It was true it had been a rough year for Hope. Her husband Tim had an affair with a younger neighbor; he had also embezzled funds at the hotel he managed; and he had been fired from his job and faced time at a Martha Stewart white collar prison out West. Signs of marital trouble came from money spent for cheek implants, hair restoration, and an eye lid lift. One of their sons decided he was gay and wanted to have a sex change, and one was in rehab for opioid abuse. So, they’d lost their house in the gated subdivision named Warm Springs after the FDR’s Little White House in Georgia.
     “It can’t get any worse,” Hope commented on Facebook.
     “Sure it can, honey,” I wrote back. There were plenty of times in life I’d seen a snowball rolling downhill building and crashing into cars on a road or people in a house going about their daily lives. “You’ve got to be positive and change your perspective.”
     “This is not the way life was supposed to be.”
     I wrote her back that “It never turns out quite the way we imagined.” I wondered if we even imagined how it might be. I just don’t think we ever think that it would turn really bad, but she must have logged off or moved on to Pinterest because she didn’t like my comment or respond.
     I checked again that night after Everybody Loves Raymond and she had posted twice, once about possibly having her car repossessed and another about having to get a job because they took the equity out of their Warm Springs home to pay the legal fees and the hotel back the money Tim embezzled. I didn’t wish Hope any ill will, but figured she would have to move

beyond her sad sack life, reach down deep in her spiritual well to find her own hope, and start a new life.
     Hope whined about money, but everyone knew she was a poor mouther. Her parents had left her a trust account, but some people who didn’t have that information offered to loan her money. She told them she appreciated it, but couldn’t accept charity. I rolled my eyes. I wouldn’t offer to help her because I had little, especially with two in college who drain their debit accounts every month, but refuse to get jobs because of their studies. I’ve seen their grades and think there doing a little too much partying at the club across from campus, but their statements don’t show charges to the club, just an ATM on campus. I was hoping for a solid refund from the IRS this year to help me a little, but when H&R Block did my taxes, they explained the tax cuts put in place weren’t really cuts so much as they were a restructuring---the tax rate had come down, but some deductions and tax credits had been eliminated, so a tax cut was really a tax
hike. Sounded like a bunch of gobbledygook from Washington to me. I imagine Hope will get a big refund because those that have do, but she won’t share that with anyone. She has to maintain that sad sack image, so she’ll get attention like she did when she had the breast implants until everyone got used to them.

Niles Reddick is the author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, two collections, Reading the Coffee Grounds, Road Kill ArtOther Oddities, and a novella, Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in eleven anthologies and in over two hundred literary magazines including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine, Cheap Pop, Flash Fiction Magazine, With Painted Words, among many others. Feel free to visit his website at www.nilesreddick.com.

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