By Nathan Lewis
It was a cold and cloudy October day. William Johnson was on his way home from work in his maroon Chevrolet Malibu. The sun was going down behind the clouds. William was very delighted that he didn’t have to ride home with the sun his eyes. Today was a struggle for William. Business meetings are his least favorite part of his job as a Manager of the Amazon production factory in Phoenix, Texas. Production was slow this week and the Amazon staff were concerned, specifically the president of the factory Andy Anderson. The production rate had decreased by three percent over the last month and Andy was furious. “I will start laying workers off left and right until I can get employees who I can trust to get the job done,” he said during the meeting.
Those words rang through Will’s head for the entirety of his ride home. How does he think laying people off will increase the production rate? he thought. Does he not realize that his methods include decreasing rates even more significantly to reach the production rate that he wants? William was studying the situation carefully. He was still clueless. Nobody had any idea why the factory was losing production. Not even the lower-wage employees. The only evidence was that after each month the quota of materials required wasn’t met and Andy was looking for someone to blame.
William wanted to put today’s disaster behind him. He just wanted to get home and see his wife and his kids – well, at least the kids, Lily and Isaac. His wife was another story. William and his wife Janie were going through some struggles. Janie had mentioned divorce several times, but William didn’t want any part of it. He didn’t want Lily and Isaac to suffer like many other kids did. He knew that putting children through a divorce is probably the most terrible thing you can do to your child as a parent. Isaac was an average 12-year-old. He went to a public middle school; therefore, he knew about divorce. Many of his friends at school had parents who were divorced and some even remarried. They talked about it all the time like it was no big deal and Isaac had started to believe them. That was, until he heard that his parents might get divorced. It affects a child much differently than it does an adult.
All these thoughts were rushing through William’s head as he pulled into the driveway. Here we go, he thought to himself with confidence, but also a slight shiver of doubt. Time to forget what has happened today and enjoy my time with Lily and Isaac. You can do this. Move on. You have a family. That’s something to enjoy. This thought had become a regularity whenever he had a long day at work.
As William walked through the door, Lily, who was sitting in the living room playing with her Barbie, heard the door open and instantly knew that her daddy was home. “Daddy!” she screamed, “Daddy’s home, Daddy’s Home!” The flutter of excitement from his baby girl always brought a smile to his face whenever he came home at night. Lily at age 5 was her father’s biggest admirer. She looked up to him and was always the most excited to see him when he got home. Every time he got home he would set his suitcase to the side and await a jump into his arms from Lily. She loved it when William would throw her up in the air and catch her. That was both William’s and Lily’s favorite part of him getting home at night.
“Hey dad,” Isaac said, while playing with the beagle puppy, Baxter.
“Hey Isaac, what have you been up to? Having fun with Mr. Baxter?”
“Yeah. He learned a new trick today. See, watch!” Isaac stood up and held his hand straight out from his body. Baxter saw his hand and stood up, wagging his tail quickly. “Sit!” Isaac said with a slight sound of authority in his voice. Baxter heard him and instantly sat down, his tail still wagging. Isaac smiled, as did William who was still holding Lily in his arms. “Good boy, Baxter.” Isaac pulled a treat out of his pocket and tossed it to the patient little puppy awaiting his award.
“Hey honey,” William yelled from the living room.
“In the kitchen,” he heard Janie say with an irritated voice. “Hey Lily, I need to go talk to your mother. Go upstairs and pick out a story you want me to read and I will be up shortly”.
“Okay daddy. Can we read Snow White again?”
“Of course, sweetheart. Now get upstairs.”
Lily headed up while William strolled into the kitchen where his impatient wife was cleaning off the table from dinner.
“You’re home late tonight.” William could sense annoyance in her voice.
“We had a business meeting that got nowhere,” he said, trying to avoid causing Janie any further annoyance. “Production rates have gone down three percent this month and Mr. Anderson was not happy.”
“Sounds like you had a long night then. Hungry?”
“Starving,” he said, surprised at her reaction. Sitting down at the table, William dove into his plate of meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans. He loved Janie’s meatloaf.
“So, I have been thinking.”
These were the words that William dreaded every time he heard them. Every time, it seemed to him – every time she uttered that phrase nothing good came out of it.
“About what?” he said, with anxiety in his voice
“Well, I know we haven’t been getting along well the past few weeks. I’ve concluded that a divorce would be the best thing for us. For you, for me, and for the kids. We put them through so much already with school and our money situation.”
Janie had obviously thought about what she was going to say to William all day. William half-expected that to be her answer.
“Which is exactly why we should stay together,” he retorted.
“Excuse me?” she replied with annoyance.
“Don’t you see? We can’t get a divorce. The kids are struggling to make friends at school, and a divorce would just make things much worse on them. We are our kids’ only friends that we know of right now. They shouldn’t have to be lonely like that. Now is the time we need to be there for them.”
Struggling to come up with an answer, Janie slammed the dirty plate she was cleaning into the sink. “Why can’t you agree with me for once? Tell the truth. You wanted this divorce to happen ever since I got laid off from the hospital.”
William was getting worried. He didn’t like Janie’s tone. It wasn’t pleasant. William knew instantly that this wasn’t true. When Janie got laid off from Phoenix General Hospital a month ago, William wanted to comfort her and help her, not disregard her and her desires. Working at Phoenix General as a surgical assistant was her dream job. She was always good with her hands and she had a steady right hand – perfect for precise incisions during surgery. Janie had lost her job due to the shortage of funding the hospital was receiving. The hospital had been forced to lay off over two hundred employees. Despite working there for seven years, Janie had to let go of her dream and move on to something a little less dreamy, stocking shelves for the local Walmart. When Janie started working for Phoenix General in 2008, she was scared and nervous. She had never actually seen a person die. She had never seen real people suffering from accidents such as house fires, car accidents, shootings, and many others. It took her over a year to get over her squeamishness, but once she did she was one of the best surgeon assistants in Phoenix. She became very popular among the medical staff earned a decent reputation at the hospital.
“You know that’s not true. I have been nothing but nice to you ever since you lost your job, and I am willing to do more if you would just be patient.”
“I don’t believe you,” she said, a tear running down her cheek.
“Well, I’m telling the truth. Whether or not you believe me is up to you.”
“I’m done talking about this. I have had enough of you for tonight.”
William didn’t say anything back. He wasn’t in the mood for her anymore either. He had a bedtime story to read to Lily. That was a much more pleasant topic for him to think about. He adored his little girl. He could imagine Lily sitting down on her bed with her stuffed friend, Bob, waiting for her father to come read her a story that she’d picked out. That thought brought a smile to William’s face.
As he walked up the stairs to Lily’s room, he began to wonder what would happen if Janie went through with the divorce. How often would he get to see Lily and read her a bedtime story and kiss her goodnight? How many times would he get to take Isaac out on Saturdays to play basketball at the park? Would he ever enjoy the presence of his wife again? Would Janie ever enjoy seeing him again? All those questions weighed his shoulders down like a ton of bricks. He wasn’t ready to go through all of this. Neither was his family.