Mister Sydney Bubwah had a problem. It was a big problem, and not easily corrected.
His wife Miss Annabelle was on a rampage. While cleaning her son’s room, she uncovered his hiding spot. In the hiding spot, she had found a few items that sent her into an irate mood. One was an old Sports-Illustrated magazine featuring Cheryl Tiegs drenched by a waterfall. It was a particular favourite of Mr. Bubwah that had gone missing some months ago.
The other offensive document was his son’s mid-term report card, ranking him practically bottom of his seventh-grade class, a disappointing twenty-ninth out of thirty.
Last, she had found a small fortune of one hundred and fifty dollars, consisting mostly of one-dollar bills. It had been hidden in an old smelly sock, that paired perfectly with another she had saved in her laundry lost sock bin. Mr. Sydney was not sure which one had been worst for Miss Annabelle to find, but he was leaning towards the report card.
“That blasted child has nothing better to do in his life than chase girls,” thundered Annabelle as she furious dusted and tidied, placing objects back into their rightful places and ranting. “Tell me, what girl is going to want a foolish man? Can you imagine, he is last in his class? I don’t ask him to do anything in this house. Not a single thing! He doesn’t have any chores; I don’t force him to wash or clean. He doesn’t even have a paper route. No! All he must do is study. How hard is that to do? Just one thing. Do you know how many children wish they could just study? Tell me what is going to do with his life? I will tell you; he will amount to nothing! No one wants a dunce working for them. No one will hire him. Then what girl will want him? Do you think girls nowadays want someone stupid? No sir, no way honey! That boy better think again if knows what is good for himself.”
Mr. Bubwah was doing his best to stay out of the way when Miss Annabelle cornered him, finger-wagging. “You need to go and find that son of yours and talk to him. You need to sit him down and give him a real man-to-man. Hands on her hips, she continued “He needs to hear from you, how hard this life is. You need to tell him that no one is going to give him food or a place to live. He must work for it, study for it, and go to college to make something of himself.”
Just when he was about to try and explain that all boys need time to settle down and that even he had gone through something similar as a kid and had eventually found his way, Miss Annabelle started anew.
“And look nah, where did he get all this money? You think he stealing with those boys? I know that something is not right! No, no, no. You really need to set that boy on the straight and narrow. Tell him he is wasting his time on these lewd magazines. Because it starts with this and it’s the devil’s work at hand here you know.”
Mr. Bubwah was starting to feel rankled, since they were his magazines that she was referring to, and she was making them out to be crude and shoddy. He always thought of them as beautiful, artful, and valuable. After all, they were not Playboy, so he responded more sharply than even he expected. “Yuh done? Anything else I need to tell him? Yuh sure you don’t want to just go look for him yourself?” Well needless to state, that didn’t go very well.
“Ex-cuse me? You need to step up, man. That boy is your SON, so YOU need to take responsibility. I am not a man; I don’t know what a MAN needs to say to his SON. Besides, see this state I am in? If I see him right now, I am going to blaze his ass. He won’t be able to sit for a week.”
Mr. Bubwah recognized that he may have made things worse and needed the conversation to end. He was not fond of confrontation and tended to avoid it since it caused his ulcer to act up, and his heart to race. “Okay, okay, sorry, I am going to look for him.” As Mr. Bubwah started out the door, he heard Miss Annabelle call out, as he exited: “And don’t worry to come home without him.”
As soon as he exited the door, Mr. Bubwah fumbled through his pockets, and found his stash. He lit a cigarette a took a nice long drag. He had been trying to cut down but the stress of Annabelle’s fury, the impending conversation with his son, and this new dilemma was too much to bear. Mr. Bubwah was toying with the idea of not returning home. He thought it would be a good solution. Because his challenge was not that he needed to find his son, he knew exactly where Chris was. Chris was in the same place he was every Tuesday after school. He was taking tutoring lessons from his teacher Miss Patricia Lee. This was the real problem, because Mr. Bubwah was also seeing Miss Patricia, but just not for tutoring.
Mr. Bubwah had not intended to cheat on his wife. He had been trying to avoid coming home early one evening after work when sheltering from the rain had taken him into a church. There had been a grief support group meeting for widowed patrons taking place that evening. Mr. Bubwah had been hungry, and delicious scents coming from the table full of food had grabbed his attention and caused his belly to rumble.
The pastor had ushered him in, telling him not to be shy and to take a seat, and then announced that the session was to about to start. Mr. Bubwah had joined them, sitting at the very edge of the group, and listening to their stories, shedding a tear or two, while commiserating with their grief. Afterward, he joined in as they ate the delicious food, sampled the various dishes, and enjoyed the sweet treats. Mr. Bubwah really enjoyed the session and found that he had benefited as well. In the week that followed his ulcer hadn’t acted up, nor did his heart didn’t race. In fact, his overall stress management had been much better. So much so that he continued to attend the sessions, week after week, pretending to be a widow.
