Fred Gillian looked in the mirror and disliked what he saw. The young man he had always been had been replaced by an aging man with gray, receding hair, sagging jowls, and a spray of crow’s feet at the corner of his eyes. The soft, taut skin of his youth had roughened like sandpaper, and the glorious five o’clock shadow that had made him feel masculine in his youth troubled him with its patchy gray. He no longer sported a full beard because of the gray. On this morning, like every morning for the past ten years, he shaved his face clean in hopes of keeping himself youthful looking. It didn’t work.
He grabbed a towel from the rack near the sink and wiped the steam away from the mirror so that he could see to shave. The mirror cleared, but the steam gradually crept into his one visible spot. He cursed beneath his breath. He was going to be late for work. He pulled the razor up his neck clearing the hair in a sharp line and repeated several times until he nicked his neck.
“What’s wrong?” his wife asked from the bedroom just outside the door of the bathroom they shared. Her voice sounded concerned or bothered. He couldn’t tell which.
“I cut myself,” he said curtly.
His wife of 30 years seemed not to care. She didn’t come to the bathroom to check on him, but he’d cut himself plenty of times, and by now, she was probably used to it. Nevertheless, something bothered him about it. Some deep-seated worry nagged at him like a sixth sense had detected something was wrong but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. She had seemed aloof of late – a little less invested in him, a little less caring. Being together 30 years had blunted a lot of the charm in their relationship, but this felt different. Fred shook the thought from his head as he put a torn piece of toilet paper over his cut. How such a tiny nick could bleed so much, he had no idea.
He finished shaving and wiped his face clean with a hot cloth avoiding the covered cut as best he could. He dried his face as he walked into the bedroom. His wife stood near the window looking outside.
“It’s going to be a beautiful day,” she said without looking at him.
“It’s about time. I’m tired of the rain.”
Fred heard a noise downstairs and perked up. “Is Alan still here?”
His wife finally turned to him. Her tentative expression answered his question before she said anything. “Yes.”
“Why? He should be on the way to work by now. Do we still have to make sure he gets up for work? He’s 24 years old!”
“Don’t ‘Fred’ me. What is he doing?”
“He’s not working.”
“What? What happened?”
“He was let go.”
“Let go? Why?”
“You know how he and that boss of his didn’t get along.”
“So he was fired?”
“No. He quit.”
“He quit again? You just said he was let go. Why wasn’t I told this?”
“It just happened yesterday. I’m not sure if he was laid off or quit. He hasn’t said much about it.”
“You didn’t say anything to me last night. Why not, Shelly? You could have told me then rather than let me figure it out on my own. That boy can’t keep a job. He can’t live with us forever!”
Fred stomped out of the room before his wife could offer up any response. He picked up the pace to his anger as he stormed down the stairs. Shelly trailed behind him trying to get his attention and calm him down.
“Fred, give him a chance to explain…” she stuttered behind him. He ignored her, blocked out all of her pleading words. He’d had enough. His son had pushed him to his limits with his irresponsible and reckless behavior. He may be 24 years old, but he had somehow never made it past 16 mentally.
“Alan!” Fred yelled when he stepped into the living room and didn’t see his son. “Alan!”
“What?” his son replied. He stepped around the corner from the kitchen.
“What the hell happened to your job?”
“I quit.” Alan spoke defiantly, but Fred could see the fear in his eyes.
“Why? What happened?”
“I didn’t want to work there anymore.”
“That’s it? You’re just too lazy to work?”
“No, it was a crappy job, so I quit.”
“How many is that now? Eight? Nine?”
“I don’t know.”
“This is what happens when you go don’t go to college. You don’t have many choices. You have to take what you can get.”
“I know. You keep saying that. I know.”
Fred took a deep breath and clenched his jaw shut. His son was a monumental disappointment. His only child was going nowhere fast, and worse, he still depended on his parents for support.
“You’re going to have to move out. I’ll give you until the end of the month.”
“What? No. I have no place to go. I can’t afford rent anywhere.”
“Then, get a job fast because you’re going to need it,” he said as he turned to leave the room.
“Fred!” Shelly said as he stomped past her. “You can’t do that to your son!”
“Dad, wait!” Alan pleaded.
Fred ignored both of them as he bounded up the stairs. He could hear Shelly comforting their son. He could hear him reacting out of anger, his words unintelligible but clearly angry. Fred didn’t care. His son had threatened him before, but Shelly had stepped in and defused the situation. She had a hold on him that gave her extraordinary powers it seemed, but Fred had been pushed to his limits this time. Nothing she could do or say would change his mind. He was kicking his son out of the house, and he was changing the locks. It was time for him to grow up and move out. Fred was determined this time. He wouldn’t change his mind. Not like the last two times.