The Day the Change Came for James
by Corey Mesler
followed by Q&A
--Hey, Honey, where are you? I’ve got news, good news.
--What—what is it James?
--I’ve decided not to be afraid anymore, not to be neurotic.
--What—what do you mean?
--I was at the office today and I thought, I am not neurotic. Why have I been living that way?
--Just like that.
--Gloria, go with me. Listen to me. This is important.
--You just decided--
--Mostly. I suddenly—well, just felt good and. Suddenly—listen, I mean, there’s a new secretary. 25. Real cute, great butt. Short skirts. And always real nice to me.
--And I thought, you know, when I was younger, I would have just approached her and told her what I think. Like that day I showed up on Wendy Whatsername’s front porch. Didn’t know me from Adam. And I said, Hi, this is kinda crazy but I think you are so beautiful and I want us to try out a relationship.
--You did that?
--Yes, yes, Surely I’ve told you. But I felt that old courage again, that surge of bold energy and confidence. I want that feeling again, that coolness. That self-assurance. It’s been missing, Gloria. It’s been missing too long.
--Because of this secretary with the great ass.
--Well, no, no, not entirely. I thought about you and the kids. You deserve better. You deserve the good me, the one before the great troubling. I want you to know that man, not the one I have been for the past ten years, the one who sometimes can’t go to work simply because it involves leaving home, the one who can’t grocery shop or fly in an airplane or get stuck in a crowd. I am not that guy anymore. That drip. I am the Ur-James, the one who first courted you. What do you think?
--Remember when your sister said that thing, that she didn’t understand the agoraphobia, the burden of it. She said she was just too busy to worry all the time and that maybe I just needed to stop thinking about myself and start living. Remember she said that?
--Yes. You hated her for saying it.
--Yes, I did.
--You called it bushwa. I called it bushwa. It is bushwa. James—the doctor said—
--I know what the doctor said. I know I thought your sister an insensitive philistine, especially for saying you were “an enabler” and that she would never do that for her spouse. Enabler. A word she read in some pop-psych book. And like she can even keep a husband.
--Right. Sorry. Off-track. I was thinking. Maybe it is just an illusion. Maybe it is like I am hypnotized by myself. Self-hypnotized. And I can just say, No more. Or: Now wait a minute. Demon, get thee behind me. Just say it and by saying it make it so. What do you think?
--Well, James, I hardly know what to say. I mean, well, we’ve compromised, sure, but this is the life we’ve built. We are comfortable in our cocoon if that’s not overstating things. We don’t really miss parties, crowds—
--But, Sweetie, don’t you just want to bust out, to cry to the populace that life is real, that life is all around us? Don’t you want to howl from the roof sometimes?
--Metaphorically. No—no—wait—really, from the roof. I am going to climb up there and howl. I am going to climb up on the roof and make my declaration to the world.
--No, James, really, the kids—
--They’ll love it. They will love their new dad. They haven’t met the man. He is going to be the Über-father!
--Well, that went well, didn’t it?
--But, Gloria, it did. In a way, it surely did.
--James, Mrs. Turra called the cops.
--I know, I know. I’ll go talk to Mrs. Turra. I’ll just tell her it’s the new me. I’ll tell her I won’t need to get on the roof very often.
--James. The police came to our house.
--Just to talk me down, Honey. You know. They were very nice. I told them—
--James, you didn’t—
--I told them about my new life. Or about how I was reclaiming my old life. That I was no longer phobic. That I was pulling myself up by my bootstraps. That I was saying, James, buck up, you little weasel. Dare to eat a peach! Life, man, life!
--You said that to the police officer.
--A version of it, yes.
--And he let you go back into the house.
--He handed me a card, a shrink’s card.
--Of course he did.
--But, isn’t that great, Gloria? Isn’t that rich in irony? I’ve been crazy for ten years but now, saner than sane, I am told to see a shrink! Isn’t that rich?
--James, the kids—
--I know, I know—I’ll go talk to them.
--Gloria, this is good. I can explain.
--How did that go?
--I think they got it. Or sort of.
--Janie didn’t understand.
--Not entirely, no. She asked if we were getting divorced.
--Well, it’s ok. She’ll get it.
--He asked me if there was another woman. He sorta didn’t get it either.
--And you told him?
--I tried to explain about the new secretary’s great butt. I think I might have gone off the rails there.
--Well, James, I mean—well, hell, ok, it’s a little nuts, but I haven’t seen you giddy in a long time. It rather undoes me—it rather pleases me.
--I know! I know! That’s the point. This is me. I used to be giddy!
--So, now, whew. I need to sit down. I feel a little dizzy.
--You climbed too high.
--Yes. No. I’m just—dizzy.
--Sit down. I’ll get you a drink.
--Yes. A drink.
--I will, yes. Thanks. Honey, come here, take my hand.
--Of course, James. I am here.
--Just hold my hand. I got so—dizzy.
--I—I want to tell you something.
--I want to fuck the new secretary.
--I know, James. I know you do.
--I mean—she’s so young, so full of life. She’s like a fresh plum.
--I can see her.
--And that butt. It is, so—Perfect.
--I want her.
--Do you—is this how people feel? Is this normal? Do people walk around wanting each other and fearless and full of seed and life and passion? Do you, Gloria? Do you walk around like that?
--I do, James. Sometimes.
--And you want to fuck men you don’t even know.
--It’s—dizzying. It’s—I don’t know.
--I know. It’s scary, really. Other people.
--Yes. Exactly. Other people are scary.
--Just sit here.
--Yes, I will. I’ll just sit here for a while and then I will get up and look at things again.
--That’s a good idea.
--I’ll just sit here. I’ll relax. And then I’ll—reassess.
--That’s right, baby.
--I feel so funny, Sweet. I feel—I don’t know—empty.
--Of course, James. Just sit.
--Yes. Just be still.
--Just sit and reassess and later, later will come, and I will think about what I want to be. I want to be something, Honey.
--Of course, James.
--I won’t fuck the secretary.
--I know, James.
--Just sit here, my husband.
--I’ll get you a drink.
--Thank you, Honey. It’s all—
--So—dark. It’s getting dark in here, Gloria.
--I know, James. Let it come.
--Yes. Let the darkness come. That’s the ticket. Thank you. I’ll just sit here.
--And let the darkness come.
--Let it come now.
Corey Mesler has published in numerous journals and anthologies. He is the author of four novels, 2 books of short stories, 2 full-length collections of poetry, as well as numerous chapbooks of poetry and prose. He and his wife own Burke’s Book Store in Memphis TN.
Q: What was the inspiration for this story?
A: My story is about the desire for positive change and about how that moves in and out of our lives like the echo of falling water in a dream.
Q: If you were a musical instrument, what would you be?
A: The kazoo because the tonette is too difficult.
Q: Who are your literary heroes/influences?
A: Raymond Carver, Donald Barthelme, Frank O’Hara, Iris Murdoch, James Tate, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Captain Beefheart, The Marx Brothers. I would also add that the single most perfect piece of writing I can think of today is Hemingway’s “At the Indian Camp.”
Q: Where is the perfect place for writing?
A: At my desk in my bedroom at 6 a.m. before the rest of the world wakes up.