They stood outside the open carport, not making a move toward the old house, his Oldsmobile covered in a thick layer of dirt and dust. “We have to go in,” Robert told her.
“I know. I don’t want to,” Penny said.
“We need to try.”
“You always say that.”
“At first, I went it but then it started to smell different.” she said. “Then it was just weird, as if the house would never feel right.”
“I guess,” Robert said walking into the shadows where the car was planted. “Well we could get a company to do it. We can hire a moving company, place everything in storage and then have a realtor go in.”
“It can be real fixer-upper,” she said.
“Might be the way to go. At least we would be done with it.” He was rubbing the trunk of the Olds with his hand, smearing the grime.
“Give me a second,” she said and lit a cigarette. “Sorry,” she said.
“You doing that again?”
“You know I haven’t wanted one for so long, but when I woke up today I knew I needed one. So shut up about it, ok?” She looked down, didn’t make eye contact with him. “I know we have to sell it but I feel like I’m betraying him.”
“Yes,” he said into the sharp wind, which blew dust into his nose. He fought off the urge to sneeze.
“You’re not listening, are you?” she said.
“No, just thinking about how bad a driver Dad was. Remember when he finally gave up driving. He went to go to church and headed west on Route 9 instead of east. He drove until he hit New York state. He lost his mind.”
“At least it happened quickly.” She puffed down to the filter and threw the stub onto the driveway. “Come on, let’s have a look inside.”
They entered the unlocked door walked past the a bathroom, the carpet near his chair stiff from his blood, followed up by cleaning fluid. The stains were the last things ever cleaned in the place. Dust particles danced as the sun’s rays touched where his recliner used to sit before it was tossed. On the adjacent table was a pair of reading glasses, their frames held together by a balky shape of scotch tape at the nose and the television remote.
“I remember getting the call like it was yesterday,” he sighed.
“Not yesterday, but perhaps a week ago,” she said while his eyes darted around the corner to a staircase that led to the bedroom where she slept as a kid. Some papers were on the bottom step.
“Ok. Do you want me to make some calls tomorrow?” she asked.
“No, I’d better take care of it.” He reached behind the sofa for an old bottle of scotch.
“You doing that again?” she asked.
“It’s been a long time,” he said.
“Please John, leave that here,” she said. “We’ll have dinner on the way home. Remember the old place up the street on the corner?”
“Willoughby’s? That hasn’t been there for years.”
“Maybe there is a new place we can try.”
“OK,” he said and placed the bottle back after a slug. “We’ve been here for a bit.”
Timothy Gager is the author of eight books of short fiction and poetry. His latest Treating a Sick Animal: Flash and Micro Fictions (Cervena Barva Press) features over forty stories, many previously published in various literary magazines. He has hosted the successful Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts every month for the past ten years and is the co-founder of Somerville News Writers Festival.
His work has appeared in Night Train, McSweeneys, Hobart, Twelve Stories, Word Riot, Skive, Dogzplot, Six Sentences, 55 Word, Monkeybicycle, The Binnacle, Thieve’s Jargon, Long Short Story, Zygote in My Coffee, Fried Chicken and Coffee, Slurve, Poor Mojo’s Almanac, Tuesday Shorts, The Legendary, VerbSap, The Smoking Poet, Write This Magazine, Further Fenway Fiction, The Blood Orange Review, Poems for All, Right Hand Pointing, GUD, Boston Poetry Journal (Bad Ass Edition), Edifice Wrecked, Blue Print Review, Barnstorm, Lit Up Magazine, Spare Change, Delmarva Review, Third Lung Review, Poesy and Ibbetson Street . He has had over 200 works of fiction and poetry published since 2007 and of which eight have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.