A Day in February
by Martin Green




Paul Lerner opened his eyes and checked his watch. It was almost eight o’clock. Not bad; most people in his Northern California retirement community were up much earlier. He saw that his wife Sally was already up; good, she’d get the coffee ready. He stretched to ease his usual morning stiffness and got out of bed. He put on his glasses and opened the blinds. It was cloudy outside but not yet raining. At one time in the Sacramento Valley, before the world’s weather had gotten weird, February had been pretty nice, bringing what was known as a “false spring.” This year, after several years of drought, El Nino had come and, as if in compensation, they were having record rainfall amounts. Now in his eighties, Paul hated to drive in the rain and he had a dentist’s appointment the next day. He’d been checking the weather forecasts for the past week, hoping to see a change, but it was for either rain or showers every day. Paul sighed and headed for the bathroom.


“Damnit!” Paul’s toothbrush had jumped off the sink onto the floor. At least, that’s how it appeared to him. As he got older he noticed he was getting clumsier so maybe he’d brushed against it. Anyway, he had to bend down, something he hated doing, to retrieve it and washed it in hot water. He’d turned his little bathroom radio on and it gave the day’s weather report - - rain. “Great,” he thought.


In the kitchen, Sally had already poured his orange juice, which he now drank along with his morning regimen of pills. Was there a time when he didn’t start the day with pills? If there was, it was a long time ago and he could barely remember it. Paul put the remains of his juice, his cereal and coffee and napkin on the kitchen counter. The napkin promptly fluttered to the floor, meaning he’d have to bend down again. They needed a robot who’d pick thing up from the floor, thought Paul. He’d finished his cereal and was getting up from the table when he knocked over the orange juice, something he was always careful about and had never done before. Luckily, there wasn’t much left in the glass and he cleaned it up with a paper towel. Already, he could see, this was going to be one of those days.


This was the morning Paul had his weekly billiards game with his friend Abe Silverman and two other old tennis players whose knees had forced them to abandon the tennis courts for the pool table. As soon as he got into his car and started driving to the Lodge, the center of the retirement community’s activities and where the pool room was, it started to rain. When he got to the parking lot he couldn’t find a space near to the Lodge and had to park at the last lane by the tennis courts and hike over to the Lodge entrance, getting wet in the process. Somehow he’d expected this to happen.


After their billiards session Paul and Abe, as they usually did, went to the Lodge’s restaurant for lunch. Paul wasn’t happy about his pool playing. In the first game the cue ball from a bank shot he’d tried bounced off the object ball and hit the eight ball, which promptly went into a pocket, meaning they’d lost the game. He and Abe had won the second game but in the third  they had the game won but when Abe hit the eight ball into a pocket on an easy shot the cue ball followed it in and so they lost again. Paul was still stewing over this when the waitress, someone new, came to take their orders. He’d seen they had onion soup, which he liked, on the menu and ordered that, telling the waitress to be sure not to put cheese, which he didn’t like, on it or anywhere near it. Paul then recounted his morning misfortunes, before the unlucky pool events, to Abe. “So,” he finished, “I knocked over my orange juice. I couldn’t believe it. I could have sworn I’d moved it out of the way. And that’s the way my whole morning’s been going. Like that eight ball going in a pocket and you messing up on that easy eight ball shot. The gods are getting me, including the pool gods.”


Abe shrugged. “These things happen. Don’t worry about it. The law of averages will kick in and things will even up.”


Just then the waitress brought their lunch orders, with Paul’s onion soup covered with cheese.


Paul drove home in the rain without incident, half expecting some other driver to come zooming out of a side street, as had been known to happen in their retirement community. But he made it back without incident and went to the mailbox to check the mail. The box was empty and he remembered that this was Presidents Day, so no mail delivery. He guessed Washington and Lincoln didn’t have separate birthdays any more.  On the radio that morning there’d been an item about someone who’d asked if Washington and Lincoln were twins, both having their birthdays celebrated on the same day.


The afternoon and the evening went along more or less routinely. Paul watched the afternoon news programs on TV, as he always did. The news did nothing to dispel his gloomy feeling. California was gearing up to battle Trump on the issue of sanctuary cities. It seemed to Paul that it should have been simple - kick out the bad illegals and keep the ones who were regular people. Of course, in the current political climate this was impossible. The last election had given them the choice between probably the two worst presidential candidates in history. Now the losing party was determined to bring down the unexpected president and the unexpected president was as obnoxious as he’d first seemed to Paul when he’d run for the nomination. What a mess.


Paul tried to do some reading but he was abstracted. He hated going to the dentist, even thought this was for a routine check-up, and having to drive there in the rain made it even worse.  He’d grown up in the Depression years when the dental care had been minimal, no fluoride then, so his teeth had always been bad and he had two bridges in his mouth. He felt he was fighting a rear guard battle to keep his remaining teeth before they too went. He pictured himself pinned down in the dentist’s chair while the hygienist scraped away and poked around while he hoped she wouldn’t find any cavities. After supper, he and Sally did their usual TV watching and he tried to forget about the dentist and lose himself in a couple of mindless programs. He couldn’t help checking the weather forecast for the next day on his iPad while watching; the forecast was always the same - - rain. When he mentioned this to Sally she said that maybe it would let up. “Hah,” he said.


Paul was up early the next morning. As he’d expected, it was raining. At ten, he drove to the dentist’s and about halfway there the rain, as Sally said it might, did let up. On the way back, it wasn’t raining at all and the sun was trying to come out. He’d had no cavities. The law of averages, as Abe had suggested? Maybe.



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