On the road shoulder across from our church, our former church, our home, our former home, I am gathering courage to put my Rambler into drive, to step on the gas. Four hundred and thirteen days we’d spent; I came to know the weather-beaten boards, sealed shutters, peeled paint, creaky doors, bell without a clapper. I take breaths now — and stare.
We scraped together enough for the down payment: our home, the only way we could have a home, was decommissioned. We laughed; you said we’re also decommissioned. I imagined I saw vestiges of altar, holy water font, holes in the floor for the pews. There were times in our rejoicing, I hold onto that as an unshakeable truth, that we performed something holy in those same spots.
I’m a drunk. I don’t have to stand at a meeting and proclaim it. You knew, and I felt my luck changing when you agreed to a new start with me. Marvin, my brother, died of grief soon after his son’s crash, and although most of his money went to a vets’ organization, bequeathed just enough so when you added your “egg money”, our bid for paradise was approved.
The boards creaked, window frames never fit and carpenter bees burrowed. Our one winter was mild and many nights we shared a sleeping bag for warmth and love. Propane cost too much; we heated with our kitchen wood stove. You made the best Crabapple Brown Betty ever, although the two gnarled trees provided feasts mainly for crows and jays.
“How could you?” you cried. You slapped my face three, four times and I didn’t even put my hands up and the heel of your hand connected with my chest; you walked away. I want to hit myself, too. I thought of running the car exhaust, ending that way, but our palace has no garage.
I suppose the bank will reclaim. I have no excuse. I’m a bum, a miserable no-good bum. I can’t make sense of it myself. I loved this place, the only home I’ve ever had. I loved you, the mole by your lip, the dusting of grey in your hair, your hoarse laugh. I’ve let myself down.
I finger my bruised cheek and turn the key in the ignition.
The work of Andrew Stancek has appeared in Tin House online, Frigg, jmww, Peacock Journal, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, New World Writing, New Flash Fiction Review and many other fine venues.
Steven John – Senior Fiction & Special Features Editor