The Last Recommendation by Tasha Cotter
That morning, she got in the car before him, as usual. On Friday frost had only left its breath on the glass. Not like the week before of salt and snowplows. She was happy. It was Friday— a payday for her— and things were moving in the right direction in all ways, it seemed.
The night before they’d stayed up late, later than she would have liked, talking about guns. There had been protests and sleep-ins at the capitol for weeks over the open-carry legislation— it had passed. She was a teacher and she’d become scared of going to work. Her husband reiterated that he wanted her to get trained like everyone else to build her confidence, but she didn’t like that idea— she never did. By now, she’d grown tired of it. For his sake, she acted like she would consider the recommendation. Over breakfast the topic hadn’t come up.
She yawned and rubbed her hands together, feeling the car begin the slow work of waking itself for their morning commute. She imagined the invisible wires heating the glass; the small crags of ice and snow slipped and slid like erratic schooners in a bay.
She saw his shadow now, moving near the coat rack near the door, just inside the house. Soon, she thought. She glanced at the neighbor’s house and saw a small drone vertically descending on the porch, which had been cracked and broken off in large chunks since they’d moved in four years ago. The drone delivered a box twice the size of itself, its tiny metal claws made a sound not unlike a chicken scratching on concrete. The lady who lived there, so far as she could tell, hadn’t had a job in years.
At first she hadn’t liked them. A biology major, by training, she hadn’t liked the artificiality of drones. How from a distance they sometimes they looked like dangerous flying insects, or worse, a weapon of war. She remembered the first time she’d seen one doing its deliveries, the sound it had made like some large, exotic bee, but now they were mostly soundless. Which was startling, too. They were always sneaking up on you.
Her husband was in a great hurry. That much was clear. She watched him race down their steps, backpack and brown paper bag in tow. He had a fondness for order and preparedness. She knew without looking what he’d packed: a turkey sandwich, a yogurt, and an apple. Knew, too, what he kept from her: the chocolate bar in his desk drawer, how he was seen as a leader at work, the small drips of mail that came mailed to him citing unusual political memberships. What were mysteries to other people were well known to her. He was a nuclear engineer.
He opened the door and she readied herself, checking to make sure the seat buckle had fastened her in. She glanced at the map on the screen, an illuminated green worm that took them from home to work. Her body braced for the door slam, the force of him beside her; the energy and anxiety that always comes with running late for work.
“We good?” she asked, looking at him.
“Yeah, I was checking all the doors. There was an alert on the wireless. Someone’s been coming around again. Checking front and back doors. People have it on surveillance.”
She nodded, sensing where this may be going.
“Just another reason…”
He’d just accepted their route on the screen when a strange wave of sound came over them. Unnatural and strange. She glanced up to see a distant twist of cloud forming in strange peaks, the colors becoming milky and magnificent. She was out of the car before him. He was saying something, but she couldn’t hear. Didn’t want to hear another recommendation. A distant tide of smoke and darkness began to swell. To begin and end. Then move again. She glanced at her husband. Motionless. What were they seeing? An opening up like an image coming to on a screen. A great breaking apart of the body, a fist ballooning into the sky.
Tasha Cotter is the author of Some Churches (Gold Wake Press, 2013). Her chapbook of poetry, Girl in the Cave was released in 2016 with Tree Light Books. You can find her online at www.tashacotter.com.