The Tub (unfinished)

by Jarrod Tallman

Unfinished, unfurnished, a work in process––like everything. This is the result of last week’s writing prompt (October 6, 2015).

The car at the intersection wouldn’t stop honking. What was he supposed to do? What could he do? Moving a bathtub by yourself is no easy business. And frankly, he was getting along the best he could, which was all he could do.

The muscles in his calves had been burning for several blocks; but now, in the middle of this crosswalk, he was sure that he could feel them beginning to tear. Still, he moved the tub with a firm and steady effort, without the appearance of ever having any other option, keeping the porcelain tub in constant motion, its iron feet grinding over the weathered asphalt. Six more blocks to go. Three more blocks before he could turn down the hill. Two more blocks before he would see the sea.

“What the fuck are you doing, dude?” shouted the honker as he gassed it into the oncoming lane and zipped around him.

This question caught the man off guard. Not only was he preoccupied with anticipating the sensation that would certainly pour over him when the sea’s horizon came into view, but clearly there was a fishing pole in the tub and he felt the honker’s question was rhetorical. Still, he also felt a social obligation to reply. It was simply a matter of good manners. “I’m going fishing, of course,” he answered, allowing himself the slightest letup in duty by taking one hand off the tub to gesture at the fishing pole.

A young girl, young enough for pig tails at least, had been following him on her bike. She kept her distance, progressing more or less along the same route, but one street over. After first noticing the tiny spy, the man pushed his tub into the crosswalk of the next intersection and without affording himself any relief from his great effort lifted his head from his task just enough to peer sideways down the street. The pig-tailed girl was nowhere to be found. This occurred several more times. Each time, the man would go through a process by which he would convince himself of a reality where children had better things to do than watch an old man make his way to the sea for a quiet evening of solitude and fishing. Then he would allow himself to welcome the odd melancholy of missing something he never had. This added weight to the tub, giving his task a sense of greater importance. And it was then, when he knew that she had lost interest and moved on, that he would spot her half-hidden behind a parked car, or a neatly trimmed hedge and the tub would take on the ease of movement that one might expect when moving a bundle of feathers. In the midst of one of these short and profound moments the man surmised that the girl’s curiosity denied her the desired anonymity suggested by the distance she kept, but, in total agreement with himself that this observation was neither here nor there, he allowed himself a reasonable amount of enjoyment in this childish game of cat-and-mouse and began to look forward to discovering her every block or two.

It was turning out to be a rather pleasant day. When he started out in the morning the wind was too weak to compete with the cool, damp atmosphere. Concentrated white air pooled ephemeral drops of water on his skin and the thick stillness reverberated a silent pressure. The sun inevitably conquered the mountains to the east and, as the sun has a way with the wind and water, change began to cut through the pleasant gloom in ever-increasing wisps and whisks of warmth.

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