TP invited me to take the reins for a bit.
The flat screen is his. The old name brand recliner mottled with beer and pizza stains from way back when, his. The glass topped coffee table, the big red sectioned couch with the dog fur and the faint seriously impossible to place weird smell, the smaller bookshelf, the larger not-from-Ikea bookshelf, the twenty year old Kenwood Dolby 2.1 receiver, the dog, those were hers. Are still hers, of course. But they’re gone and she’s gone and the place is very empty and dark since he either didn’t notice or didn’t care that the sun went down.
Pretty much devoid of furniture, the living room still has to deal with the takeout remnants. Which means the white fold up overfull leftover boxes of rice (Dunn always asks for an extra; he hates when they don’t give you enough) are sitting on the still fairly-new carpet. He got through two of the three boxes, good for a .667 on-plate percentage. It’s the same on-floor percentage, he absently calculates, since one made it to the still-not-technically-full trash can.
But yeah, she finally left. Did for herself what she needed to do for herself. She couldn’t break him out of it herself. Couldn’t even get him to the shrink since the season ended. Kenny had insisted on intervening in August and Dunn’d been assigned a sports psychologist with a doctorate from UT. Evidently they’ve got a sports-specific program with courses and a research lab. It’s not that he didn’t like the guy, dude seemed to actually have his shit together. He’s a Texan, for one and the guy told Dunn he’d cited Ball Four repeatedly in his dissertation. Fella chewed tobacco in his office and had a real-goddamned-live spittoon. His shit didn’t have nothing to do with the shrink, who’d helped a bit.
His second time—first time, he’d just filled out a crazy long survey in this tiny fuckin’ chair with one of those half-pencils they leave in church pews—his second time the guy had some helpful shit to say, Dunn thought. Told him he’d never have an adequate explanation for it. Told him the fans were never on his side. Apparently the research says fans don’t like baseball, they just like arguing. They cheer those who prove them right in arguments with their co-workers back on the cube farm.
The real question, the shrink said, is do you feel different?
At the time Dunn’d said well yeah he felt different now. He asked the shrink, what if all of a sudden no one you treated got any better, no matter what you did?
The mason jar is his. It’s on the mantel, next to stacks of tv show boxed sets, all of them popped open with a disc jacket or three displaced and since gone to join the rice on the floor. The team doctors presented it (the jar) with a little note attached that read, "Hey, did ya miss me?" They even drew a smiley face in sharpie on the side. The formaldehyde gives the dark room a faint stink and in the glow of the tv coming from the opposite side of the room, the appendix looks almost fetal. Like, if you let it out it’d grow and mature into some grotesque self-sufficient invertebrate. The eyes just stare, the smile empty.
Some show’s on, looks like cowboys and Indians and it’s ¾ finished with a "play all" command, but Adam’s pretty much gone. He’s been half out of consciousness ever since that regularly scheduled dump truck of calories triggered the desired anesthetic relay a couple hours back. He’s out, maybe for the night. Maybe he’ll get up at two in the morning long enough to start worrying about worrying about thinking and stagger to bed for some benadryl and candid photography.
So the tv and the jar interface. A gruff old guy looks out at the jar and growls.
"Pain or damage don’t end the world, or despair, or fuckin’ beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man — and give some back."
The jar just smiles and stares.