Zenith’s Freefall. A short story.


I. Life as a Timeline

Eager to be scientific, Zenith drew a timeline.

Carefully manipulating his protractor, he labeled the starting point “Birth,” and the endpoint “Death.”

Sitting back hard enough that the red chair-back wheezed white foam, Zenith surveyed his work. Neat, geometrical, nice.

He picked up a rule and measured his life in centimeters. Carefully manipulating his mechanical pencil, he plotted his progress, tabulating his time spent.

Zenith postulated. At 45 there was still a ways to go before he reached his biophysical midpoint, his spiritual summit – his zenith – wasn’t there? Certainly he hadn’t already climaxed. Surely, everyone’s life had its inherent drama, pits and plateaus, peaks and valleys. According to his graph, Zenith figured that he had at least 40 years to go – nearly half of his time remained. No, Zenith was sure that if life indeed offered a high point, he had not yet reached it.

Hope remained; he was counting on it.

II. Kink in the Chain Link

Now Zenith was no dummy. He knew a thing or two about a thing or two. Take cars, for instance. Zenith knew the underbelly of an automobile better than most men knew the soft spot of a steering wheel. Mufflers were Zenith’s particular metier. He fixed them, fitted them, filed and fiddled with them, but the thing that Zenith liked best was selling them.

More than likely, if you and your machine happened into his shop – with a carbon cough or a toxic tailpipe, a smoky emission or a mere suspicion – chances are that before you’d left Zenith would have persuaded you to let him “put her up on the lift to take a look.” Well sir, once Zenith got underneath your ride, he wouldn’t pull out of there without putting in a new pipe, catalytic converter, or at the very least, tightening the nuts and securing the screws.

Yessiree Bob, he could close a sale. Always could and always would. Perhaps it was that Quaker Oats smile or his by-golly style, but Zenith was at his best when he was shooting the breeze with just plain folks.

His love of motors began early. He was twisting the spokes and greasing his sprocket before the other boys were playing pocket pool. Ever since his mama could remember, Zenith had preferred the cold honesty of mechanical bodies to the warm uncertainty of human flesh, and that as they say was the kink in the chain link.

III. Living in Licum

While his career curbing cars accelerated smoothly – ramping up from hyping hot rods to high schoolers to eventually cornering the local classifieds market – Zenith’s emotional motor sputtered, stuttered and stalled at the starting line.

Zenith once again regarded his lifeline.

At 45, he was the proud owner of Zenith’s Zeibart Muffler Mart; a successful entrepreneur, capable mechanic and active member of the Lion’s Club of Licum, Indiana. On the surface his life read better than an Oprah Winfrey selection, a regular Horatio Alger American Dream come true.

But, pondering the points, our Hoosier hero concluded it simply wasn’t enough. All in all none of it meant diddley squat. Zenith had rung the bell at the county fair and walked away without his Kewpie Doll.

He picked up a ball of foam from inside the torn chair-back and rolled it slowly between his thumb and forefinger like a booger of rubber cement. As he considered his work, the ball became tighter and harder. At last he made his decision: Zenith would take a wife.

Wiping his sticky fingers against the crusty legs of his Big Yank overalls, Zenith made a vow, “By God,” he decreed, “I’ll get me one if it’s the last thing that this ol’ boy does! I’m gonna get me a wife.”

So be it.

IV. Zenith in Heat

It would prove to be a paramount task, but Zenith was prepared for the challenge. Finding a mate would not be easy, but Zenith was psyched. In typical fashion, he scotch-taped his resolution to the refrigerator door, next to the Red Barn Pizza take-out magnet. It read in bold Dale Carnegie style: “Must Couple.”

A simple reminder so that each day as he fed his face he would not forget his other haunting hunger. Every day in every way, it gets a little bit better.

Zenith reflected on his image in the chrome toaster. Straightening his name tag and wiping a bit of butter from his lip, he planned his strategy.

Just like daddy used to tell him every morning before he boarded the Trailways bus that took him from his home in the trailer park in Licum to his job on the line at the RV plant in Crown Point, “Son, you’ve got to plan your work and work your plan.”

V. The Women on Zenith’s Horizon

What to do was never as hard as where to begin.

Now a woman is nearly as complicated as an automatic transmission, with even more restrictions than California’s got laws on polluting emissions – so Zenith has his work to do. Verily.

He was a machine man, as I’ve already mentioned, no naturally the gal for him would be equally attracted to precision, high performance and most-importantly, speed. Where to look. Online? Nah, not his style. In the personal ads in back of the Licum Tattler? What would he write?

No, like Wanda the Good Witch told us all as children, “There is no place like home.”

Zenith thought about the girls at the office. Pam at reception, with the bad perm and the heavy hips?. Val, at the counter, snapping gum and trading dating stories with the boys in the warehouse? Lauren, the divorcee CPA? As he thought about the candidates, he was reminded of his of his favorite country & western singer, Slim Pickens. Yee Haw.

Decisions. decisions.

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2 thoughts on “Zenith’s Freefall. A short story.

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