“Step on the fuckin’gas!” Brad Carlisle yelled at the white Grand Marquis driving far too slowly in front of him. Brad was returning from another one of the seemingly endless number of quick, weekend trips to the grocery store, this time for milk. All he wanted to do on this beautiful late spring Saturday afternoon was sit on his couch and watch the Red Sox, have a few beers and enjoy one of the few days off he gets from working his two jobs. But, as usual, those plans were interrupted by his life.
By the time the Grand Marquis (with the obligatory “Ask me about my grandkids” bumper sticker) finally turned onto a side street the game had already started and Brad was listening to the staticky play by play of Joe Costiglione on the radio. He would be home in five minutes but he would still miss the first half inning. He knew that it was childish and stupid to be so aggravated by this but he couldn’t help himself. It always seemed to work out this way for him. It seemed that no matter what he was looking forward to something always got in the way. As a result he never got too excited about anything; choosing, instead, to see the glass as half empty so that he could avoid the inevitable disappointment.
When he arrived at his quiet suburban house, he parked his red Chevy Silverado in the driveway and headed for the back door. He walked into his spacious kitchen with the gallon of milk and was greeted by his oldest son Xavier.
“X-Man!” Brad said playfully as he forced the milk into the over stuffed refrigerator. “What’s going on my man?”
“Sprite please” the 9 year old replied without any word of greeting. “and I want cut cheese” referring to a bock of cheddar that had to be cut for him
“Did you eat lunch?”
“Then bring me your plate”
Xavier gave the look that only a nine year old can produce. The look that says “I have to walk the ENTIRE 20 feet into the living room to get my plate and then the ENTIRE 20 feet back?” To him, his father has just asked him to scale Mt. Everest while eating an entire plate full of broccoli; a task both nearly impossible and bordering on torture.
As the boy stomped off to the living room to retrieve his plate Brad muttered to himself in an exasperated tone “now I’m going to miss the entire first inning…fantastic.”
Brad was, by all accounts, an average guy. He was one of those people that fly under society’s radar. He had an average job with average pay. He was not blessed with movie star looks but he was not considered unattractive either. People that got to know him genuinely liked him but he was never the guy that people thought of first for anything. He was shy and therefore did not make friends easily. He would be happy to talk to anyone that approached him but he, illogically, felt that people didn’t like him or worse, they were bored by him. At parties the host would often ask his wife “is Brad OK?” wondering why he was off in a corner by himself quietly nursing his beer. His wife would invariably reply “He’s fine. That’s just Brad”. And no more thought would be given to him. He was not a self promoter. He preferred to have other people notice him without fishing for compliments. However, he realized that in today’s world that most people were only concerned about themselves and would rarely notice someone else’s accomplishments so he was destined to be an afterthought in most people’s minds.
Brad realized that while his life was not even close to nirvana, he didn’t really have much to complain about. In fact, he was generally a happy, easy going man with a quick, if somewhat sarcastic, wit. He has been married to the love of his life for eleven years and they shared a marriage that he honestly felt was the envy of most of their friends. He and his wife Kelly were vastly different people. While Brad was very laid back and didn’t get too emotional about things, Kelly was a vivacious outgoing woman who was equally adept at having a casual conversation with another mom at the park or arguing with the mechanic when she believed that she was being taken advantage of. Because of this duality they considered themselves the perfect couple. Kelly never let her husband get too complacent and Brad never let his wife tilt at too many windmills.
Xavier returned with his plate and Brad dropped a half dozen slices of cheese on it and handed him a cup of Sprite with a straw. The boy turned without a word a started off in to the living room.
“Thank you Daddy” Brad called after him in a seemingly futile attempt to teach his child manners.
“Thank you Daddy” the boy distractedly replied.
Brad grabbed a Bud Light from the refrigerator and headed off to the living room. Finally! He thought with relief. He switched on the TV and began to enjoy the day as he originally envisioned it. As he settled in to watch the game he could here the faint sound of his 5 year old twins playing in their room. He was always amazed at how infinite the imagination of a 5 year old seemed to be. It made him smile. The aggravation of having to run out for milk was quickly draining away.
After an hour, Brad was on his second beer when Kelly came down the stairs.
“Don’t forget I’m going out with the girls tonight” Kelly cheerfully said.
“TONIGHT! You can’t go out tonight” Brad said with a playful gleam in his eye. Brad knew that Kelly had been looking forward to this night for a week. “I have plans to sit on the couch and scratch my ass tonight and you have to watch the kids”
Kelly never slowed as she walked through the living room headed for the kitchen.
“Bite me” she deadpanned
This was one of the major reasons that Brad loved this woman. She could always take it and was very good at dishing it out as well.
