We’re back to present day — actually January 2012, a few months before Eric shows up at Peter’s door. This is a little glimpse into what’s going on with Peter’s dad, James…
James Wong had never seen the bathroom from that angle before.
Thank God his wife had convinced him to spend the extra money to have heating installed under the marble tile. Later, when he’d tell the story about his stroke and how he laid there on his belly with his right cheek pressed against the floor, everyone always laughed when he got to the part about how the extra five grand suddenly seemed like an excellent choice.
And James Wong was all about excellent choices.
But that day, on the floor, his first thoughts weren’t about any decisions he’d made. His life didn’t flash before his eyes. He didn’t see his mother coming home from her second job to the one-bedroom apartment they shared and helping him with his homework. He didn’t see himself arranging and rearranging the phone, rolodex, and lamp on his desk on his first day of work after graduating from Harvard. He didn’t see his patent leather shoes stepping on the white steps of the U.S. Capitol for the first time.
That day, on the floor, with most of his right eye shielded by the flesh being pushed up from his flattened cheek, he saw something he’d never noticed before.
The baseboards were white, semigloss, and at least six inches tall. They had a piece of molding at the base and another along the top. Above them began a non-descript but somehow perfect shade of brown, and below them were, of course, the marble tiles.
James Wong had to make choices every day. Which battles to wage. Which senators to lean on. Which favors to cash in. He did not, however, make any decisions about baseboards.
A person didn’t become a vice president at the Heritage Foundation by figuring out which baseboards to put in a bathroom remodel.
But clearly someone had to figure it out. And lying there, he realized his someone had tediously looked through books or samples to decide exactly how high the bathroom baseboards should be. And what color to paint the walls. And which toilet to install (he was quite sure she’d consulted him on that but none of the choices came to mind).
And suddenly, the fact that he’d flippantly said, “Brown,” as he grabbed his briefcase and headed out the door one day seemed crueler than hitting her. Crueler than yelling at her. Crueler than ignoring her all together.
She stood there at the kitchen island with her swatches fanned out. His coffee was poured. His suit had been dry cleaned. Which of the colors did he like for the new bathroom? He was watching the morning news. The anchor was wearing a brown jacket. . . Newt Gingrich has defeated Mitt Romney in South Carolina. . . reporting a new leak at Fukushima nuclear power plant. . . brown jacket. . . protesting in Lisbon over austerity cuts. . . brown, yes, brown.
That morning, she went and picked up new swatches. All browns.
So he laid there that day, on the floor of his brown bathroom that he never really noticed was completed, and waited for her to find him. And a sudden sense of panic gripped him. What if she didn’t come back. What if he’d noticed the baseboards too late. What if this was the detail that did him in.
When he could talk, he would tell her the bathroom looked nice. He would thank her for working so hard on it. He would apologize for not noticing.
James Wong was all about excellent choices. But at the moment, he had no other choice but to lay on a hard, marble floor and hope that his wife would forgive him for choosing brown.
This week’s prompt: March, “in like a lion, out like a lamb” – for our writing: to be deflated, belittled or humbled after the failure of a daring or boastful act.
I’m putting a couple restrictions on this one though to sharpen your lion’s writing claws before we submit to our kinder, gentler lamblike selves: 1,000 words max and no dialogue, all description. *Show* not tell: how your character has softened, deflated from the beginning of his/her intro in even one post? to now.
And please check out my fellow writers. We’ve changed our name from “femmes” to “friends” because we’re adding boys…