Change Your Life Day

(an excerpt)


Robert Kerbeck

 The MacGuffin, Summer 2016


On the twenty-ninth, the wind was howling first thing in the morning, wrecking the surface of Donner Lake. The timing of the bad weather coinciding with her birthday caused Court to question everything about the paddleboard enterprise. First off, even with the wetsuit she could hardly get into, the water was going to be freezing when she fell. And she was going to fall. A lot. She’d watched other newbies kerplunk themselves again and again into the cold lake. And Court was bigger than all of them, now over two hundred pounds. Why didn’t she just join the gym? Why couldn’t she get over her fear of people looking at her the way she looked at herself? She’d thought, with the relative privacy of the lake, and in a tight wetsuit that made her appear round rather than obese, she could find an exercise to do each and every morning to lose weight. The access couldn’t have been easier. She just had to step off her dock onto the paddleboard. If she got good and didn’t fall, she wouldn’t even get wet. But now the first black clouds since she’d put Papa in the home three weeks ago sucked the motivation out of her, and sent her down into the pit where she’d lived since she realized Ricky would never marry her. That was five years ago. She was only a little heavy then. Why had she stayed? Why had she wasted so much time? Was it too early for birthday cake?


She’d spent the day huddled in bed streaming Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Ricky hadn’t called and, of course, Papa wouldn’t remember it was her birthday. Finally, when she couldn’t cry another tear or eat another carrot, Court headed over to the Big Chief to go off her diet and stock up on cookies, pies, and chocolate cake. On her way home, the guilt of what she carried in the brown bags gnawed at her. She decided to unload some of it on Papa, who could use as many extra calories as possible. He liked sweets if they were handed to him, but they didn’t sing to him in dreams the way they did to her.

The center’s reception desk was empty, not unexpected since it was nearly nine p.m. She used the code family members were given and opened the door to surprise Papa with dessert, but his room was empty too. There were few people anywhere. Court wasn’t concerned since the center’s residents were elderly and likely in bed. But she heard voices and followed them to the entertainment room, where her father stood, glistening in the fluorescent light, playing Ping-Pong, surrounded by a crowd of cheering, almost entirely female, residents. He was playing against Rondo, running the skinny colossus from side to side until the younger man missed. She didn’t even know her father could play  Ping-Pong, or where he got the short shorts he was wearing, but there he was hitting the ball as though there was nothing wrong with him.

To read the rest of “Change Your Life Day,” purchase a copy of The MacGuffin.