Anders Zorn; Teaser

Zorn Book Cover Proof BBDbetter

ANDERS ZORN: Unveiled 

Dedication: 

For all of the beautiful models that made Anders Zorn, Anders Zorn.  Your beauty and the wonderful countryside and lakescapes of Dalarna shall hopefully be forever remembered on his canvases.  Your captured essence inspires me to this day. 

 

I would be proud and honored to know if any of them were related to me.


 

The people who live in the forests and lakes of the Dalarna province of Sweden have compensated for their colorless existence by coloring their lives by carving and painting horses.  The bright reds and vibrant blues and yellows decorate everyone’s houses.  They have brightly colored folk clothing, they have colorful and festive Midsommar celebrations.   Their stories and legends are just as colorful which at times, it seems these people were both blessed and cursed by the large group of gods that seemed to share their fate and homes in the cold and dankness that is north-central Sweden.

                The land they lived in was harsh and unforgiving but yet, somehow, they survived and could even be said, to thrive.  The land and their toil did not make anyone but the noblemen rich, and so, when given the opportunity, many of the people went to North America seeking a better life but even generations later and thousands of miles of distance could not change who they were.  Their genetic code could not be changed, so no matter where they went or what they did, they were still the people of Dalarna.

                As it has always been written about in the Eddas and Sagas, it seems, odd things happen to the people from this region.  Some loved, many died, a precious few had great adventures and became rich, while others lived a life of tragic woe.  Mostly they lived lives that were so mundane, of such a boring monotony, that even that was frequently a story in itself.  Ole and Lena jokes would be such an example.

One of these people was Alan Zorn Evardson, a person whose ancestry was always somewhat in doubt.  Alan grew up in the east-central Minnesota town of Rush City where a large proportion of Swedish immigrants had to change trains for the Swedish immigrant hamlets of Grantsburg or catch the stage over to Mora.  Many, like Alan’s great-grandmother just stayed, unable to afford the meager fares to get to these other communities.  Despite this lack of pedigree, there is no doubt that Alan is a part of Dalarna as what happened to him could happen to a person from nowhere else.  This is his story.  

 

 

 


 

Introduction

 

My name is Alan Zorn Evardson and after my parents died in a car crash when I was six, I was raised by my maternal grandparents in east central Minnesota.  I once was told that my middle name was given to me out of deference to the great Swedish painter of nudes, Anders Zorn.   It was implied that he was a relation but exactly how he was related was never fully explained to me.  Considering I almost failed second grade for an inability to color between the lines, this genetic link must be rather tenuous at best and considering the old painter is listed as dying without having children, I now seriously doubt the story.   Somehow the thought that my great-grandmother possibly had a secret affair and/or did nude modeling for the artist is both exhilarating and disturbing to me at the same time.  I guess some family secrets are best remaining mysterious and unsaid.

                My grandfather was the handiest man I ever knew, and was a carpenter by trade.  He decided when I was twelve, it was time to give me some wood to see what I could make of it. It was sort of an Evardson aptitude test.  To say I had little aptitude for woodworking would be a gross understatement.  After I had finally finished, he inspected my creation, and told me that I needed to study hard at school because the only hope for me, and I suppose of being able to support myself, would be through a college education.  A tradesman I would never be.  

 After many years of studying, I am now an Emergency Room doctor, but I neither enjoy medicine nor think I’m really good at it.  To be honest, I don’t think I’m really good at doing much of anything with the noted exception of maybe mowing the lawn and even in that, I need to go back over and mow where I’ve already mown so that all the grass is all cut at the same height.  Maybe I just have a soft spot for grass since it seems to be the only plant that, in my presence, doesn’t just wither and die.

                If my life had a motto behind it, it would easily be Murphy’s Law, except that in my case, nothing goes wrong because nothing ever actually happens.  Of late, I have been thinking that the old philosophical argument about a tree falling in the woods making no ‘sound’ could be better applied to me and my life.  I beg the rhetorical question:  “If a life is lived and no one noticed, have you lived at all?”

