The house is old and sometimes the roof leaks when it rains. I woke up this morning after the rain stopped and the kitchen floor was covered in water from the place in the pantry where the leak is the worst. The pantry is really nothing more than a moderately-sized closet that's big enough for the garbage can. There's a shelf above that where we keep the cat food and garbage bags. Above that shelf is where the leak is the worst; the water stains in the ceiling tile tell the whole story. That particular wall is where the original farmhouse meets the newer (though still old) kitchen. Whenever I have to clean up rain water, I look up at the leak and try to channel the spirit of my dead grandfather, the one who was a carpenter; I imagine that he would know how to fix it. I imagine that if anyone's voice told me what it would take to fix the leak, it would be his gravelly, two pack a day smoker's voice. He smoked Kools. Once at a family reunion I heard one of his brother-in-laws make fun of him for the cigarettes he smoked; he called them nigger smokes and he laughed doubly hard because he thought the joke was doubly funny.
I don't remember the relative's name. I tell myself it's because of jokes like that one, but the truth is I've never liked most of my extended relatives. They never seemed to know the difference between me and my brother... even though he was tall, skinny like a flagpole, with straw blonde hair and I was short, tubby, and had hair the color of a raven's wing. Like my dad's. The only time we ever saw them was once during the summer when we drove to the big reunion in Shelbyville, Kentucky and again at Thanksgiving. Then we stopped getting together for Thanksgiving and we stopped going to the reunion. After that I saw them at the funeral when my grandfather the carpenter died from smoking too many Kools. Then I saw them again 12 years later when my grandmother died after 3 years of bad health and dementia. I would visit her at the assisted living facility she lived in for the last years of her life and sometimes she thought I was my other grandfather, my dad's dad. Sometimes she thought I was my dad, even though he had been dead for almost 5 years. When I tell people I'd rather take my chances with cancer than with getting old and losing my mind, they think I'm being an asshole. But they never had to watch their grandmother cry because she pissed her pants in front of her grandson.
My grandfather's voice never comes, and this time is no exception. So all I can do is wipe up the water, put on a pot of coffee, and try to remember what day it is. That's the hardest part. It wouldn't be so bad, but I hate to have to look at the calender or the clock on my cell phone. I count forward from Sunday. I knew it was Sunday because I watched the football game. The day after Sunday is my deadline for the paper. 10 am. That was yesterday, I tell myself. That makes today Tuesday.
By the time I figure out what day it is, there's enough coffee in the pot that I can pour myself a cup. The coffee maker has a stop-pour spring in the basket. It's a cheap coffee machine, though, and sometimes the spring doesn't work and the coffee will keep dripping onto the burner after I've picked up the pot to pour my cup. I remember when it cost more to by a machine with a stop-pour spring. Now it costs more to buy one of those machines you can set to start brewing before you wake up. I don't want one of those, though. I don't like important appliances that don't need me to start. Appliances that run on their own remind me of George Jetson cartoons, and I never liked George Jetson. It never made sense to me that flying cars had to be so ugly. I think they drew them ugly so that no one would be disappointed when they never got a flying car.
I pour coffee into my red coffee cup. I always use the same coffee mug. The stop-pour worked. I drink my coffee black and most mornings I make it too strong. Or so I'm told. I went into the living room, sat down in my chair, and listened to the wind. It was shaking the entire house. All the storm windows were rattling and sometimes I felt the walls move. I think about what it would feel like if the storm picked up the entire house and carried it away. Like in Wizard of Oz. I always hated that movie. When I was very little, I was scared of the witch. But I liked the flying monkeys. After all, who wouldn't like to have a flying monkey?
Then I heard it begin to rain again. The large drops were flying full speed at the large window behind the television.