handsome man that she married 17 years ago, was never late under any circumstances! Why was everything absolutely horrid occurring one after the other? Her best friend suddenly turned her back on Susan, than her husband? What on earth is God trying to tell me? Just a moment later, all 3 kids poked into the sitting room together, Alexandra leading the pack. “Mom, are you feeling ill?” She said. All 3 children had an obvious look of concern on their small faces, which made Susan feel 1 percent better that they cared. However at the same time she was annoyed that she couldn’t just get one moment alone to herself without a disruption! Her whole day had been interrupted by unscheduled, unnecessary things! Alexandra tried to talk to her mother again. “Mom, the chickens burning…” And that, that small comment made by the naive Alexandra tore Susan off the hook. She slowly began to stand up, fuming with anger. From all of the 14 years she has been a mother, she couldn’t remember one time that she screamed at her 3 children. She never let anything out of order. She never let a flower out of their neat row. She never let anyone clean besides her self. She never let a chicken burn. And her husband was never, ever late.
“WELL ALEXANDRA DEAR,” Susan bellowed. “I HAVE NEVER had seen you make dinner! I do every goddamn think there is to do in this goddamn house! NONE of you have ever been late to one soccer, basketball or softball game! And who brings you to all of those? Oh, ME! There has NEVER been one dirty dish in that sink for more than a minute. And guess who cleans them? ME!” By now Susan was out of breath, Caroline was crying, and Benjamin and Alexandra just stood there, looking like they had just seen a ghost.
“So you know what? MAKE YOUR OWN GODDAMN DINNER!” And with that, Susan snatched her raincoat from the coat rack and headed towards the colossal double doors and muttered, “I’m going to get your son of a gun father.” As she shut the double doors behind her, she didn’t regret one think she said in the last 10 minutes. It was all true! Her kids deserved to hear what was bottled up in Susan for many, many years. My whole family has their life handed to them on a silver plate, thought Susan as she walked away from home. “Without me, they wouldn’t even know how to use the oven for heavens sake!” laughed Susan. The sweet scent of freedom began to make Susan dizzier by the second. She stumbled into the recently rained-on street to take a quick breather, the dark wrapping its arms around her. Her legs collapsed, and there she was sprawled out in the street, wearing her Lilly Pulitzer outfit, coffee stains and all. Silent tears streamed down her face, Susan taking quick breaths every few seconds. She slowly began to stand up. “And CHARLIE! Don’t think I’m forgetting about you!” She said, as if Charlie was in her presence in that dark, wet, misty street, about a block away from her atrocious white house on Achan Common. “All you ever do is…nothing!” And with that, the rain began to fall yet again. “And I gave up my whole life to make you a great one! I’m not your wife, I’m your servant.” Susan said “servant” the quietest of all. Her breathing suddenly became uneven, and started to sob so much that she vomited all over her now triple stained skirt. She was now plopped in the middle of “Dew Circle”, the street off of Achan Common. “It must be nearly 7:30 by now,” sobbed Susan, and whipped out a bottle of Jim Bean from her rain jacket pocket. She already knew she had ruined her unscheduled day to the fullest and maybe her life. And there were lights.
Charlie Parks, a wonderful husband and father pulled into the driveway of his gigantic New England house that he owned with his beautiful wife, Susan. He read his brand knew Rolex, “6:25, right on time!” He merrily half jogged into the house along with his hat and brief-case, expecting a nice family dinner made kindly by his one-of-a-kind wife. “Honey, I'm home!” No one answered. As he strolled into the sitting room, he laughed as he saw the grandfather clock that read, 7:25. “Ah, the grandfather’s an hour fast, better change that after dinner.” He hung up his coat and hat, and walked into a kitchen full of flames.