Fabian and the Flower Pot (Short Story)

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Three jobs, a bad relationship done three times over, along with the ever continuing drama of his sister's drug problem might have been the catalyst Fabian needed to strip his life of everything excess and become simpler. More likely though it was the realization that in contrast to the fast and uncertain circumstances of his best friend's death his was to be a slow, lumbering affair.


His first hard evidence came when his knees began to hurt at work one day. At the grocery store where he worked, Fabian was unloading a keg of beer from a dolly when a co-worker saw him wince ever so slightly. The pain was sharp at first, and then ever so dull.


"You know, they're only going to get worse," his coworker said, knowingly, pointing to his own two knee braces.


His second piece of evidence was when he realized that it was four years to the day when his friend had been gunned down in a convenience store robbery in his old neighborhood. That day he had been working with his brother-in-law on a construction site for extra money to go to college. When he returned home there had been all kinds of excitement. Friends saying they were going to seek vengeance, his mother crying endlessly saying she was going to move to a safer neighborhood. And then time passed. Not only had he never had to face a gun, but much to his surprise, ever since high school, he had not been in a fight, had stayed clean of hard drugs, and had never been to jail. He had even been to college for a while.


The pain in his knees suggested that his death might not be an occurrence, quick, random and unforeseeable, but instead a process, punctuated by failing body parts, stunted libido, senility, all ending predictably on a hospital bed, or, God-willing, in a house long occupied.


Watching the old men and women come in at midday, taking their time looking over the labels, a lag in their step, he suddenly realized that there was an alternative to the surprise ending.


This wasn't such a bad thing, Fabian decided.


*


Joline calls relentlessly. After several years of breaking up and then making up with her, Fabian finally decides that this would be it. After one particularly bad fight, he stops returning her phone calls. Between her letters, her messages, and her occasional package of make-up gifts, he does the courtesy of writing her a note to remind her that it's over. A life without Joline is his first big change.


The second, though subtle, is no less important. He changes his reading patterns. Sitting alone in his kitchen, the coffee pot gets less use. He doesn't drink or smoke weed when he reads. No more stoned reading adventures or sleep deprived reading binges. Whereas once he used to skip the prefaces and appendixes, he now reads these too. And he always reads the beginnings and endings twice.


Since his three years of college, he had done a great deal of reading. Fast, in a haphazard way, to meet the pace of everything else: the hectic fights with his girlfriend, the phone calls and family drama, dealing with his sister, his arguments with his boss, the change of jobs. He read furiously.


Not too long after his last breakup with Joline, sitting in his kitchen reading the latest Stephen King at a rapid pace, he posed himself a simple question: Had he ever really read anything at all? Sure he could pile the books he had read into his living room and make a sofa, but for the life of him, he couldn't say what those books had done to change him as a person.

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