Scanning the household calendar, practically every day is filled in with color-coded notations showing when which bill comes due. Scribbled at two-week intervals, a lone red, magic marker dot in the top right corner of a Friday block indicates paydays. I don’t have much time, he’ll be here soon.
Stacks of debit statements spread out in front of me. Some invoices aren’t so bad. The heating bill is always manageable. It’s only really cold two months out of the year. The offset is that summer A/C costs compete with third world country financial obligations.
A family of four should not have five cars. Gasoline expenditures alone equal a house payment during any given 30-day period. Good thing three of them are already paid off. It doesn’t help that two cars get shitty gas mileage, and one of those two is driven on a daily basis. That old F150 sucks up Regular like a drunk guzzles cheap beer.
I’ve always hated paying bills. Filling in all those zeros on a check is physically sickening. I took over the task to take some of the stress off my Old Man, only it has heightened mine. A pre-bill meal consists of Tums and chamomile tea, ginger ale if I have it.
Late fees are the bane of my existence. Sometimes bills come due mid-week with payday direct deposits not available until Friday morning. It becomes a juggling act between whether to accrue late fees or over-draft charges, always afraid whatever I choose will come back and bite me in the ass.
I don’t know where the money’s going. We should be better able to put back a little each month into savings. Instead most of the time we’re living paycheck to paycheck. There are no vacations, no new clothes if not for work. We don’t eat out, or go to the movies.
He’s close now. I can hear his mournful howling. It gives me the shivers. I get a prickly feeling at the base of my skull and my teeth begin to chatter. I can’t get warm enough to stop shaking.
A neat pile of sealed, white envelopes lay on the foyer table. For once they’re all there with sufficient funds to cover each enclosed check. You’re only forgiven two over-drafts or late-fees a month. I’ve never had the nerve to test what the consequences would be for more.
Every month it seems like the pile is getting higher, each package heavier. The day is coming, I fear, that we’ll eventually own nothing. All assets, all possessions will be turned over the to pack, that we’ll be allowed to only keep what we require to survive, nothing more.
I want to simply stuff the parcels backward through the door’s mail slot, but he would scratch at the door, leaving claw marks in the fading paint if I don’t greet him personally. I can’t endure the stigma of his outward sign of disapproval. The neighbors would talk.
I’m relieved that I’m not expected to talk with him when he arrives, only hand over my payments. I don’t believe I could find my voice if I had to speak, he frightens me. I’d be an easy meal for him. He is so immense, so powerful, he could devour me in a single swallow. I’ve heard of others who failed to meet their obligations, and found themselves living on the streets, potential prey to other man-eaters.
It’s time. I have to go. The Wolf is at my door.
For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, Trencher challenged me with “It’s time to feed the wolf at the door. Maybe it’s a pile of bills, or some unpleasant, forestalled obligation. Maybe it’s an actual hungry wolf!” and I challenged Grace with “New Year’s resolutions – your own or a story about keeping or breaking resolutions“.
*Despite snippets of truth, this is a tale of fiction. I’m not about to be eaten by the wolf at my door.