                I have never been much good with the ladies.  I had a couple of dates in college and I took a girl to my senior prom.  I had dated a girl for a couple of months in high school who was from a far more conservative church that the Swedish Lutheran church my family attended.  This girl, one day while we were parked under a grove of trees near the end of her half mile long driveway, announced to me that she didn’t believe in kissing.  Not deterred, since we had never kissed anyways, I asked her, “We’re still going to prom, right?”  I was the first person home from prom and I have never really understood what all the fuss of prom is all about.  I never talked to that girl after that, not that I have any bad feelings about that night or our ‘relationship,’ our paths just never crossed, she being from a different religious circle.  My grandmother was always suspicious of Baptists and used to mutter something her mother had told her in Swedish.  I’m not even sure if she knew what it really meant.

  I am married and have three children and how that actually happened is something, I think, of an oddity. You see my wife is also a doctor and we shared cadavers in Medical School.  One day after studying Neuroanatomy and cranial nerve pathways we decided to go to the mall and rent a movie.  The video rental place was next to a jewelry store.  I got distracted by the diamond rings and sort of in jest, I asked her which one she liked.  Ten minutes later, I was seven hundred dollars poorer, and we were engaged. 

My Grandfather was so shocked, I think, and didn’t want my opportunity to be missed, that he volunteered to pay for the wedding despite the social convention of the day.  This created something of a row between my family and that of my fiancé’s, although they never had that much in common.  The wedding became embroiled in arguments:  what food, alcohol or non-alcoholic, should there be a reception, and where should it be held.  The problems grew by the day.  My wife-to-be was of the same conservative Baptist background as was my prom date, and in the end, my wife, Elsa and I got married at the court house in Duluth, Minnesota.  Our witnesses were the couple standing behind us in the line.  I think their names were John and Suzy, I am not sure exactly.  I could check out marriage license but I do remember they were from Two Harbors, Minnesota.  This was much easier since to be honest, I was having a hard time finding anybody to be my best man other than my grandfather, and since my wife had wanted five attendants, I was at a loss to find people to be paired with them.

We spent our wedding night in different beds and in different apartments as I had just had my apartment painted and my wife couldn’t tolerate the paint smell.  She slept on a single bed and there wasn’t any room for me and we didn’t have enough money to waste on a hotel room.  To be honest, I am not sure either of us thought that anything was wrong with that back then.  Her church upbringing was so conservative that after hearing the evils of premarital sex on countless Sunday and Wednesday night services, teachings of her church had never prepared her for what happened after marriage and if sex was ever okay.  Not that I knew any better.   My normal was always different than what I had seen on the television and heard about from the few people that ever talked to me.

Eventually, though, having heard about our marriage a couple of days later, I think my wife’s mom had a talk with her.  I came home from the grocery store one afternoon to find her naked under my covers, the window open and her body just as open for my personal pleasure.  Nothing of our wedding night was ever said or EVER mentioned during or since.  I don’t think her family thought our marriage would ever last as we had a family reception a few weeks later which all of her relatives attended.  I soon learned that a pool was being formed at fifty bucks a head as to when our divorce papers would be filed.  I had sixty dollars in my pocket and so I even got in on the action as I think my wife Elsa also did.  I signed up for fifty years, one month, and six days, thinking I would die exactly at the age of seventy five. 

My grandfather taught me the value of persistence.  He’d always say, “If you aren’t very good at something, about all you have left is persistence.”  Eventually even the slow person will complete the job.  I took this to heart and took to tasks like a beaver to a dam building project.  It got me through school and I never lost a weight loss contest or anything like that.  I also decided I wouldn’t be the reason I’d lose my marriage pool.  There was real money at stake and I knew I could outlast anyone at anything, even marriage.  About two months after our third child was born, ten years later, I received a box in the mail.  The unmarked package contained nearly two thousand dollars.  Apparently nobody, including Elsa, had picked a date longer than ten years.  I never asked Elsa what her prediction was.  I have never spent a cent of that money and every so often I open the box and handle the money with a perverse sense of satisfaction.  I consider it my crowning achievement in my pursuit of persistence.

