Harry Cracker was in most circumstances a peaceful man. He had survived odd situations like years in combat action and "inner city" security assignments and had never really become dissatisfied with his environment. Lately, however, he had become seriously frustrated with the commute from his single person residence into the bustling high rises that signaled economic success for the fortunate job-holders fighting the trend of job-killing cut-backs. He had been forced into the commute scenario by the closure of his own business in the tree-lined streets of the delightfully boring suburbs and the desperate need for funds to sustain his overly large home after the death of his third wife Ethel. They had bought the home a decade ago in hopes that Ethel would be fertile enough for them to continue the Cracker line. Unfortunately, such was not the case and they settled into a happy hedonistic lifestyle absent children and well-stocked with fine wines from the Continent.
The loss of Ethel never really sunk in until just this past week when he noticed he had fallen into the habit of stacking dishes in the sink until it was filled and then clearing everything up with a wine-soaked flurry of activity usually around midnight or shortly thereafter.
The job was not much but the pay was decent and the work colleagues seemed little interested in finding out who Harry Cracker was or what made him tick. That was exactly how he liked it best and he was grateful for the universal dismissal of his presence as an actual person and being identified as just another cog in the line of service-oriented production and far too old for any interesting conversation.
Harry had first married on a dare from his best friend Alfie who told him he needed a bed companion like Louise to keep him on the straight and narrow. When he discovered his Louise was one of Alfie's "Pets" that he kept on a short leash for quickies, the marriage ended well before his nineteenth birthday. He then spent the next thirty years in the Marines where he learned the best policy was to keep "moving on". That choice of marital status ended when he met his "soul-mate" Kimmi at an all-night teahouse hidden deep inside the Ginza and generally not considered a tourist spot or a place to have a fabulous party or lots of fun. In fact, it was sort of a dismal place geared primarily to the art of getting drunk and making a fool of one's self.
Kimmi had been thrown out of her family because she didn't see the wisdom in doing duty for her over-sexed father or either of the pock-marked brothers who treated her like dirt unless they were in a mood for some in-house fun at her expense. The owner of the teahouse took pity on her and told her all she had to do was to smile and make happy and keep the customer's glasses filled at all times.
He didn't try to take her out of her much-loved job but did marry her in a ceremony approved by the unit chaplain using inter-denominational logic to justify his recommendation. Harry was very happy with his second wife because she was the most obedient person he had ever met and she never tried to influence him in any decision he made seemingly happy with whatever he decided as the right choice because he had made it.
Unfortunately, when he returned to the small apartment after a year-long assignment in a neighboring country, she was nowhere to be found and he eventually discovered that her "family" had paid a local gang to dispose of her because she had "shamed" the family by marrying a foreigner. The police seemed totally disinterested in investigating the matter because it was a "private" matter. He was invited to leave the area in no uncertain terms and it was a good ten years before he found his third spouse Ethel at an AA meeting in a strange city.
Ethel was a really frugal person and she had accumulated a small fortune in buying and selling art from all over the world. They bought the house planning a family but that had never happened and things moved at a frantic pace until the day she came home and announced that the doctor had pronounced her riddled with cancer and that it was far too late for an operation or treatment. The end came quickly which was a blessing rather than a burden when all things were considered.
After the business was closed out, he found that the house was free and clear and there was a small amount of funds to pay taxes and keep the house in good maintenance, but that he would have to get a job to make ends meet due to the spiraling cost of living near the big city. He was so desperate that he took the first job offered and that was probably a good decision because jobs these days were few and far between. It meant a long commute but he was subsidized for being over age 55 and was able to purchase a monthly pass that made the job financially feasible. It was a bit of a let-down to find that he was in the same ranking and pay-grade as his thirty years younger co-workers but he was grateful to have gainful employment and the job was a bit dull and not in the least bit stressful.
The only downside to the entire thing was the dreadful commute that consumed close to two hours each way. It was not even possible to read a book or a newspaper because the "rush-hour" crush of commuters meant he would be standing most of the time in deference to the many females in a family way and other commuters less fit than him. The mornings were not too bad because he could find an out of the way corner to stand in and avoid the mass of humanity. It was the after-work mob that bothered him the most.
His job happened to be located in almost the exact center of the city so by the time the evening trains arrived at his station; they were already close to being filled with travelers anxious to get home after a long day's work.
Today was a Friday and Fridays were always the worst day of the week because none of the workers wanted to work late and thusly all arrived at the platform at almost the same time. Harry thought about delaying the inevitable with a quick one in the pub but he had promised his third wife that he would stay out of drinking establishments forever more. Since her departure to her reward, he had confined his intake to limited quantities of wine and never enough to make him drunk.
Hopefully those days of "Wine and Roses" were a thing of the past.
.... There is more of this story ...