…I will get back to surfing very soon. This is one of a several purposefully-short short stories I’ve been working on, sort of on the notion of ‘character assassination.’ It is fiction, and, a few days after writing it, I had an idea for an added (hopefully) twist.
Barring some sort of collection down the road, I did take advantage of having a blog, “Stuff that goes on,” at ptleader.com and published it there. And, why not here? Check it out.
FUTURE PERFECT TENSE
Phyliss showed me the cigar box (Cubans) that held her collection of apologies. She sniffed it, appeared to smell (and, I thought, savor) some ancient remnant of fine tobacco. She offered it to me. I obliged. I smelled nothing. Just paper; some, maybe, aged. I nodded, smiled.
“This,” she said, lifting a hat box (but not for a very large hat) from the sideboard, “is my box of condolences.” When I didn’t immediately respond; or, rather, when another nod was insufficient, she added, “There are, you can see, many more of these.”
Still, she didn’t sniff the box of condolences.
“Yes,” I said. Again, insufficient. There was a pause. “So, I guess,” I said, “apologies for past, um, mistakes; not as many as notes of, uh, sympathy… for past losses… I mean, uh, your losses.”
It might be difficult to determine if her expression was of disdain, possibly modified by my obvious ignorance and lack of skill in the formal graces; or an unconvincing attempt at appearing sympathetic to my obvious unease.
No, it was a sort of required politeness to disguise an irritated condescension. She looked, without focusing, at the final billing statement as I did focus, checking the final calculations on my cell phone.
“All apologies are in the past tense,” she said, looking for my agreement with and appreciation of her statement. “All condolences are in the present tense.”
Since I didn’t appear to understand, she added, “Such as, ‘I grieved you, thusly,’ in the first instance; past tense; and ‘I wish you a recovery.’ Going forward. See? Present tense.”
“Oh,” I said, “Right.” I smiled (the way socially awkward people do), wrote “Paid in full” on the form on the clipboard, set it, facing her, near her right hand (the one now resting on an upside down check). I then carefully picked up and moved the clipboard over. I turned away from her, giving her a moment to examine the page, looked around the formal dining room, took a sip from my tea cup, tried to set it back without a bone to bone (china) noise, and wrote something on a blank sheet of printer paper.
When I was finished, I folded the page (on the bias), slid it between the two boxes. She slid my check, which had been in the place a third setting, another cup and saucer could have been set, toward me. I slid the full-sized check under the clip, still face down. It would have been rude (and I knew this) to look at the payment; but I (also) knew she had probably deducted some money for some minor issues she had insisted were not minor.
That was fine. I had been warned by other tradespeople to expect this, advised to, “maybe charge a little extra.” I hadn’t.
I made a move to stand; stopped; waited until she stood. “Thank you so very much, Phyliss.”
She didn’t, of course, unfold the paper before I reached the door.
“At some future time,” the note said, if I’m remembering correctly, “I will have, or may have, come to the conclusion that I owe you an apology. Future perfect tense. I do, however, now offer my condolences for whatever past made you what you are now. Present tense.”
Lighting up a cigarette, I turned the check over on the clipboard just after I opened the door to my truck. “Damn,” I said, “Bonus.”
Looking toward the dining room window, unable to hold back a smile; I tore another sheet of paper from the stack on the clipboard. I blew a bit of smoke on it before I started writing.
So, again, there are some actually surf-related things coming up in realsurfers, real soon. Meanwhile, the surf forecast on the Peninsula shows good weather and small surf. Good time to try to catch up on painting, recover from recent surf-session where I tried (and failed) to keep up with surf marathoner, Big Dave.