My Grandfather died a few years after we were married and he never saw any of my children being born.  My grandmother died a few months later.  I had wanted to name a child after my grandfather but my wife never really included my input in any of our children’s naming and since my wife never changed her last name, and my children carry her last name, the Swedish American lineage of mine from Rush City Minnesota, ends with me.   There are no more Evardsons, Alans, Sigurds, or thankfully Zorns, that have my genetics in them.  I have an Alma, a David, and a Stephany.  It is somehow fitting that even my wife doesn’t value me enough to allow any of my children to carry my last name.  I don’t let it bother me as I guess I’m lucky to have a wife and children at all.

I visit my grandparents on my Grandfather’s birthday, May 17th, every year.  I do this alone as my wife doesn’t understand the whole process of mourning and of memorials.  She has no sentimentality at all, and at times, I think, in a past life, she had been a Spartan maiden: practicality having somehow purged any and all emotions out of her.  

Nobody remembers me in my home town.  I did graduate second in my class of sixty one but since I had no athletic ability, musical talent, nor other distinguishing attributes, my tenure wasn’t noticed nor missed.   I ran into an old math teacher of mine during one of my visits to the family grave plot.   He looked at me quizzically.  I introduced myself.  Smiling, he said to me, “yea, you moved to Pine City after your freshman year, right?”  Pine City was the next town north of us.  I think I got an A in his class, but probably now thinking about it, that grade was probably meant for someone else.

I nodded and replied.  “…Something like that.”  Not making the energy to correct him and vowing quietly to myself at that moment to never show up at any class reunions not that I’ve ever been invited to one.  I’m sure they have lost my address and I doubt anyone would talk to me even if I did show up.  Nobody ever talked to me when I was in school.   I assume that nothing would be changing now twenty seven years later.    

I think I love Elsa and that she loves me, but to be honest, unlike Forrest Gump, I am not sure I know what ‘love is.’  We have been married twenty one years and I have been faithful as I think faithfulness and love are somehow related at least that is what the talk shows on TV say.  It hasn’t been hard to be faithful, though, as in my forty five years of life, to my knowledge, I have never so much as caught the notice of a woman except as in the case of me walking in a cross walk.  Women drivers usually notice me enough to slow down…but even that isn’t absolute and I did break my leg once when I got hit by a car.   The driver was a woman and she never stopped.  I’m lucky, I guess, I haven’t been killed.   They say that women are attracted to money, but I’ve never seen any evidence of that, and I have some money.   This must be something that is not absolute.

I am not sure why my wife married me except that I asked her… or at least I sort of did.  In retrospect, I don’t know what got into me that night.   She might have been thinking like Forrest Gump in that too:  “It is one less thing to worry about.”  Forrest was talking of money, and with Elsa, I’m sure was thinking of marriage.  I was there and it was expected of her to marry someone and I asked.  Oddly, she wasn’t a virgin before our marriage, and like her participation in our marriage pool, those details have never been discussed either. 

To be honest, we’ve only had one rough spot in our twenty one years together.  I came home late from work one night to find the locks on the door changed.  A note was on the door instructing a shipping company that the packages were in the garage and that the garage door was open. I went to the garage and the first large box I opened was my favorite chair.  It was obvious to me what was happening, I was being thrown out.

                Devastated and sure our marriage was at its end, and having no place to go, I slept that night on the porch.  Around six-thirty in the morning, the door opened when the dog needed to be let out and Elsa found me in a terrible state.  It turned out, that she had just decided to get a new front door and forgot about me needing a key and while she was having the door redone, she also decided to get new furniture.  It was all a misunderstanding.  While being invited to warm up under the covers, my wife showed me the only emotions I have ever seen in her.  Although ‘pity’ was not the emotion I was looking for, the hour of ecstasy that followed led me to experience my wife’s only orgasm in our years of matrimony.   It was the only time of sexual activities that I was invited for more.   I couldn’t complete my duty somewhere between the third and fourth round. It was one of the highlights of my life.  I’m reminded every day of the event as our youngest child was born nine months later.  I don’t think Elsa ever acknowledged the significance of the event, the word orgasm or any slang term depicting it has never been mentioned.  I have made it my life’s work and have made numerous attempts to repeat the ‘feat,’ but whatever passions I stirred in my wife that morning has never been found again by me nor unfortunately by her.  

