Ted sat melted on the chair, clicking monotonously on a thousand channels—trying to find something. His dark eyes searched for anything that would catch his attention. But deep down, he knew the answers were not on television. His cat, Tiny, is the only other living creature in the apartment. He is yellow with a blend of white, large orange eyes.
Tiny liked to stare at the chirping birds outside the window. Ted smiled lazily as Tiny moved around behind the curtain. At some point, Tiny lost his grip, falling on his back. He ran to the back of the kitchen right behind the small family room where Ted dwelled most of his days. Ted chuckled. It was about the only sporadic emotion that he expressed.
Most days, Ted sat with his eternal slothful countenance. His short brunette hair was greasy. It was a gray day, not that it mattered inside Ted’s colorless apartment. His curtains were a pale brown, beige dirty carpet, and the small space in the kitchen was mostly white with brown wooden counters. The only shiny item in his apartment was brown pleather reclining chair, torn here and there. Perhaps the books in his black tilted bookshelf could count as a variety of colors—books about motivation, self-help, and how to become a millionaire.
It was a Monday morning, and the apartment was colder than the outside. Ted was a skinny guy with a beer belly. Though he shivered, he didn’t make an effort to warm himself. Ted sat in a dirty muscle shirt and underwear. He gawked at his sweater placed on the other couch and imagined how much warmer he’d be if he only had the minor diligence to reach for it. But he was much too comfortable on the chair, which had his body shape engraved on it.
At times, Ted would wonder if his body shape would come to life and engage with him in the form of a soliloquy. Though the desire to talk to his engraved couch potato self entertained his imagination, the stillness of the apartment didn’t bother Ted. Silence and stillness were like those friends you’ve had for years and felt comfortable saying nothing at all because each other’s company is enough.
Though his glassy idling eyes indulged in the same old searching activity, something did catch his attention. Ted’s eyes moved, a bit more like awoke human being, no longer a non-thinking zombie. He sat up turning on the volume. The outrageous amount of money for the upcoming lottery ticket brought him back to life. His eyes widened. He envisioned what he would do with the money. Should I purchase a ticket? He has never even bought a lottery ticket before and was afraid to do so now. He thought about all the possibilities that kind of money would bring all the solutions.
For starters, I would buy ma and pa a house. I’d buy them a car so they could travel all over. I would get Aunt Mary & Uncle Esteban a house too. I’d also get my cousins each a home. That money would put me back on the map. I can start my own business in life coaching. I’m so tired of applying for jobs everywhere. I’m either overqualified or underqualified. I’m tired of searching for clients. I can be my own boss. People would trust me. This ticket is my answer. I can do it. Why not! Others have won. Why can’t I win? I mean, what if I get lucky?
A phone call interrupted his thoughts. He muted the television and grabbed the phone that was next to him.
“Yea,” Ted said.
He simply nodded. A seldom “hm…” or “yeah” was part of his effort to talk to Rick, a childhood friend.
“Listen. I have to do something today. And I’m not sure about selling stuff in swapmeets or market places. I’ll call you on Friday, alright. Okay, bye-bye.”
He smiled to himself. He knew Rick was a good friend and loved him like a brother. But he was always talking about jobs that were kind of beneath him. He wrote notes down on his phone about all his wishes.
Okay, I would get Rick a house, a nice car, a family car, and just give him a million dollars, maybe more. I better get ready.
Tiny was done eyeballing the birds outside after falling a couple of times. Tiny meowed so loud enough to annoy Ted, demanding food.
“Ugh, Tiny. Shut up.”
Ted’s dark eyes shimmered. All the thoughts, dreams, and ideas that crossed his mind gave him a type of hope. Ted soon realized the time was fifteen until three in the afternoon. He had skipped breakfast and Tiny’s, which would explain why Tiny was so angry. The relentless Tiny scratched Ted’s legs, which made him jump to his feet.
“OUCH! Fine. You little turd,” Ted said trying to sound mean, but his voice was more affectionate than he thought. Tiny purred.
Ted skedaddled to feed him. There was a mess on the round wooden table with only two chairs. Ted thought about Clarissa. The song “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper came to mind every time he thought about her. He looked around the apartment. Clarissa owned anything that was remotely colorful in their humble home. She was a designer. She had not only taken away all the light and design from Ted’s apartment, but also his life. He shook his head to erase the thoughts of her.
“Okay! Jeez,” Ted replied, looking for Tiny’s food. He found the cat food behind several cereal boxes. Ted picked a pair of jeans and boots from the floor. He sniffed his clothes, and then just shrugged. He grabbed his sweater and dashed out the door in pursuit of the lottery ticket.
After several hours, Ted returned to his apartment late in the evening. He felt a sense of pride because he bought lottery tickets from different places. Tiny welcomed him with purrs and rubbed himself on Ted. He almost made Ted trip over, but Ted felt right on his imprinted spot.
As he petted Tiny, Ted questioned if he could get Clarissa back after six months of breakup and zero communication. She had given him an unfair time frame to get back on his feet. After the accident, Clarissa accompanied him to therapy until he was able to walk again. However, once he was doing better physically, not so much emotionally. She just gave up on him. Why?
Ted waited patiently for two days to hear the winning numbers. He turned the volume up and inched forward. Tiny rested on the couch, right over Ted’s head. He had spied on the birds, played with his fake mouse, licked his coat, and scratched the sofa.
