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by Thomas White
A tear inched its way down Henry's cheek as he stood over the fresh hole,
now filled with loose dirt. His hands, bleeding slightly, stung from the rough
texture of the shovel and he cursed himself for not bringing gloves. At least
the hard part of his work was over now, but he couldn't stop punishing
himself. Besides, there was nothing he could do. He knew that, even if they
His shirt was now completely brown. His pants, although khaki originally, now
bore the same substance as his shirt and had turned a darker shade. It
rested beneath his fingernails and his face was smeared with splotches,
sometimes releasing specks into his eyes, although they were quickly
washed away by tears.
"I'm sorry... I am so Sorry I couldn't save you..." he whined through clenched
teeth, desperately trying to hold back his emotions. "I wanted to keep you...
but you know that, I would have given anything for you... if he would have let
me." At that thought, his tears immediately dried and anger crept back into
He thought back to the night before, when his son and wife had lost their
lives. Henry had just returned home from work, arriving late due a heavy
storm, and was irritated about spilling coffee all down his shirt staining it
brown. Reaching into his pocket, Henry realized that he had forgotten his
key to the apartment, probably back at the office. After knocking several
times and receiving no response he looked down and noticed, for what
seemed the first time, his doormat. When he looked underneath both shock
and delight filled his chest as he uncovered a key. It slid perfectly into the
lock and he smiled with satisfaction as he heard the bolt slide back into the
cavity of the door.
As his foot crossed the threshold of the door his foot connected, for what
seemed, the first time with the snow white carpet. Henry felt alive as his bare
toes came down on the fibers and seemed to melt into the floor. Henry drew
in a deep breath as he stared at the walls in awe of their limpidness. His
heart fluttered as he turned his gaze around the room taking in the immense
beauty of the white surroundings. Henry had never seen a more perfect
place than this home. His home.
His wife sat on the sofa, child in her arms, watching television dressed totally
in white looking more beautiful than Henry had ever seen her. Her face,
upon seeing him enter, flushed red and her lip began to quiver with nervous
tension. Henry looked at her meticulously, relishing her beauty, trying to
understand her apparent discontent with his arrival. Joy was now almost
erupting out of Henry, his mouth now beginning to salivate uncontrollably at
his wife's beauty.
Then he came in the room.
He stood in the hallway to his left holding a newspaper and a mug of what
smelled like freshly brewed coffee. Henry turned, surprised by the other man
and searched into his eyes for an answer. His wife stood up clutching the
baby in her arms and pushed out the word "who" from her lips and then fell
silent. Everything went silent.
The room, which was once so unbelievably perfect, fell into complete
disorder. The walls now showed dirt and splotches of brown in his eyes. He
could see a chocolate milk stain on the floor, discolored portions on the
curtains and blemishes of brown on his wife's dress.
Henry stared at the intruder for what seemed like eternity, taking his eyes
away from him only once, to look down at his spotty brown feet. He could
think of nothing to say. His mind raced hysterically trying to make sense of
the situation. Finally he found the words.
"Where are my shoes?" he said aloud. 'Why is he wearing my shoes?"
Henry could feel their gaze on him; seeming to almost burn a hole through
his head. He could not look away from his feet. What had happened? How
did the intruder steal Henry's shoes? Could he have taken them while Henry
was at work? Henry couldn't even remember being at work now, his memory
seemed to be slipping away. Flashes of truth came back into his mind
remembering how he had stood outside the apartment, watching for his wife
to come home. How she had passed by him on the street earlier in the day,
trying to avoid his glare. He remembered seeing the intruder leave that
morning, dressed in brown suit, kissing Henry's wife and child at the door.
Henry suddenly knew who this man was.
He was stealing Henry's life. He was stealing Henry's family. HE was taking
what belonged to Henry. Henry looked to his wife, tears now filling into his
eyes. He wanted to ask her why? Why she would do this? Why would she
let another man steal his shoes, and his family? Steal everything that Henry
wanted and deserved? Now Henry stood in the rain over his family, wishing
that he could have saved them. As he thought about that night, he
remembered how beautiful his wife looked, especially up close, and how
innocent there child was, before the brown began to show through. But
Henry knew that he would never see them again. His heart ached for them
but it was too late. He grabbed his shovel and began using it to push more
brown soil on top of the box. It would all be over soon. His wife and child
were dead now and Henry would have to learn to push through the pain. He
only wished that they had known each other better before they died; but they
just didn't seem to have the time.
When Henry paused to smooth some of the dirt over the box he thought, just
for a second, that he could hear the soft whimper of a woman crying. Loud
thumps came up from the earth beneath him and the melodic sound of his
wife's voice sang through. Henry cherished that moment, her voice floating
through the rain drizzling down around him, carrying off into the cold night air.
For a second his mind raced back into the white room and he felt the
shimmer of happiness again creeping into his body, making him feel alive
and with purpose.
Henry patted the brown earth with his shovel and smoothed the ground
leaving it flat. He knew he needed a new shirt, one not covered with dirt,
then he could find a new family.