It sounded like a term in music.
"Let me play you a RIF from my latest song."
But there was nothing musical in losing your job to being Reduced in Force.
Such an impersonal term.
Large corporations liked their bloodless terms when slashing their employees’ wrists.
Alice sat down wearily on the couch on which she could almost see Troop curled up waiting to be hugged.
Why couldn’t dogs live as long as parrots?
Maybe hearts so filled with love burst all too quickly?
In that case, Frank would live forever.
May his new trophy wife leave him as empty as he left her those long years ago.
On the coffee table she carefully set down her jewelry box
which held only the jewels of memories, some bitter sweet, others just bitter.
Alice made sure not to nudge her champagne glass though it was only filled with Ginger Ale.
What had been Frank’s mocking refrain?
‘Alice gets in too much trouble sober to dare being drunk.’
Alice opened the jewelry box and took out the bottle chock-full of sleeping pills.
She’d endured three sleepless months after Frank left to hoard enough to ensure the Big Sleep as Bogie called it.
Then, on the way home from the pharmacy that third month, she’d seen Troop, wet, lost, and bedraggled on the side of the road.
Who was cruel enough to abandon a Golden Retriever?
Troop helped fill the void left by Frank’s desertion and Susan’s death.
Suze, her wry wit had brightened all her days since grade school up to her brave, futile battle with cancer.
Alice pulled Troop’s collar from the jewelry box, followed by the baggie filled with his golden hair taken after he had died in her arms at the Vet’s.
She opened the plastic bag and felt the soft hairs.
She blinked back the hot tears.
She swallowed a few pills, washing them down with a sip of Ginger Ale.
Next, she pulled out the folded divorce papers and tossed them in disgust on the carpet.
The postcards and letters from Suze Alice gently placed beside Troop’s collar and baggie of hairs.
She opened her eyes wide to clear them so she could re-read every one …
Although she long ago memorized them all.
More pills, more sips of Ginger Ale.
She could hear Suze in her head as she always did when she knew she was making a mistake.
‘Ali, there is still a future for you. All you have to do is go out there and make it yours.’
“Maybe that was true when we were younger, Suze.
But you’re long dead, and I’m dead meat. Too young for Social Security and too old to get another job for which I’m trained.”
Her shoulders slumped, “I am so weary of empty words and emptier people, sick of unseeing eyes. I long for this endless sleep.”
Alice swallowed the rest of the pills, washing them down with the remainder of the Ginger Ale.
She swung her legs up on the couch. Laying her head on Troop’s favorite pillow, she closed her heavy eyes, putting the now empty jewelry box on her chest.
It was getting harder to breathe.
A weary peace settled on her like a heavy blanket.
She almost felt the box slip from her relaxing fingers, dimly heard it thud hollowly to the carpet.
Darkness enveloped her, and for the first time in years, Alice welcomed it.
A cold nose suddenly nudged her limp fingers. Though closed, her eyes saw an old friend.
‘Oh, Troop, you waited for me.’
“Today is only one day
in all the days that will ever be.
But what will happen
in all the other days that ever come
can depend on what you do today."
For Whom the Bell Tolls