By David Kaplan
Saturday morning cartoons blared in the living room as Carl Roose’s fingers struggled to open a packet of Alka Seltzer. He had the kid this weekend and he knew he shouldn’t have gone out the night before. But it was the post-conference celebration and he had to be there. It was expected of him.
So many obligations in this life. His mother had warned him when he was Charlie’s age. Charlie’s eight-years-old. He’s quiet, most of the time. Except for Saturday morning cartoons. He couldn’t tell if it were an explosion of an Acme bomb sending Wile E. Coyote or some such anthropomorphic creature to kingdom come or his throbbing head.
He finally got the Alka Seltzer open at least. The bad news was that he put it in the glass that had two fingers of beer left over from last night. And there was a stubbed out cigarette in it. How the hell did he miss that?
Fuck it, Carl half-thought. In denial, he grabbed the butt gingerly and tossed it to the other side of the table. He’d drink the damned thing anyway.
Luckily, Susanne dropped the kid off rather than have Carl pick him up from her house.
“I knew you’d be hungover—bye!” Susanne sang with a sarcastic lilt. She practically did a pirouette on the welcome mat and leaped back into her navy Toyota Corolla. Charlie pushed in and ran to turn on the TV.
Carl knew he couldn’t blame the job. He couldn’t blame Susanne. And he couldn’t blame Charlie. Still, that didn’t stop him from doing so. He reserved most of the blame for himself. He figured that would be a consolation if anyone ever decided to read his mind.
He sat and stared at the TV as he waited for the sodium bicarbonate to dissolve. Wile E. Coyote raced off a cliff and stood in midair for several seconds before his antagonist, the Road Runner, startled him back into the reality of his predicament, causing him to look down, look up again, and stare back at Carl before plummeting into a canyon with a high-pitched whistle and a muffled boom.
They’d go to the park later or something. And he’d start to look for a new job when Charlie fell asleep. But right now, Carl gave in to the freefall and sunk into the tattered easy chair, closed his eyes, and felt the headache begin to ease.