                Our sex life is very scripted.  Some people reading this will think I am living a male fantasy, but I am not sure that is necessarily the case.  Our typical sexual encounters start with my wife usually reading.   I come into the bedroom, she puts down her book, takes off her shirt, satisfies my carnal needs and goes back to reading when it’s finished.   It is always the same and I’m not sure what to make of her intimacy.  I have been afraid to talk about it as I don’t want it to stop over a fight.

Love is definitely different than lust and maybe passion only involves the reading of a book?  I had never read fiction as a child, and one night somewhat confused as to her constant reading I made that fact known.  Still naked, she arose from the bed walked to a shelf and pulled out a novel.  Something from Ursula La Guin, I don’t remember which title, it doesn’t matter.  I read it next to her and at five in the morning exhausted, I finished the story but still to this day, I don’t understand her love of fiction.  I am probably better off.  She doesn’t understand me either, or so I believe…or maybe she understands me better than I think?

                If I have a hobby, it is travel, which is my own version of escapism.  Elsa has always been happy to accompany me no matter where we go as long as she is allowed her backpack full of books.  For her it doesn’t matter what she sees, what she does, or what she wears, even if it is nothing at all as long as she has a book to read and a place to read it.  If that is satisfied, she seems content.  I do have to say, Elsa is more than tolerant, as I’m not sure I’d put up with me, if our places were reversed.

Unfortunately, however, no matter where we go or what I find, I keep finding myself back at my staid home, in my vanilla existence, and smack dab in my boring life.  But to be honest, it is the only life I have known, so to say it is boring would imply some level of self-awareness that until recently I didn’t have.

I did once do something that I still can’t believe I had enough courage to do.  In my life as an emergency doctor, I get requests for being a witness to various crimes all the time as well as being witness for personal injury lawsuits of the patients I see.  I am not usually treated well by these lawyers and after having to cancel a shift to show up at a trial, I find that the trial is usually cancelled and frequently the district attorney’s office doesn’t even bother to notify me; I find out the changes of plans by arriving to an empty courtroom.  Over the years I have grown to hate these lawyers and vowing to get them back, one November, I got my chance.  It was my finest moment.

Against better judgment, I got selected to jury duty.  I didn’t fight it as I really didn’t miss work that much.  Then in the middle of the trial, and seeing a District Attorney, who had recently left me at the witness stand, I crafted a plan.  The guy was clearly guilty, and back in the jury room with the other eleven, it looked as though it was going to be a slam dunk for conviction of embezzlement; when I voted not-guilty.  For three days the other eleven berated me.  I held my ground.  The judge refused the hung jury and sent us back, probably since he knew the guy was guilty as well.  I remained tough with my resolve and then we were sequestered over the weekend in a motel.  After a continued split verdict on Monday, the frustrated judge ordered a mistrial and leaving the jury box, I winked at the DA.  I’m not sure if he understood why I was doing what I was doing, and I didn’t care, because I knew why I was doing it.  He could waste some of his time by having a second trial on this guy, which oddly never occurred.  Maybe he really wasn’t guilty?  I doubt that the local police were making up all the evidence but I never heard from the Clerk of Courts again for any added jury needs.  It is just as well. 

Life can change both dramatically and subtly and often when we least expect it.  Sometimes it can even change without any of the participants knowing it, and that is what happened to me.  What had been a steady headwind in my life soon became a tailwind and the change was so unexpected and subtle, I didn’t realize it had happened, until I found myself on a new course. It was a course I would never have dreamed I could have been on, mostly because I didn’t know what dreaming was. Dreaming was something for people with goals or for those who could see their future.  I have a hard enough time understanding the events of today.

                I am Doctor Alan Zorn Evardson and this is my story.

 

 

 

ONE

 

Crosby, Minnesota

“Dr. Evardson,” the nurse whose name he could never remember, asked him politely as if she actually cared.  “When are you leaving to go to Sweden to pick up your car?”

