Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Moment: Lois & Carl

Coca Cola Delicious, 2009

After Lois' husband left her, she stopped caring about anything. Friends stopped coming around. She began drinking heavily at night and then throughout the day. She kept company with people who weren’t good for her. She became lax about her appearance and about the care of her son Carl. The boss at her part-time job offered her a full-time position. Instead, she quit, even though she now needed the money more than ever.

She stopped taking care of the house. When her money ran out, she sold the house and moved with Carl to a dingy apartment over a shop on the town’s main street.

Carl was confused by his mother's behavior, but too young and powerless to do anything about it. He had his ninth birthday at a cheerless party in the new apartment, just him, his mother, one of her drinking buddies and three slices of coconut cake from the diner around the corner. "I asked your father to come," she told Carl, "but I guess he didn't want to."

The apartment was on the second floor above the Modern Office Supply store that, despite its name, was not modern at all, having been made redundant by the new Staples store out on the bypass. Modern Office Supply was where people who still needed typewriter ribbons, carbon paper and other antiquated office supplies shopped.

None of this mattered to Lois, or did it that the neighborhood wasn't exactly the best place to be raising a young boy. All that mattered to her was that the rent was cheap and that Stanley Williford, who owned Modern Office Supply and the building, was old and sympathetic to the plight of a single woman. He’d been raised by a single mother himself just after the Depression, and turned a blind eye to Carl's occasional pilfering of construction paper, colored pencils and other things he needed for school projects that Williford knew Lois either couldn't afford or wouldn't be bothered to come downstairs to buy.

During the day when Carl was at school, Lois sat in the window overcooking Eden Street, dreaming of regaining her grasp on life and some kind of purpose. She thought about writing children's books full of playful animals and life lessons. But she didn’t care enough to write them.

Some afternoons when one of Lois’ male friends was hanging around, usually another drinker, she would get a quarter from the guy and give it to Carl and send him to make a donation to the poor at the church down the street so that she could have the apartment to herself for a little while. "You wait til you can give it the Father Rick himself, Honey,” she’d say, knowing full well that the priest was only part-time and wouldn't be there most days.

At night, after Lois had drifted off to sleep on the couch in front of the television, Carl sat in the same chair by the window and watched the traffic light at the corner change from green to yellow to red and then back to green again, whether there were any cars there or not.


  1. Oh, sad! You wonder how many poor Carls there are out there. Perfect tale with this photo.

  2. Man, does this ever strike close to home! No, I wasn't a Carl but I sure tried drinking myself to death after my first marriage fell apart, taking the whole world down with it. I never gave a lot of thought about how it affected my ex and our daughter.

    This is why I try to get back here every day if possible. I always go away thinking.

  3. Sounds like the beginnings of a great novel to me! Go for it!

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