Brad was always happy when Kelly took a night off from the kids. She was a stay at home mom and her life was and endless cycle of getting kids to the bus, getting them off the bus, getting them to various doctors appointments, soccer practices or cub scout meetings. As well as going to the grocery store, taking the kids on play dates or simply having to entertain them at home while doing the laundry, cleaning the house and making sure dinner was prepared. Whenever Brad was asked “does your wife work” his stock answer was always “well, she doesn’t collect a paycheck, but believe me she WORKS”. Brad was always telling his wife that she should go out more just to get a break.
“Also, don’t forget that Xavier and I are going to church tomorrow morning” Kelly called from the kitchen.
“And this affects me…..how?” Brad answered
“I’m just saying don’t forget”
Kelly was what Brad called a “casual” Catholic. She was raised a catholic and still believed in and liked a lot of the catholic traditions but she rarely attended church. Brad was raised in a protestant family where, as a kid, he went to Sunday school and was always pushed by his mother to go to church every week. Once he was out on his own, however, he gave up attending altogether. For Brad church never held much of an appeal for him. He always felt uncomfortable talking to the minister and he never understood why you had to go to a service in order for God to let you into heaven. He firmly believed in God and often prayed at night after everyone else was asleep. This is a fact that would have surprised his wife as well as just about everyone who knew him.
Although he was raised as a protestant, he grew up in Massachusetts where it seemed like 99% of the population was catholic. Most of his friends were catholic so he learned a lot about catholic masses. He used to joke that going to a catholic mass was similar to joining a gym. You were in constant motion. Stand kneel stand sit kneel stand walk up front kneel sit stand. He couldn’t understand why there were fat Catholics.
Not that he would ever deny someone their religion. He was always a little envious of people that were so passionate about their church and seem to get so much out of attending mass. One of his close friends used to say that she attended church because it gave her very hectic life a much needed moment of peace and clarity. To Brad, attending a church service was a chore that had very little meaning.
“You know… you could come with us.” Kelly said
“But I’m not Catholic” Brad replied knowing where this was headed
“It would teach your son that church is important”
“Isn’t that your job?”
Kelly let out an exasperated sigh and dropped the subject. Brad was thankful that this didn’t turn into the standard “we need to teach our kids that religion is important and you can do that by going to church with us otherwise he will grow up to be a psychotic killer” argument. While Kelly knew that she could cajole and coerce Brad into doing a lot of things he didn’t really want to do she was finally starting to realize that this was a battle that she wasn’t going to win. So in the interest of keeping the peace she wouldn’t press him too much about it.
Later that evening Brad was watching his wife get ready for her night out. As she pulled on her jeans he was struck, as he often was, by her beauty. It was not just her looks and lord knows she had plenty of that, but it was mostly the way she carried herself. She had an undeniable Kelly-ness about her that he found intoxicating.
“What are you looking at?” she coyly said as she looked at him out of the corner of her eye
“I was just thinking that maybe be I shouldn’t let you go out when you look that good” He replied as she buttoned her tight, red blouse.
“Yeah…Right” she said while examining herself from every conceivable angle in the full-length mirror.
“If I could just lose 15 pounds I’d be happy”
This is a statement that was often uttered by his wife and one that never ceased to baffle him. While she was not runway model thin he thought she was the perfect weight. Round in all the right places was a phrase that he liked to use.
When she had completed her seemingly endless preparation she turned to him and said, “I should be home early”
“The last time you said that I was about 5 minutes away from getting the National Guard to do a house to house search for you.” He said as he walked toward her.
“I have to get up for church tomorrow. Mass is at 10:00. Besides I feel kind of bad leaving you with the kids all night.”
“Don’t worry about that. I’ll just give each one a shot of whiskey right after you leave.”
“Just don’t give them the good scotch. It’s way too expensive to waste on them.”
They stood face to face and put their arms around each other. He looked into her green eyes and at that moment felt like the luckiest man alive. As they stood there in each other’s arms they noticed that something was trying to work its way between them. They looked down to see Alex, one of their 5-year-olds, smiling up at them.
“My Daddy” Kelly teased as she tried to pull her husband closer.
“MY Daddy” Alex said as he wedged his head further between the two adults.
“Give Mumma a kiss. I’m leaving” Kelly said kneeling in front of her son
Alex threw his arms around her and planted a sloppy wet kiss on his mother.
“Where’s Xavier and Jason?” She asked
“Playin’ Game Cube” came the reply
Kelly went off to say goodbye to the two boys while Brad and Alex began to wrestle.
When Kelly left, Brad stood in the front door and waved at his wife’s car as she drove away, neither of them realizing that the next time they saw one another their lives would have changed profoundly and forever.