In A Black Morning, Celia wakes up on her fiftieth birthday, laments the wrinkles on her face and hands, and wonders why her husband is not lying beside her in bed. If he is off golfing, she’ll kill him!
About the Author
Nick Colaccino is an educator, writer, and musician living in Japan. He enjoys exploring mountains, playing music, and being with close friends. Nature, beauty, life, and love are the dominant themes of his works.
Peruse Nick’s short stories, poetry, and other writings on his website: rafikisnikki.wordpress.com
A Black Morning by Nick Colaccino
A mother robin’s beautiful song wafted through the window on a warm spring breeze. Suddenly, the loud sound of a mechanical marimba ringtone interrupted. A hand groggily reached from under the covers. The skin looked like a varicose-vein road map of a budding urban metropolis. A finger unfurled and repeatedly jabbed the glossy phone screen, blindly searching for the snooze button.
Not today, thought Celia, her head still under the heavy comforter. Her birthday didn’t land on a Saturday every year, and she planned to make the most of it—starting with a good long sleep.
“You’d think you’d want to get up early and do something exciting!” George had said at the dinner table earlier in the week.
“Oh?” she had pointedly asked her husband, arching her eyebrow inquisitively. “And why is that?”
“Well, I mean . . . fifty . . . ya know?” he had stammered, desperate for a way out of the verbal quicksand into which he had suddenly fallen. With his head about to submerge to its sandy fate, their son, Mikey, had dove heroically to save his father like an Olympian from the three-meter board.
“Yeah,” Mikey had said, “You gotta prove you’re not an old bag yet.”
“Mikey!” George barked, “Your mother is anything but!”
Yet Celia had seen through her husband’s façade, noticing the relief on George’s face. He had agreed with Mikey, like a diving judge awarding a perfect ten.
Lying in bed, she couldn’t get the conversation out of her mind. Being one year younger (and a man), George could never understand how she felt. He was full of energy and life; she was exhausted and felt like death. He had strength, youthful vigor, and muscle tone; she had aching joints, visible upper lip hairs, and menopausal heat flashes. Most importantly, George was still forty-nine; Celia was . . . Not.
Begrudgingly, she pulled the covers away from her face and stared at the sponge-painted ceiling. She sighed then looked to the oscillating fan in the corner. The fan emphatically shook its head as if to shout, “No. No. Stay in bed forever!”
Ignoring the windy warning, she pushed the covers all the way off, stretched her toes, and sat up. She grabbed her phone and checked the time: 7:50. How fitting.
With a soft sigh, she struggled to lift herself out of bed—and failed. Her initial effort was a trial run (or so she called it) to test the waters of the day. This struggle to leave the comfort of horizontal life and face gravity had become a daily ritual. Her body stubbornly refused to rouse its faculties enough to stand. Normally, she could pass it off with a joke, but today, she was acutely aware that the humor had run its course.
She trudged across the room—dragging her feet audibly on the shaggy carpet—and came into the bathroom. Turning the tap to scalding, she thrust her hands under the steaming stream and splashed water on her face. Celia grabbed the black towel next to the sink to dry off. As she pulled it down below her eyes, she paused to study her reflection in the mirror.
Not too bad yet, she thought, admiring her full head of auburn hair. But then she pulled the veil down to reveal cavernous crow’s feet, canyons of wrinkles, and black bags drooping under tired grey-green eyes. And that’s what I thought. She sighed in disappointment.
It wasn’t as if her features had aged overnight. Over the years, her once smooth skin had slowly eroded like a riverbank. And yet, she felt as though a passing flood had washed away her youth in the middle of the night. True, she had turned fifty, but really, she was only one day older than yesterday.
“It’s not like one day makes that much difference,” she whispered, trying to convince herself.
But it had! She felt as though she had lived her fifty-year lifespan while sleeping. Where had the time gone?
After finishing her morning beautification rituals, she returned to the bedroom and opened the closet. She scanned her clothing rack from left to right—then right to left. She stared blankly at the amassed collection of hanging garments. She felt as ridiculous as George and Mikey when they sat in front of the premium-cable, high-definition, big screen television and groaned about the lack of decent programming. How could she have bought all these clothes and not like a single thing?
Unlike the television, this was more than a sensory overload of options—this was an existential crisis. The clothes were simultaneously too old and too young for her. Even the flower printed sundress she had bought at Nordstrom the previous week seemed to have been hers for ages. She had worn it in a different lifetime: a more youthful lifetime.
This is ridiculous!
She blew a fat raspberry and slid the closet door resolutely shut. In disgust at herself and the world, she turned around and noticed the curtain of the east-facing window: It was closed. It was never closed. She and George both took pleasure in waking to soft sunlight warming their bed. The master bedroom with the east-facing window had been the perfect cherry-on-top that enticed them to choke down the outrageous down payment for the house.
He must have closed it so she could sleep in. Nice sentiment, but why wasn’t he lying beside her in bed? He was never an early riser on the weekend—with one exception: an early-bird tee time at the local links. She listened intently, but the entire house seemed shrouded in silence.
If he’s out golfing, I’ll kill him. Celia fumed, but then she came up with a better idea. I’ll just divorce the man-child. It’d be more fun to watch him helplessly flail about adulthood than to let him relax in a grave. She marched to the window and pulled back the curtains. The sight took her breath away—as if she’d been brutally punched in the abdomen.
Amidst the green grass and budding dandelions, the lawn had been infected with a speckled plague of death in the form of numerous black balloons: Black balloons tied to the stems of flowers and bushes, black balloons drooping lazily from the branches of the old oak tree. Even more black balloons were filled with enough helium to float and bob gaily in the morning breeze—like imps dancing on a grave.
“There’s no way . . . ” she muttered to herself, quickly counting.
Indeed, fifty bubonic balloons had infected her lawn. Most of them were arranged in a foreboding aisle leading from her window. Her eyes scanned the row until they arrived at an inflatable tombstone. In place of an epitaph, an ominous white “50” shone like a flag waving surrender to Death’s forces.
In disbelief, she gawked at the two men—her two men—standing beside the grave, clad in black funeral suits. Mikey laughed and laughed, waving at his mother. George held a box of chocolates with a stupid smile on his boyish face.
You know what? she thought, I’ll just kill ‘em both and be done with it.
She was so upset that she half convinced herself she could tolerate retirement in prison. But as she turned away from the death scene before her, her anger turned into a craving for rebellion a la Dylan Thomas. Gliding across the room, she thrust open the closet door and searched for something she hadn’t worn since New Year’s Eve, 1999. She held it up, laughed, and slipped into the little black dress. Without checking in the mirror—because she knew she looked great—Celia flew down the stairs.
Mikey came through the front door, and his eyes widened to the point of popping from their sockets. Her husband, on the other hand, wore the slack-jawed drooling expression that matched the horny pubescent teenager he really was.
Celia stood on the landing with a vindictive smile, cocked a challenging eyebrow, and said, “Who’s the old bag now?”
About the Story
A Black Morning was written by Nick Colaccino.
Time is far from a steady procession, and age is just a number. Thankfully, Celia’s wicked husband and son help her come to terms with her milestone.
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