                “In the afternoon, tomorrow,” the doctor responded.  The flight to Gothenburg goes from Minneapolis to Chicago to Copenhagen…..”  He stopped, concluding that the nurse really didn’t care and had already changed her focus.  Evardson let the reply drop midsentence and it was never picked up again.

                A second nurse, one more senior, walked over to Evardson.  “You are not on vacation yet.  The old guy in room four has no DNR order on his chart and I don’t want to talk to him about it. He gives me the creeps.  Having him being a full code is not in his or our best interest.  He is also asking to talk to you about something else.  Take this form and get him to sign it and see what he wants.”

                “Yes, Nurse Smith.”  He always remembered her name.  She was one of those unforgettable people, the memories of whom could only be erased with heavy doses of alcohol.

                The patient in room four was a seventy year old man who had an odd air about him.  He could see why Nurse Smith might want him to die quietly and out of her sight.  He had come in with chest pain and had a long history of heart disease recorded on his chart.  He was originally unstable but with some IV fluid, some nitroglycerin and a little beta blocker to slow down his heart rate, he had better vital signs and his chest pain had gone away.  The admitting doctor had vacillated between admitting him and shipping him out, but since he was not a candidate for cardiac surgery, he didn’t know what transferring him to Minneapolis would accomplish.  The admitting doctor had gone on to other problems and left the patient in the emergency room without a clear treatment plan.  Alan would use the lull in his patient flow to try to figure something out.

                He entered the room and closed the door behind him.  “Mr. uh, Stark, how are you feeling?”  He asked never comfortable with using a patient’s name, looking at the chart, sitting down on his rolling chair.

                The old man didn’t respond verbally and was just looking at him.  Finally he spoke.  “Are you Catholic?”

                Evardson heard but didn’t listen.  “Do you want a priest?  I saw the Father in the hospital a few hours ago…”

                “No,no, no…” the old man said breathlessly, interrupting him.  “I asked, are YOU Catholic?”

                “No,” he said finally, definitely and honestly, “I am not.  We attend a Lutheran Church and I was confirmed a Lutheran.”  He didn’t elaborate that although he believed in God, he only attended the church so that if he died, he’d have someone to officiate at his funeral since where they lived, pastors would not bury non-members.  He also thought it was good for his children to be confirmed and get a little religious education.  Despite his wife’s conservative Baptist upbringing, she didn’t seem to mind what church they attended.   When they started attending the Lutheran church, since the town did not have a church of the Baptist denomination she had grown up with, she followed along with and promptly applied to become a member.  “Why does it matter if I’m Catholic?”  He inquired of the old man.

                “…just asking.”  The old man sighed, his heart rate dropped somewhat.  “I have been here for three hours, doctor, and I have been sizing you up from my hospital bed.”

                “Sizing me up?”  Evardson responded.  That was not something critically ill patients did or at least they never admitted they did.

                “The word size fits as it isn’t too big.  The nurses don’t respect you, especially that nurse named Smith.  You lack self-confidence and self-awareness.  I think that if someone hit you from behind, you wouldn’t know what happened.”

                Not knowing what to say or how to respond, and feeling a little angry, Evardson ignored the comment and began asking about the DNR order.  “What do you think about mechanical ventilation?”

                “If I said you could make me a ‘do not resuscitate’ patient, would that make YOU happy?”  He asked the doctor who was totally silent before continuing.  Evardson was still having a hard time listening to or comprehending this patient’s line of reasoning.  The patient reached out and took the clip board.  He weakly signed his name, William Stark, below a simple declaration.  Do not resuscitate me for any reason.    “I have been a selfish old man for what I have and what I know, and I have vowed to take it to the grave with me.  It was too much for one man or a group of men and women to have or know, just too much responsibility.  Now I know I was wrong but it is too late for me.”  He swallowed his voice faded off.

                “What?”  Evardson asked, confused as to the point of the sick man’s rant.

