Hello. Today’s ramble is brought to us by Killing Him, by Amy LaVere (because when a dark-haired woman slips her hand around a jewelled pistol and puts on her dream face, you listen).
The wind tugs at the porch swing, sending out a creak that drives the crickets mad. Out in the field summer goes on and on, the heat a moving veil just above the ground. It’s like a scene from one of those backwater novellas - at any moment the smell of death will come creeping up and before you know it the weather has turned and the insects are replacing life with empty husks.
She takes the lemonade outside and listens to the brrr-thump of the washing machine as it pounds the dry walling in the basement. She sniffs the air for hints of danger or reassurance. The first holds a dryness like a bleached bone emptied of marrow. You can tell there was life there, but there isn’t now - that’s the key. The second has a hint of sweetness, the evaporative merger of flower nectar that flows through the air so daintily you can almost see its hue unfurling like a Disney ribbon. Today danger and reassurance are each holding their own. It could go either way.
She sees the dust trail almost a mile away -that’s how flat this land is. The farms are laid out in giant board game squares, each with a house or two plopped in the middle. These are the game pieces that made one move and which will go on to forever miss their turn. She follows the beige cloud rising and falling like the undulations of a ghost snake trying to slough its skin. In typical Roy fashion he barely slows to make the turn into the driveway, sending the back end of the car drifting wide, the tires spitting gravel against the mailbox. She imagines the wild pleasure on his face as he rocks the steering wheel back and forth to correct.
He’s still smiling when he steps out of the driver’s seat, but as soon as he sees her his eyes go dead and his grin drops like a hammer into scowl. Walking past the porch he takes off his cap and bangs it twice against his jeans. A plume of dust rises from the cotton.
“I’m going out back,” he says, his eyes already fixed in that far off way that tells her he has turned off any thought of her, as if she were a radio station he’s never liked. In her mind she sees herself replaced by a ‘69 Cuda, orange like the sun’s spanked bottom.
“Mmmhmmm,” she replies, staring over the field where the corn is waving. Hello. Goodbye. It all looks the same.
Leaning against the porch railing she sips her lemonade and listens to him hauling out his toolbox and placing it heavily on the ground next to the car, which has lived on blocks for the past two years. Downstairs the washing machine, now on rinse, begins to fill. Silence erupts from the house. He grunts into it as he flops to the ground. She knows he is reaching into the toolbox and methodically placing one item after another on the ground above his head, to keep them within easy reach. A pause. Two short notes from a nearby cricket. She hangs onto her glass, cold beads running down the sides as sweat forms cousin salt drops on her top lip.
His rough hands grip the underside of the car as he starts to pull himself between the wheels. Her body quakes as the blocks give way, wood cracking against metal, splinters popping out like ready-made toothpicks. The car lands with a series of almighty clangs but the reverberations are almost immediately hushed by the dust. The ice shakes in her glass. She tries to steady her hand, listening for a muffled cry. Nothing.
She turns, goes into the house, toward the back door. Pauses. Opens the door and looks down onto the collapsed car, and sees Roy’s favourite boots sticking out from underneath. Not even a twitch.
She backs away into the kitchen, where she places her glass on the kitchen counter. She hears the washing machine’s spin cycle kick in and the house begins to shudder softly. Slowly she lays her hands on the cracking laminate. Once steadied, she begins to shake wildly, sobs alternating with heaves of laughter, pumping the tears from her eyes. The waves take her and she feels comforted by the rhythm of it. Hello goodbye. Hello goodbye.
One deep breath follows another and soon a new feeling takes over her. She is electric, a wild, buzzing thing. A waft of her scent hits her like a metallic sea. She breathes again, trying to catch the tide. Beaming, she pushes herself away from the counter, does a clumsy pirouette and heads across the room. She descends to the basement, feeling her hips jiggle wondrously as she hops down the stairs. She hums as she shimmies over to the washing machine, which has rumbled to a stop. She gives it a tender pat that echoes into the room.
Doll & Lantern
3 hours ago