Ted stared at Tiny and said, “At least you have more of a schedule than I do.” He smirked at the absurdity of everything—perhaps more at his ridiculous life.
Ted’s breathing hurt, which made him cough. He was sure he caught a cold for merely stepping outside. He coughed again. “These tickets better be worth it.”
Ted knew the insurance money from the accident wasn’t going to last much longer. If he did something soon, he would save himself from a complete disaster. He stared at the picture of Clarissa by the television. Her brown eyes shined, looking at him like she could love him forever. Ugh! Stop thinking about her. She’s gone.
Ted flipped to the late news. He waited calmly until the lottery numbers came up on the screen. Ted read the numbers several times, religiously. He wanted to make sure that he was right and that it wasn’t his excitement reading other numbers. After several minutes, he gave up. The numbers really didn’t match. None of them did. He crumpled in his chair, almost as if he wanted a hug from his imprinted self.
“What a waste of time!” He yelled at the universe.
Rick called again. Ted decided not to answer. Ted kept Tiny’s food on the coffee table to avoid getting up. Tiny meowed in gratitude, and after eating his meal, he went to his favorite spot, the window.
After hours of binging on Netflix, Ted fell asleep. He woke up in the middle of the night with Tiny on his belly, sleeping soundly. Ted really needed to use the bathroom. But he ignored the nature call to avoid waking Tiny.
He clicked on different viral Youtube videos instead, not once showing any interest in anything. The small flat television was on top of a beat-up electric fireplace; it still worked nonetheless. He just didn’t feel like turning it on. He squeezed his legs. Ted reached for his phone to read Rick’s earlier text.
Rick: Ted, come on, buddy. I have everything ready. The signs, the tables, the canopy, and the products. Dress professionally. Just be there, okay.
Ted imagined himself at a farmer’s market. He stood at their location in the farmer’s market, wearing his favorite navy blue suit, no tie, and mahogany dressing shoes to match the belt. His suit was now too big on him because he had lost so much weight. In his thoughts, Ted staged the scented oil lamps to catch the attention of the audience as he smiled brightly to welcome the customers.
He soon saw people passing by. The more he stared at the people, the more he realized the people resembled his cousins, his parents, and Clarissa. Ted wiped his eyes. But he still saw the faces of his family and Clarissa flashing before him, all laughing at him in unison.
“AHHHH!” Ted grabbed his head tightly, dropping poor Tiny to the ground. “No! No! It’s not true. These are lies! Lies!”
Tiny, rightfully so, hissed at him, and then returned to his sleep away from Ted.Ted bit his nails. He pulled his laptop from underneath the coffee table. He stared at the white screen. He wanted to be a business writer, an influencer. But Ted didn’t know where to begin. He wrote a sentence for his friend’s product.
Ted wrote: Aromatherapy, therapy for your nostrils and your…
“Ugh!” Ted slammed the keys with his finger.
He tried again: Electric Scented lamps for your home…
At some point, his frustration turned into a type of idol. Unknowingly, he worshipped the repetition of typing and deleting. He moved his lips, like a private prayer, and his eyes moved diligently. Ted then slammed the computer shut and tossed it in the middle of the room. Tiny woke from his sleep, running like a bat out of hell.
Ted didn’t even bother to look at Tiny. Instead, he entertained the idea of writing the best pitch ever in history with his image on a billboard and a bright smile—headline, “One of the most innovative entrepreneurs of our time. An influencer in his own right.”
Ted’s many thoughts eventually turned into hunger. He entertained the idea of eating Tiny’s food. A mirthless chuckle escaped from him. But Ted fought against his desire to eat and slept instead.
The next morning, the alarm went off. Ted woke up. He opened the curtains of his apartment. The light hit his eyes a bit harshly. He squinted. Tiny meowed away as usual and rolled on the carpet. Ted fed him. He needed to meet Rick by eight in the morning. It was six.
He wrote an outline of his ideas for the business. His creativity flowed like no other time before. His fingers had a mind of their own at this point. He stopped every now and then to fix the grammar and typos. The only thing that interrupted him was a text from Rick.
Rick: Buddy, are you coming?
Ted jumped in the shower for the first time in days, put on his suit, cologne, and put a toast in his mouth. A sudden fear took over him right before stepping outside the door. What if these ideas are bad? Should I wait for a better opportunity? Maybe I shouldn’t go. What am I doing?
He stepped back inside. But Ted hadthe door cracked. In a blink of an eye, Tiny escaped into the front yard, climbing the tree.
“Tiny! You get back here!”
Ted chased Tiny around the neighborhood. But Tiny was determined to kill the bird he caught on the tree, and so he did. Ted panted as he reached for Tiny.
“You little turd. You killed the bird. The first opportunity you get, and you do this.”
Tiny was triumphant and was in some kind of talking mood, meowing in his case.
“Alright, buddy. You stay here. I’ll be back.” He tossed Tiny inside. Ted closed the door behind him, already missing Tiny and his apartment deeply. Tiny sat by the window. He stared at Ted for a second, but then Tiny gawked at the tree, focused on his target, looking for the next small opportunity to catch his prey.
“Eye of the Tiger,” Ted said underneath his breath with an ironic smirk, and then walked away, humming “Time After Time.”
All rights reserved ©Ana P. Rose 2019