                The man looked up at the doctor.  “But now I see I need to share what I know… with you.  You need something to put meaning into your life as it is perfectly clear; your life as it currently is, has no meaning.  You are young and have potential.  I am old and almost dead.”  He began rolling up his sleeve.  “I did something for you, signing that chart and making your life easier.  Now you need to do something for me.”  The doctor remained silent just staring at him as it wasn’t normal for a patient requesting to be DNR to make a bargain with him.  Evardson had previously thought that making a patient DNR was doing the patient a favor.  “I have no heirs, you see.  Everyone who knows me is dead or at least everyone who cares.”

Evardson began to get a glimmer of understanding or at least he thought he did.  “Sir, just because you are sick, I wouldn’t worry about death….”

He got cut off.  “…Zurich National Bank.  Repeat it to me.”  He got no response.  “Zurich National Bank, Switzerland!  Repeat it!”  He said it again with such vehemence that the doctor repeated it.

“Yes, Zurich National bank in Switzerland, yes?  Why is that of importance?”

“515-098-9912,” he continued now calmly and quietly.

“That is a Des Moines phone number,” the Doctor noticed the association, having memorized area code prefixes in his youth as something to do.

“Yes, but it is also an account number.  Don’t call it before you go to Switzerland.  It is your refuge, a place of safety.  Repeat it.”  He did.  “Go to the bank manager and tell him that you need to be taken care of.  The account number…” he coughed.  “Repeat it.”  Evardson did again correctly, not really sure why he was cooperating.  “Password…my name with correct capital letters, the zip code for this town, then my name backwards, with opposite capital and lower cases, what should be capital isn’t… what isn’t …is.  Do you understand?”

“No.”  Evardson replied. 

The man placed something in the doctor’s hand.  “…My ring.  The bank manager will want to see it before he does anything.”

Evardson looked down at a large gold signet style ring with a diagram that matched a tattoo the weak sickly man was now pointing to.  “The mark…”  The tattoo was expertly done and about four inches across showing a solar eclipse, with the moon about one third of the way across the sun.

“Huh?”  The doctor looked at it and then at the ring.

“That ring has about a thousand dollars of gold in it.  You can have it, melt it, whatever.  I have nothing else to give.  Use it to enjoy your life, what you have of it.  Or, you can go to Zurich and do something real, something substantial.  Not many people get this opportunity.  No one else will get this opportunity from me.”  He held up the IV tubing and pointed to the chart.  “This is not real.  This place or you…don’t matter.  Do something that matters, doc.  The choice is up to you.  Repeat the number and the password.”

He did correctly and then the doctor began to ask questions and rattled off a few one phrase questions but the old man held his fingers up to his lips.  “You know everything you need to know.  Let me die in peace as that is what that bitch of a nurse they call Smith wants.  She wants me to die in peace so I won’t bother her.  She won’t miss you when you are gone.  Nothing I can say to you will help you decide what to do with my proposition.  Either you will, or you won’t…talking more is just wasting energy.  Play it safe and stay here or go to Zurich and take a chance.  You literally have nothing to lose as far as I can tell.”

“But I can’t just take your ring,” Evardson stammered.

“I have just given it to you.  It is no longer mine.”  The man coughed.  “Our lives are just one gradual slide to the bottom and mine has reached it.  Some people go down faster and without seeing much along the way.  Some people’s lives interact along the way for better or for worse, sometimes delaying the descent or accelerating it.  It is all up to you, your life is what you make of it, there is nothing called fate.  Fate is something made up by those who want to control you.  You did not decide to come in here, the nurse told you to.”  The old man turned away, closed his eyes and leaned back, seeming to sleep.

“Sir….I don’t get it,” Evardson said to no response.  He asked again a few times and the old sick man said nothing.  Finally he looked at the ring and put it in his pocket and was walking out of the room.

“Doc, one more thing….” the patient said towards him.  The doctor hadn’t yet turned around.  “…Cremation, please.”

By the time Evardson looked, the patient appeared to be asleep and Evardson wandered back out to the desk occupied by an EMT entering a new patient into the computer system.  The more forceful nurse snarled behind him, “…took long enough.”  He just glared at her but said nothing.  As always, he let it pass.