Miss Patricia Lee spoke to him on his fifth week of attendance. It had been a quiet conversation. She inquired as to why she had never heard him share his feelings, as others had. Mr. Bubwah, never good at lying, and more afraid of being caught, told her that it was too overwhelming for him to talk about and that he preferred to listen. Which was truthful since he found the most relief from his emotional pain by crying while listening to other widows' stories of love and sorrow. Ms. Patricia Lee had gushed and declared him a brave man because he was not ashamed to be vulnerable and deal with loss, whereas most men would just bottle those emotions.
When she inquired, “How did one find the courage to be brave and move on?” Mr. Bubwah had shrugged and stuffed an entire cookie into his mouth whole so that he wouldn’t be able to respond, fearing that he found out as an imposter. He had no idea that she had baked the cookies, and when she asked him to show her to be how brave, he reached for another, honestly stating that these were the best he had ever had. This caused others to join in, and she quickly forgot what she had asked. From that point onwards, Miss Patricia Lee would bring in the same cookies, week after week and she always sat next to him in the sessions.
Mr. Bubwah and Miss Patricia had started meeting outside of group sessions as well. She came to the Gourmet grocery store where Mr. Bubwah worked as an assistant manager, and he would see her on the security screen weekly as she walked through the aisles selecting grade A eggs, granulated sugar, soft wheat flour, organic milk, and butter and German chocolate chips.
One day, she had stopped by on her lunch hour to pick up supplies for her cookie making and her grocery bag had fallen. The bag of sugar had busted and mixed with the broken eggs, milk, and flour to create a yellow sticky mess. Miss Patricia valiantly tried to rescue the ingredients to no avail. Overwhelmed, she sat down in the parking lot and began to sob.
Seeing her breakdown, and worried that he wouldn’t get his weekly sugar fix, Mr. Bubwah hurried outside. “Never mind this mess,” he had said, giving her a new set of groceries, “I’ll take care of it, don’t you worry. Don’t cry over spilled milk. You be brave now and pick yourself up.” Miss Patricia had been so grateful that she had hugged him and nearly toppled the new bag. “Thank you so much. I really owe you! Let’s get dinner tomorrow, my treat,” she had gushed, and he nodded his acceptance quickly as others were stopping to stare.
And so, the next day, he had met her for dinner, making the excuse that he had to work late. He had not expected it to last very long, but instead, they had talked for hours. Mr. Bubwah had found out that she was a teacher and she loved teaching students in grade eight. She had no siblings and her parents had died, so when her husband passed away, she had been very alone. The meetings were her only social outing for the week and she looked forward to being with other people.
Mr. Bubwah told her that he like to go to meetings to hear everyone’s story and that he was thinking someone should write them all down. When she had asked why anyone would want to write down sad stories, he had told her vehemently that all the personal stories he had heard were a beautiful accounting of love. The deeper the love, the sadder the tragedy. After all even Shakespeare realized that tragedies were better stories than comedies. Later Miss Patricia would tell Mr. Bubwah, that it was at their first dinner, that she felt love again, as butterflies fluttered to life in her stomach.
Mr. Bubwah had met Patricia for coffee most weeks, the group meeting weekly, and sometimes for dinner. All they had ever done was talk, but he knew that it was still considered cheating. He had done his best to keep both worlds separate, only realizing that Miss Lee was Chris’s teacher after he had shown his father his mid-term report card.
“You need to hide this from your mother. She is going to kill you when she sees it. And you are going to need a tutor. Talk to your teacher to see if she can give you extra tutoring.”
But when he had asked, “What’s your teacher’s name again? And Chris had responded, “Miss Patricia Lee. She’s nice, I like her.”
Mr. Bubwah realized that his world had become too small, and he would have to work hard to keep things separate. He repeated, trying to keep calm, “Your teacher is Miss Patricia Lee.”
“Yes, Dad I’ll ask her about the tutoring, but won’t it be expensive? Won’t mom find out?”
“Don’t worry about that, Mr. Bubwah said stiffly, “I’ll take care of it.”
And with that, he had gone to his storage unit to look for things of value to sell on eBay. He found his box of vintage sport-illustrated magazines including the swimsuit editions.
So, the thought of his two worlds colliding, after all his effort to keep them separate, stressed out Mr. Bubwah. He wanted to continue seeing Patricia, he enjoyed talking to her and attending the grief sessions. But what he really didn’t want, was for Annabelle to find out anything about this situation. She would ruin it for him and in turn, his life would be ruined.
He would need a way out of this mess, and another thought was forming in his head, one that reflected his dire state of mind. The only way to escape this mess was if someone died. Either himself, which was looking like the easiest solution, or Annabelle, which would leave his son without a mother, which would be awful, or Patricia, which would be tragic, since she was not to blame for his mess.
It was a sad state indeed.
Rehannah Hussain was born in Toronto but spent many of her formative years living in the Caribbean. She holds degrees in both English Literature and Computer Science. Rehannah has worked in the Technology sector for the last 18 years.
However, her first love has always been stories, whether it be listening to them, reading them, or creating them. Rehannah also enjoys traveling, cooking, and visiting museums. She has recently started exploring creative writing, getting back in touch with her creative side.
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