By Ronald Cypress
Cliff watched the small, yellow house for nearly half an hour before he decided to enter. It was going to be the third home he had found that week. The setting was just right for him to get into the house. There was a window cracked open on the side. The driveway was completely empty, and Cliff hadn’t noticed any movement in or around the house. The neighbors weren’t outside, and he was certain that no one else was watching the home.
When he was ready to go in, Cliff dashed across the street and to the side of the house. The slightly opened window led into the kitchen. It was just above the kitchen sink, and as he was climbing through the window and maneuvering over the sink Cliff lost his balance and dropped to the clean linoleum floor. He was home. The house was silent. He remained on the kitchen floor for a few minutes, carefully scrutinizing the silence. There weren’t any noises to suggest that he wasn’t alone in the house.
Cliff got up and did a quick walk around the house. There were three bedrooms and two bathrooms. All of the rooms were tidy. Two of the rooms had beds in them, the master bedroom and the first room on the right. The bedroom at the end of the hall was filled with organized boxes and a desk. The living room had a couch and an armchair. There was a TV that held some books, photos, and a TV. Cliff understood that he was in the home of a middle-aged couple.
He walked around the house a few more times before he began to settle into the home. It wasn’t until he found some mail on the kitchen countertop that Cliff began to form an understanding of his new life. The mail he looked at had the names Jerry Carpenter and Simone Carpenter on them. They were his parents. That’s who they were. Cliff continued to walk around the house, his mind working on the life he had in the home.
The wooden kitchen table was old. Cliff remembered that it had been there since he was a boy. He had eaten just about every meal at the table. Sunday dinners were the best. That was when his parents would usually work together to make a big dinner.
“Clifford Carpenter,” Cliff said. He knelt down and looked under the table. It was clean from any noticeable marks. He wondered if he should carve his name into the wood. Cliff took out his pocketknife and contemplated doing it. He thought about how his parents might react if they found out that he had defaced their table. It would have been done out sentimentality, and they probably wouldn’t be too upset about it. They might not even discover it if he didn’t say anything.
Cliff put the pocketknife away.
He stood up and went back to walking around the house. There was a fireplace in the living room, and on the mantle there were a few pictures. One of the pictures was of a young man wearing a military uniform. The picture didn’t seem modern to Cliff; it looked like it had been taken about ten to fifteen years ago. Cliff recognized the young man as his brother. His brother had done great service for the country. Cliff had wanted to do the same, but he had always been a screw-up. But his parents had always welcomed him back into their home.
“Cliff Carpenter,” Cliff said softly.
He went back to the master bedroom. He looked at the bed and remembered the nights that he would rush into his parents’ room because something horrified him. Sometimes it was just a bad dream. There were times in which Cliff’s imagination had gotten the best of him. He was such an imaginative boy. His parents were always getting comment from his teachers about how he was such a daydreamer.
“Little Clifford Carpenter.”
Sometimes his brother would sneak into his room at night just to scare him. Cliff was easy to frighten. He would go running to his parents, and they would often reprimand his brother. Cliff would be mad at his brother for the rest of the night, but they would always be buddies the next day. Cliff had wanted to be just like him, and he would have been had life allowed it.
Cliff walked around the master bedroom for several minutes, looking at the picture of his parents and his brother. They were all smiling in the pictures. Cliff knew that he would have to send them a recent picture of himself so that they could frame it and put it up somewhere. It was just one of the many things he needed to do as he worked towards being a better son and brother.
His old bedroom was the one with the boxes. Cliff didn’t need to look in them to know that the boxes were filled with his things. He had known that his parents were going to pack up the stuff he had left behind and send it off somewhere. Most of it would probably end up in the trash. There was no need for him to continue burdening his parents with his stuff.
Cliff left his old bedroom. He stood completely still in the hall and stared down towards the living room. He thought about how long it had been since he last spoke with his parents.
He spent a few minutes in his brother’s old room. Not much had changed since the last time he had been there. Cliff remembered some of the intimate conversations he and his brother had in the room. It was where Cliff first spoke about the lost of his virginity. It was where he talked about his first time getting high and the first time he had stolen something. His brother had always been there to listen.
It had been too long since they had last spoken.
Things just got harder as people got older.
Cliff spent some time pacing around the living room. He occasionally stopped to look out the window. There was the old lawn on which he had played as a boy. The old tree was still there, and Cliff remembered how he had once determined that he was going to climb to the top of it. He had only been able to get up half of the way, but his brother had made it up as far as one could go on the tree.
His first fight had taken place in the front yard. He and a neighborhood boy had gotten into an argument about each other mothers, debating about what they were and weren’t. Cliff was about seven. His brother had been present during the fight but he hadn’t intervened. Cliff had to learn how to handle his own fights. When it was over, a shaking Cliff was declared the winner. He had never really wanted to engage in fighting, but he had to stand his ground. It was one of the first lessons he acquired in order to get by in the world.
Cliff went into the kitchen and rummaged through the refrigerator. It was stocked with foods and drinks. He remembered how it had always been that way when he was growing up.
If one thing was certain, the Carpenter boys weren’t going to go hungry.
Cliff grabbed a bag of slice ham out of the refrigerator and located the breadbox. He made a sandwich and ate it slowly at the table. He wondered about what his parents were doing. They were probably out shopping. Cliff should have called before coming over. He wondered about what his brother was doing. His brother was probably enjoying time with his wife and family. Cliff hadn’t seen any pictures of them in the house, but he knew they were out there somewhere.
“Clifford Randall Carpenter.”
He was close to finishing his sandwich when he saw a cat enter the kitchen. The gray cat began walking straight towards him. It was time to leave. Cliff shoved what was left of the sandwich into his mouth and got up. He made sure to push his chair in, wipe the crumbs off the table and to place the bread back in the box as he had found it. The cat went under the table. Cliff didn’t know the cat. The last time he had was around one he had an allergic reaction. The cat wasn’t his. Nothing was his.
He went to the patio door and unlocked it. Cliff slid the door open just wide enough that he could slip through. He closed the door behind him and went rushing off without any cares about people seeing him and being alarmed. They weren’t going to see him again. He was never going back.
A week passed before Cliff spotted another home. It was similar to the last house he had been in, but it was mostly blue. There weren’t any cars in the driveway. Cliff observed the home for about half an hour before he decided to move. There was a bedroom window that was closed but unlocked. He entered the home.
Cliff had gotten inside and shut the window before he realized that someone was in the room with him. There was an elderly woman on a queen size bed. The two stared at each other. Cliff didn’t move from the window. The elderly woman seemed too fatigued to cry for help or protest him being there. She was docile. Cliff wondered if he should call her grandma. There was kindness in her eyes. He was tempted to take it. They offered him a wonderful past. They were very welcoming. Her eyes were telling him that for the moment he had come home.