Bazinga Baby - A 3 Random Words Story
“Mr. Michaelson?” Eli called. “Mr. Michaelson? Are you home?”
“Yeah, yeah. Come in, and stop shouting,” Mr. Michaelson beckoned from his living room.
The old screen door creaked loudly as Eli pulled it open, letting himself inside Mr. Michaelson’s home.
“You know, I can fix that door for you,” Eli said. He set two bags of groceries on Mr. Michaelson’s slowly deteriorating kitchen island. Eli slowly started pulling the groceries out of the bags, preparing mentally for Mr. Michaelson’s protests.
“What?” Mr. Michaelson snapped. He glanced towards the front door. “Oh, no. It’s fine. I can fix it myself.”
Mr. Michaelson trudged into the kitchen with a slight limp. His white hair hid the rims of his round glasses, but his eyes told Eli he was feeling extra grumpy. “You can leave those right there. I can put them away myself. I don’t need any more help today.”
“I don’t mind, Mr. Michaelson,” Eli countered. “I can stay to help a little longer.”
The truth was the Eli didn’t mind. Even when his friends teased him for being the curmudgeonly man’s errand boy, Eli never stopped offering his help. It was part of his weekly routine. Monday through Friday, school then football or baseball practice, Saturday drop off Mr. Michaelson’s groceries, Sunday church with his mom and younger brother. He had gotten so used to the routine that he was worried he would miss it when he went to college in a few months.
“I’m not so old that I can’t take care of myself,” Mr. Michaelson said. “And call me Jim for crying out loud.”
Eli wasn’t a bad kid. Jim actually liked Eli, which was saying something; he just hated feeling like a burden. When it was Dayna who ran his errands and helped him around the house, he didn’t mind as much. To some extent, it made sense for his daughter to be the one taking care of him, but Eli was just a high school kid. It wasn’t his responsibility to take care of his aging neighbor, no matter how much help he truly needed.
“Woah, Mr. Michaelson – I mean Jim – my mom grabbed you a pack of Tastykake Cupcakes! These are the bomb!” Eli said.
“The bomb? What in the hell kind of expression is that?” Jim asked.
“It just means that they are really good,” Eli laughed. “They are my favorite!”
“The bomb,” Jim scoffed. “Erroneous. You should just say they’re your favorite if that’s what you mean. You kids and your slang.”
Eli chuckled and kept pulling groceries out of the bag. “Will do, Mr. Michaelson.”
The weeks passed slowly, each one with curmudgeonly banter about ‘kids these days’ and ‘young people slang’ that Eli took in stride. If Eli was a few minutes late, he received a lecture about punctuality and professionalism. If he was too early, the lecture revolved around respecting the elderly and their time. Between these lectures and language criticisms, however, Jim stopped asking Eli to leave so quickly. He used to kick Eli out after ten minutes, but slowly, Eli was spending twenty, thirty, and forty minutes with Jim. Mostly, Eli listened, and Jim grew to love Eli quietly.
“I’d better get going, Jim,” Eli said several Saturdays after his first. “I need to finish packing.”
“Finish packing?” Jim asked. “For what?”
“College,” Eli replied. “I leave tomorrow.”
Jim hesitated. He had spent all of their time talking about himself; his views of the world, what he learned from his wife’s death, and how he felt about getting older. He talked about Dayna too, but only once. Mentioning his only daughter only brought him pain and heartache. He never asked Eli about Eli.
“So, my mom will stop by next weekend with the groceries. My little brother, David, said he’ll start coming by as soon as he gets his license,” Eli said when Jim didn’t respond.
Mrs. Washington had stopped by almost every day after Dayna’s accident, despite Jim’s protests. Eli volunteered to help as soon as he got his license, and now his brother would follow suit.
“Right, well, best be off then,” Jim said. “Good luck and all that.”
“Thank you, Jim,” Eli said. “I’ll miss you.”
Jim grunted and rocked himself to his feet. He retreated into the confines of his home, leaving Eli in the rocking chair on his porch.
“Hi, Mr. Michaelson!” David said. “I brought you some groceries.”
“Set ‘em on the counter,” Jim grunted.
“Looks like mom got you some TastyKakes!” David said. “They’re my favorite!”
“Yes, mine too,” Jim said. “They are the bomb, or whatever it is you say.”
“The bomb?” David laughed. “No, we don’t say that anymore. Tastykakes are the GOAT!”
“The goat? Like a sheep?” Jim asked. “Erroneous. I’ll never understand you kids.”
Jim walked away from David into his living room. “Just leave the bags. I’ll take care of them.”
“Eli just finished his first year of college this week.” David tried again. “He said he met a girl.”
“Well,” Jim paused, wanting to say something nice. “Good for him.”
The weeks passed slowly, but this time they were painfully silent. The weeks turned to months and steadily to years. David tried his best to connect with Jim, but he remained distant.
“Eli graduated with honors,” David said.
“Eli got a great job in the city,” David said.
“Eli is getting married,” David said.
Then, David stopped coming.
“It’s crazy raising two boys,” Mrs. Washington said. “Eli is in the city, and David moved across the country. Eli will be home this weekend, though. I’ll tell him to stop over.”
Jim grunted and waved weakly. Though Jim’s health had steadily declined over the years, he refused to go to a home. He vowed he would never betray his wife and daughter’s memory by abandoning the home they both loved. He feared his time was running short. Had he really been happy?
“Hey, Jim!” Eli called from the front door.
“Jim! Jim!” Eli’s little girl giggled from his arms.
“I brought someone to meet you,” Eli called.
“Yeah, yeah, come in,” Jim called.
The old screen door croaked as Eli let himself into the house.
“Still never got around to fixing that screen door, huh?” Eli laughed.
“Never got around to it,” Jim said as he waddled into the foyer.
“Jim! Jim!” Eli’s daughter shouted. “Jim! Jim!”
“I’ve told her a lot about you,” Eli offered. “I figured I’d bring her over to meet you.”
“That’s nice,” Jim grunted. He looked up towards Eli’s little girl, and something in him softened.
“Bazinga!” Eli’s daughter said.
“What did she say?” Jim smiled.
“Bazinga! Bazinga!” Eli’s daughter shouted.
Jim’s laugh came in rolls of pent-up emotion. It tore through his negativity and filled his spirit with a renewed sense of wonder. “That’s the funniest thing I ever heard!” Jim laughed.
“I thought weird words were erroneous,” Eli joked.
“Ah, only when you say them,” Jim winked. “I haven’t laughed this hard in years. Something about this little girl is special. What’s her name?”
Eli smiled. “We named her Dayna after my best friend’s daughter.”