George’s right foot tapped gently as he hung from the passenger safety strap on the L Red-line past Clark. Several other passengers glanced at him, some in annoyance and some with slight smirks, and that is when he realized he was humming also. He blushed slightly and turned his head to look the other way.
A catchy tune, the song had been stuck in his head all day. He had found himself nodding his head or tapping a rhythm on his desk from time to time during his shift at the brokerage. On the way to the restroom for his afternoon break, he had even caught himself performing a little hop-skip down the row of cubicles.
George had been profoundly embarrassed at the time, but luckily no one had seen him in the office. Now, here he was on the L, getting laughed at by total strangers for acting like a child. He needed to get a grip.
A catchy tune, although he couldn’t quite place where he knew it from. He figured he had probably heard it on the radio at Starbucks, or maybe in the elevator on the way up to 17 where he worked. Maybe something from one of Alice’s shows on TV? No, he shook his head wordlessly to himself, not Alice. She only ever watches those soaps, and then more soaps. When she’s done with that, she watches soaps.
George managed to keep himself under control for the rest of the train ride, but as he walked the half a mile to his house he caught himself humming again. His feet seemed lighter, and there was a spring in his step he was unused to. 23 years of working at a soul-sucking job like his, he believed, was enough to destroy any lingering springs that 25 years of marriage hadn’t managed to shatter.
A catchy tune, he thought to himself as he opened the little white picket gate in the little white picket fence surrounding his house. The American dream, that house, full of microwaves and dishwashers and a tumble washer/dryer combo. And yet most of it, except for the microwave, went unused. Alice couldn’t be bothered to cook dinner, that’s for sure. That would involve getting up from the TV and her soaps. That would involve putting away that God-awful never-ending knitting project of hers.
George took a deep breath, then opened the door and stepped inside. “I’m home,” he called out. He waited for a good half a minute, but Alice only grunted at him, never even looking up. George sighed deeply and set his briefcase beside the door. As he crossed the living room towards the kitchen, he did a skip-step and a small twirl, utterly out of place in the drab place he called home. The song in his head was louder now, he could barely hear the whining of Generic Character A on Alice’s soap as he complained that Generic Character B was cheating on him with his evil twin step-mother or whatever.
A catchy tune, George began to whistle as he skipped into the kitchen and tossed a TV dinner in the microwave. He could almost place it, it was so familiar. He felt like there were words to the song, words he couldn’t quite remember. Something about a tool maybe? And a man’s name. He couldn’t remember, but it didn’t matter. The song was lifting is spirits like nothing had since that brief affair with is secretary at the time 12 years ago. What was her name again? Oh well, didn’t matter.
George ducked into the garage while his food was heating up. A garage full of dusty memories and long-dead dreams. The kayak he bought when he was 20, right before he married Alice. He never did take that trip down the Kankakee like he meant to. And over there, hidden behind boxes of books he hadn’t read in over a decade, the box with photos from their wedding. He hadn’t looked at those in… well, it was a long time. George tried to focus, he had come in here for a reason. Oh right, the tool cabinet. The song, he remembered now, involved a guy named Maximillian Hammer, or something like that. He whistled as he picked up the big sledge.
A catchy tune even if he couldn’t remember all the words. It reminded him of his youth, when the world was still bright and full of promise and he could do anything. When he and his friends would sit around in Troy’s room and smoke pot, listening to Bob’s dad’s old LPs. Good times, those.
George whirled and leapt as he came back into the kitchen. His food was done, so he pulled it from the microwave and set it on the counter near the living room. Fork and knife side-by-side next to it, each pulled from the drawer and set on the counter with a theatrical flourish. He held the sledge upside down, the heavy head like that of a dance partner, and he twirled around the kitchen like Astair and Rogers. He twirled and spun into the living room, cradling the head of his imaginary dance partner for a moment before reversing his grip and lifting the hammer high. Alice never even looked up.
A catchy tune, and one he couldn’t stop humming as he ate his dinner, which had an odd, coppery taste to it that night. He looked down at the hammer and tsked. “You’re supposed to be silver, not crimson.” He shrugged and went back to eating, humming and tapping his feet.