Mueller 2010—1

Bottle Caps Each morning I’d make sure I woke early enough to clean before he awakened. It was usually pretty consistant. On weekends I could sleep in an extra forty five minutes, at least, but even on weekdays I only had to rise before 9:30 to beat him to the mess. It was my apartment, but virtually unrecognizable in the morning. The marble we picked for the kitchen, a gorgeous green and brown, was always tucked under a blanket of aluminum. The ground spackled with caps, left to lie where they fell the night before. Evidence, like bullet casings. I’d sweep them away and wet-jet the entire kitchen, family room, and, if it was a rough work-night, his office. My husband thrived in this beer soaked, broken glass, and bottle cap obstacle course at night, but I’d never let him see it in the day. That mistake only needed to be made once. The night after the first, and only, time he’d witnessed the morning-after state of our home together, he was worse. He started early and went for longer. The next day’s clean up was impressively demanding. Daytime husband eyes could not handle the mirror the mess held up to him. Those sharp rays of morning sunlight scared him and scarred his eyes with the image of the monster he became with the setting of the sun. The small pool of spilt lager reflected back a mocking picture of his former self-control, now long gone and elusive. Each can questioning his manhood, each cap a medallion for his shortcomings and cowardice. I’d sweep them away but they always found a way of resurfacing. One afternoon our son came home from school with a look of pride and hesitation fogging his usually glowing eyes. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

Mueller 2010—2

He couldn’t answer, he simply handed me the Trader Joe’s bag he had been holding at his side. The bag was weighted by a single chipboard disc. As I worked the oversized disc out of the bag it’s purpose and my son’s hesitance was unveiled to me. I led him to the family room, to where the clock hung on the wall opposite the hallway to his father and my bedroom. I took down the clock that hung there and using the existing nail hung my son’s replacement, the twelve numbers substituted with an array of resurrected bottle caps. “I thought we could use it,” he said, “as a way to measure the day with Daddy.”