 

Two hours later he was on his way home, his mind preoccupied, not sure what to make of the ring in his pocket or the codes bouncing around his head.  He took off his shoes in an otherwise dark house, the dog had been delivered to the kennel and the children had been delivered to the in-laws.  From there a bus would take them to foreign language camp for a month.  A single light emanated from the bedroom.  Elsa was reading as usual.  Alan was afraid to look at the title.

When he walked in, his wife neither looked up from the page nor made a single noise and so he walked past and into the bathroom.  He came out and stopped, looking at Elsa momentarily.

She turned a page and then almost reflexively put the book down on the nightstand and then carefully folded her reading glasses placing them on top of the book.  Evardson noticed the title now, a Heinlein classic, The Moon is a Strange Mistress.  He had another book by the author, assigned to him in college.  He knew though not to ask about it, it was a waste of time as she would offer little insight of the book instead preferring him to read it for himself.  Elsa removed her t-shirt revealing her breasts; the rest as he full well knew was always naked while she read in bed.  It was a ritual preformed almost nightly and always after he had finished one of his day shifts.  Husband comes home; Elsa finishes reading, takes off t-shirt, allows husband access to private pleasures, husband falls asleep, wife puts shirt back on, goes to the bathroom, comes back to bed and continues reading.

“Thanks dear but I don’t feel up to it tonight.”  He said to her but she responded by looking neither surprised nor concerned. 

“Bad shift?”  She said putting her shirt back on before reaching for her reading glasses.

Alan knew she didn’t really care about his answer; she was also a physician and seemed to have developed a thicker skin than he, but radiology was a bit more removed from humanity than the life of an emergency room physician.  “Yea, tough patient,” he said finally.  “He is haunting me a little.”

 “I think there is a half opened bottle of wine in the refrigerator,” she replied opening her book which was the automatic closure of any meaningful conversation.   Hers was a simple view of humanity.  Elsa had two remedies for Alan’s problems, her body and/or alcohol.  It didn’t appear to her that Alan, or any other man for that matter, had any other needs and since alcohol had rarely been needed, she had considered her treatments successful.  Apparently tonight alcohol was the answer and so she could get back to her book more quickly than anticipated.  Her problems were always instantly solved by reading.

Evardson wandered off to the kitchen table but didn’t drink the wine.  He wanted to think clearly about what the old man had said and what to do about it.  He sat in the dark for nearly an hour before opening the door to the garage.  In a dusty corner, he opened a small cupboard and pulled out a worn cigar box and brought it into the kitchen.  Carefully he opened it.  He first took out a stack of money, mostly fifties, adding exactly to two thousand dollars.  It was the money he had earned by remaining married to Elsa.  Below that was a faded picture of his dead parents and a program from each of his grandparent’s funerals.  He stopped and reviewed each of them before moving on.  He also looked at better kept pictures of his grandparents from when they were younger.  At the bottom was a small selection of writings from his earlier childhood and young adulthood, some in pencil and others in crayon.  Before looking at these he replaced the pictures of his dead family members and the stack of money.  He also fiddled around in his pocket and dropped the signet ring in the box.

He shuffled through the personal writings until he found one in green crayon.  He read.  Be when all grown up, grown spelled wrong, explorer.  He then found a more sophisticated writing from when he was much older.  This was written on a scrap of paper and looked like nothing more than a footnote.  Note to self; try something adventurous before you die. 

He studied this for a while and then picked up the signet ring, studying the diagram on it.  He followed the depression of the moon with a fingertip.  After a few minutes he stuffed the ring back in his pocket with the scrap of paper about being adventurous.  Then he replaced the rest of the stuff in the box and closed the lid, but suddenly he reopened it.

Elsa monitors the credit card pretty closely and she’ll yell at me, he thought.  This would have to be a secret adventure.   He then reached for the stack of money and counted out five hundred in fifties.  Then he added another hundred after thinking he might need more and stuffed that in his pocket, too. He replaced the box before crawling back in the bed with his now sleeping wife.

The warmth of her backside slowly and gently brought sleep over him and for a moment he forgot about his vanilla life and he began to dream.

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