In the Dark

In-The-DarkI loosened my tie and sank into the sports coupe. It was Friday afternoon, the end of yet another sixty-five hour week. Despite the chaos of rush hour traffic, I willingly accepted the unpleasantness knowing that a cold six-pack and the Knicks game waited for me at home.

The chime interrupted the solitude inside the shell of my personal sanctuary. New text message from Kimmie.

Speaking in the robotic voice that I came to loathe, Don’t forget to pick up the pizza for family game night – smiley face.

Damn. I had forgotten that we moved family game night up by a day. And just like that, the chaotic traffic became an intolerable nuisance.


As I slipped through the front door with the two pizza boxes, I was promptly greeted by my six year old daughter, Lisa. Although I was disappointed about the change in plans that I should have remembered, the excited look in Lisa’s eyes immediately lifted my spirits.

“Hi Daddy,” she exclaimed while simultaneously jumping into my arms. I managed to balance the pizza in one arm and my little bundle of joy in the other.

“It’s my turn tonight … to choose,” she said proudly.

I didn’t need to ask. I knew exactly what she meant. At the front of her closet, in front of all the other toys and games sat Chutes and Ladders.

We played it every other evening, but it held special significance when played on game night. It began as a silly dare and had now evolved into a family tradition. If Lisa won, she could stay up as late as she wanted.

I always seemed to find more chutes than ladders. Tonight was no exception. On other nights, I might entertain the possibility of allowing Lisa to win. Not tonight. I was exhausted and ready to retire early.

I was three spots away from victory and probably a little too eager to win against a six year old. My tenacious attitude in the boardroom was leaking over into my family life. Kimmie kicked me under the table. I pulled my feet back. Just tonight, I thought, let me win. Nope, somehow I knew it wouldn’t happen.


“Yay! I’m staying up until midnight!”

I sank into the couch. My consolation prize was that I’d be able to catch the end of the basketball game. Flipping the television on, I was greeted by a blowout that wasn’t in my team’s favor. I flipped the power off and closed my eyes.


Sometime around 2AM, the duo dressed in black sidled up to the curb around the corner. The lights inside surprised them.

“What are they still doing up? We’ve been watching them for weeks. This doesn’t fit.”

Perplexed by the sequence of events, the accomplice suggested, “Let’s go for the house next door, it’s dark.”

Inside the house filled with artificial light, Lisa remained curled up with her dad on the couch, peacefully sleeping – one dreaming of chutes, and the other of ladders.

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11 thoughts on “In the Dark

  1. Writing to Freedom December 23, 2015 / 11:22 am

    Like the tale of the Chinese farmer, we never really know whether something is good or bad and it’s ultimate impact. Happy Holidays Dave!

    • davecenker December 23, 2015 / 12:03 pm

      Thanks, Brad. I couldn’t have said it better myself 😉 Thanks for taking the time to read and comment and best wishes for a happy holiday!

  2. heraldmarty December 24, 2015 / 5:17 am

    Wow love that little twist Dave! Thanks for another gem and hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas weekend!

    • davecenker December 25, 2015 / 4:54 pm

      Thanks, Marty – And the same wonderful Christmas wishes to you and yours this holiday season 🙂

  3. roughwighting December 26, 2015 / 3:35 pm

    I’m not sure if I’ve said this out loud yet: I love the way you write!!

    • davecenker December 31, 2015 / 10:22 am

      Thank you, Pamela – back at you 😉 Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, and best wishes for a safe and happy new year!

  4. Dalo 2013 January 3, 2016 / 1:22 am

    Ah, brilliantly refreshing. Wish I could say otherwise, but I’ve felt the similar frustrations right away with your first part of the story, plans for the perfect night relaxing when my niece is home waiting for me to play “hello kitty”…and a smile that confirms there is nothing else I’d rather be doing. The twist at the end – perfect. Great writing Dave, yet again!

    • davecenker January 3, 2016 / 8:48 am

      Thanks, Randy. It’s ironic how we (and by we, I mean I) tend to grouse about unexpected obligations popping up to interrupt plans for a perfectly planned evening, only to have those interruptions be exactly what we needed, in so many different ways!

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Have a great weekend!

  5. alittlebirdtweets January 4, 2016 / 5:22 pm

    I really enjoyed this. The voice of the main character gives me the feeling that an actor or actress might be explaining the story ‘as it happens’. I also liked the image you put in my mind of the lead character balancing a pizza in one arm, and his daughter in the other…you give a personality to him that feels very real. Great work.

    • davecenker January 5, 2016 / 8:12 am

      Thank you, I sincerely appreciate the time you took to read this story as well as leaving such a thoughtful (and helpful) comment. It’s always nice to get a fresh perspective from other writers on what is/isn’t working in a story. Thanks again, and best wishes for an inspired day!

      • alittlebirdtweets January 5, 2016 / 3:44 pm

        You’re very welcome. Wishing you an inspired day too 🙂

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