Perhaps Frank expected far too much in his lifetime. He expected his wife to be with him as he grew older. He expected to have children. He expected to be grey and retired, sailing to exotic locals while drinking the finest liquor money could buy. At the very least, he had expected the soft crush of carpet on his toes when he set his foot down at the top of the stairs. Instead, he discovered a perplexing sensation of movement. His left leg shot out from underneath him, slipping on a discarded piece of corrugated cardboard that said "Papa Georgio's Pizza" in bold red letters. Instinctively Frank went to a knee. With his one leg now hanging over the edge of the stairs, and his other leg behind him, he flapped his arms a couple of times, arched his back once or twice, and proceeded to tumble down the steps in a series of painful crunches punctuated with fleeting periods of weightlessness.
Dizzy, confused, Frank found himself in a crinkled heap at the bottom of the staircase. The edges of his vision gently filled back in, taking him further and further away from the sparkly midnight of semi-consciousness. His ears were singing a high pitched hum. His bones and joints chimed in as well, muttering their disapproval of the situation the only way they knew how—a series of aches and pains Frank had yet to sort out. Wrapped tightly around the banister was his hand, his fingers holding on so firmly that the blood vessels and whatever muscle he posessed bulged from beneath his skin, like a strongman—or a corpse.
As it stood now, Frank's wrist was throbbing, a sharp white pain that made him wince every time he attempted to move it, threatening to send him back to the dark recesses of unconsciousness he had just left behind. Even wiggling his fingers sent shoots of agony directly to his brain to flower, bloom, and muddle his thinking. Muttering curse words under his breath he tenderly nursed it, holding it in the crook of his arm as though it were a fragile baby. The skin was rough against him arm. Sapped of all moisture and flexibility. Once that hand had been strong, supple, and rippled with muscle. Now it was old, frail, the skin as dry and brittle as the outer layer of an onion.
Moaning, still cradling his wrist, Frank rolled on his hip and brought himself to an upright sitting postion. The pizza box that had inadvertenly caused his test flight down the stairs lay inches in front of his feet, one corner crushed. The character on the box, a stereotypically plump Italian chef holding a steaming pie, stared back at him. Frank kicked at the offending package, sending it skidding across the carpet like a stone across water. The rectangular disc banked off a wall, richocheted off a coffe table leg, and struck a ceiling high tower of even more pizza boxes Frank had piled there awaiting disposal. The stack teetered, wobbling back and forth, before finally giving way and showering the living room in cardboard.
Frank, eyes wide, jaw dropped, forgot his injured wrist and grabbed at his chest. For seconds he just sat, sucking in whatever air he could find, before finally getting enough to let out a loud bellow of laughter.
"Oh god," Frank said between chuckles, wiping a tear from his eye, "I haven't laughed like that in ages."
Frank leaned back, scanned the living room, and let out a long drawn out sigh. His house was a mess. No, it was more than a mess. It was a disaster, a battle zone that would make any self respecting germophode cringe in fear and run away. Empty soda bottles and to-go cups lined the base of each chair, standing like an army in formation, their contents long forgotten and now dried. The tables were piled high with stacks of crusty chinese take out containers, microwaveable meals, and hamburger wrappers, with the occasional disposable fork sticking out at odd angles. Even before the leaning tower of pizza had fallen, the floor had been littered with debris—the carpet sprouting a garden of used napkins, plastic bags, unread mail and newspaper.
The kitchen had fared the battle no better. A heap of dirty dishes, crusted in a thick grime of grease and mold, spilled out from over the sink and had eaten the rest of the counter. The kitchen table, long forgotten, sat buried under a mountain of black trash bags, sagging and groaning under the weight. The floors, once a bright green linoleum, were now a death trap, with several cockroaches fossilized permanently in the sticky brown mess that oozed and dripped from the stacks of festering refuse.