Then he would pour all but one cup of the coffee into his dented, several-year-old, Thermos bottle, leaving the remaining cup for his wife to drink when she would get up later in the morning. The next step in the morning ritual would be for Gary to take two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, his favorite of all sandwiches, out of the freezer. There he would find about a dozen pre-made sandwiches, all peanut butter and jelly, of course, neatly displayed in individual plastic sandwich bags in the freezer that Judith had lovingly constructed. Once in a while, Judith changed up the pattern and made a few ham and cheese with lettuce sandwiches, but she didn't freeze them. That would ruin the lettuce. She would giggle to herself later, knowing that she had surprised Gary with something different. It gave her a warm, ticklish feeling in her stomach to treat her man to something special for his lunch. And why not? He deserved it. He worked so hard to provide a comfortable lifestyle for the two of them.
Each work morning Gary packed his own gray, weathered, plastic lunchbox with two sandwiches, one orange, and a few additions his wife referred to as "munchies." The definition of munchies was potato chips or nuts or something else, but it definitely had to be crunchy and fun. A munchie had to be fun.
Judith often wrote short love notes or smiling faces on scraps of paper and tucked them in the lunchbox. Once a week she placed a twenty dollar bill in the lunchbox so Gary could fill the tank of his truck with gas. He never had to ask. She always knew when it was time.
On this morning, well before it was time for the sun to rise, Gary quietly jogged back upstairs to the dark bedroom where Judith lay sleeping, bent down, kissed her silently on the cheek, then headed back down the stairs and out the front door toward his truck with lunchbox and Thermos bottle in hand. Judith heard the lock on the front door go "click."A few seconds later, Judith recognized the sound of Gary's red Ford Ranger start in the driveway just below their second story bedroom window.
Gary warmed the small truck for about five minutes, tuned in his favorite country and western music radio station, and started out on his commute from the driveway of his home in Auburn, near Lake Geneva, to Kenworth Trucking in the Seattle suburb, Renton, Washington (positioned at the southern most tip of Lake Washington), where he held the title of Advanced Painter, Grade l. It had taken three decades for him to reach this level of achievement -- working in the elite, enviable class of truck painters at Kenworth.
While Gary drove in the darkness toward work, humming along with the country music on the radio, and Judith peacefully slumbered, neither could know that this would be the last day of their morning routine. Gary would not come home again.