(Have you read Chapter 1 of Morse?)

The cat has taken to watching the mice run across the floor. This behavior is an improvement, perhaps triggered by the lack of “hustle” in my new life. I, up until this week, was the cat’s entertainment. Robotically rushing from stove-top kitchen nightmares to agency mock-ups of product labels to some domestic disaster or another that required attention–the cat probably thought I was human-sized mouse. Who but a mouse would think that scurrying around was productive?

But now, hey, I have the money for take-out every night, and you know, those mock-ups can wait–Generic-Boss-Number-Two can go fuck himself–and hell, who cares if the kitchen sink is clogged? I have three other sinks in the house. I have to do something for myself. A little celebration, a tribute to the piece de resistance of the best years of my life, a liberal indulgence of liquor, a libation to the loan deities funneled, no, guzzled down my gullet.

I’m on day three of this celebration, and I have to say, I don’t know why I wasn’t doing this the whole time.

I’m relaxed and happy and have something to look forward to after work. Sure, the mornings have been hell, but I can write myself off as sick and no one wants to get near me. Email after email that I can ignore much more easily than cubicle visit after cubicle visit, usually accompanied by the casual leaning on the wall, elbow up, mug in hand, “I’m the cool boss.”

My house sits by itself on an old northeastern road last paved 10 years ago and sporadically pot-holed and patched ever since. The cold winters and boiling summers took their toll on the road, but the house stood and stands in casual defiance of Mother Nature.

The traditional farmhouse build brushed off the world’s advances with an immovable rough-hewn stone foundation spindling upwards into brick masonic mastery and overlapping wooden shingle siding that looked more like the bark of an ancient oak than the workings of a skilled carpenter. To the back, a wooden-edged garden in front of a tree-line. To the left, green expanse. To the right, green expanse. To the front, what used to be farmland, now, you guessed it, green expanse. I wouldn’t call any of it grass.

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged stayed this home from, well, staying.

As a child, I could be found luring garter snakes out of the stone crevices in the basement or chasing my dog through the yard towards the garden and the tree line. My enthusiasm for nature ebbed with my late adolescence and the early departure of my family–a genetic predisposition to malaise and the swift passing of time.

Though I left my youth behind, I couldn’t tear myself away from the gravity of the only home I’d ever known. I disappeared here and there to attend college, to frivol away money in pursuit of foreign exploration, something that my generation seemed to hold in an esteem greater than the ex-pat writers of the mid-century.

I bought in to the travel line, but for all the buildings and sights and culture and music and food and drink and new acquaintances that the world offered, I emptied as soon as I, the prodigal son, returned to the empty nest. What did the world teach me but to regret what I left at home? I was no European renaissance man, no man of the world.

I was a man, or victim if you see it that way, of a love for what I knew. At best, I was a voyeur to the decadent differentness found in the overly affectionate Italian countryside, or the standoffish but welcoming vodka-soaked lips of Russia’s provincial villages, or the sleepy excesses of the Greek isles.

Listen to me. Woe is me! I’ve seen the world and I’ve paid my dues. God forbid that happen to anyone. Childish, I know.

The cat understands. The cat’s only concern is that the food dish and water dish are filled at precisely 6:05am and 6:05pm–the comings and goings of her servant. I’m fairly certain the house could be on fire and the cat would passive-aggressively demand that I move the dishes to the yard so that she could observe the flames from a distance.

With that happy thought in mind, I’ll have just one more. The house doesn’t seem to mind.

(Continue to Chapter 3 of Morse.)

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