Something Off

Clammy hands claw at the hooded figure that drags the night-gowned woman across the damp grass. Muffled screams for help are quickly silenced by the hooded man’s sudden pressing of a small blade against the woman’s cheek. “You’re going to want to keep that pretty mouth shut, sweetheart. I don’t think Steven would appreciate getting you back with any parts missing.” Her eyes widen and her jaw clamps shut as he chuckles. “That’s much better.” The door of a waiting black van slides open as the pair approaches and another hooded figure helps lift the woman inside. The brakes squeal as the van slowly starts down the street and into the hours of early morning.

——-

Steven wakes a few hours after sunrise and rolls over in bed, his reaching hand expecting to meet the soft skin of his wife’s arms. It crawls between the sheets but hits only empty space. Steven muses aloud, “She probably went downstairs to make some coffee.” He gets out of bed and pulls on plaid pants before heading down the stairs, expecting to see his wife in the kitchen. He sees only an elderly woman in a bathrobe. “Mom, have you seen Alison? She never wakes up this early but she was gone when I woke up.”

“I can’t say that I have. She probably went to some cafe, you know how much she hates my coffee. Not good enough for you big city folks I suppose.”

“Mom she doesn’t hate your coffee, stop saying that.”, Steven peers out the window towards the driveway, “The car is still here.”

“Well, I don’t know Steven, babysitting your wife isn’t one of my responsibilities – which are many by the way. Speaking of, I was thinking of taking Billy and Sally to the zoo today, what do you think of that?”

“Huh? Zoo? Sure mom, yeah sure.”, Steven distractedly replies while searching his phone.

His mom smiles and takes her bagel out of the toaster and sits at the small breakfast nook. “I’m sure it’s fine Steven. You worry too much.” Steven sighs and heads back upstairs. Upon entering his room he notices Alison’s purse sitting undisturbed on the bedside table just as she had left it the night before. He shakes his head, “It’s probably nothing. Maybe she went for a walk.” Steven selects a suit off a hanger and dons it before heading downstairs. “I’m going to work Mom, let me know if you hear from her.” She nods without taking her eyes off her book.

——-

Steven’s eyes glass over as he leads the couple through the various bedrooms and bathrooms, making sure to highlight the unique features. He wonders how many times he has mentioned the “farmhouse style kitchen sinks” and “dual showerheads”. What would he do with all that time if he had it back? He had always imagined a more exciting life for himself. That’s right- while all the other little boys were playing cowboys and Indians (now called Native Americans thanks to the tirade political correct-ness warriors rampaged the country) Steven dreamed of someday being a mob boss to his own team of henchmen. The dark world of secret codes, drop spots, and hit men had always reached towards him with its shadowy tendrils, reeking of cigar smoke and dollar bills. It is funny, Steven thinks to himself, how money had that certain smell that was so distinctly recognizable. Nothing else smelled like that piece of paper and cotton that had passed through maybe billions of hands and had possibly been in who knows how many strippers’ bras, nestled just so between her warm, heaving breasts.

“Steven … Steven!”

Reality rushes back into Steven’s mind just in time for him to see a woman’s face alarmingly close to his. He takes a step back. “Yeah Madison, what is it?” She checks her watch, “Your phone has been ringing for the past ten minutes. You should answer it, we can show ourselves around for a little.” “Great, thanks.” He steps onto the back patio, still distracted by both his wife’s absence and his mobster daydreams. The ringing phone finds its way to his ear.

“This is Steven.”

“Steven Anderson, we have your wife.”

The small metal and glass device falls to the floor and Steven quickly scrambles to retrieve it and press it to his ear.

“What do you mean you have my wife?”

“We have your wife. She is unharmed for now but there is no possibility of escape. The only way you will see her again is to meet our demands. They are unique so you might want to grab a pen… ready?”

“Yeah, yeah I’m ready. Go ahead.”

“There is a shipment that we are interested in. A shipment that is going to be made in one short month by the Lombardi family, I take it that you have heard of them?”

“Yeah, of course, everyone knows that the Lombardi’s run this town. But I don’t understand -”

“You are going to help us find out the location of this shipment. You can assemble your own small team to assist you in gathering information from contacts that we will reveal the names of once we gain them.”

“So you’re keeping Alison until I do all this?”

“No, no – we aren’t monsters. A month is quite a long time for Billy and Sally to be without their mother.”

“How did you…”

“Do not underestimate us, Mr. Anderson, we know far more than you can imagine. On our team is world renowned brain surgeon, Charles Doheny. Have you heard of him? No matter. He has developed an implant that effectively erases one’s defiant character traits and makes them as pliable as putty. They recognize one figure in place of this dominant trait and thus, they follow this figure’s every command and fulfill their every desire.”

“You bastard.”

“No need for profanity Mr. Anderson, I am not that kind of man. I have no desire for your wife’s body, only her eyes. She will be released back to your care and each morning she will report your every move back to me. If you are not following our agreement then I will be forced to destruct the chip, rendering her brain a useless puddle.”

——-

A flowered oven mitt pulls the casserole from the oven. The aproned woman stands in a monochrome blue kitchen suffocating with sunlight. A man sits on the lower end of middle-aged sits at the plated formica table across the room wearing a dark blue suit. He is studying a newspaper that he’s read twice already. “Steven, can you grab us water please?” He sighs heavily and gets a glass of water and a beer for himself. She places a full plate in front of him and a light plate in front of herself at the table. He sips the beer and begins eating.

“Is is good?”

“Yeah, it’s fine.”, he responded without looking up from his plate.

“Just fine?”

“Goddamnit Alison I don’t know what else you want me say. It’s just as good as all the other casseroles you’ve made. No better, no worse- just fine.”

“Okay.”

A young boy and girl lay in the carpeted hallway peer in between the stair railings over the living room. “I think they’ve forgotten us again”, the boy says. “I don’t think so. Maybe they just haven’t invited us down yet.” The boy frowns and pushes himself off the ground. He runs down the stairs, the girl reaches for the ankles to stop him but is too slow.

“Hey mom were you planning on feeding Sally and I tonight or are we being left to fend for ourselves again?” The woman looks up from the table with wide, startled eyes and says nothing. Billy walks into the kitchen and gathers things to make PBJ sandwiches. His father grabs his arm as he’s leaving.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going with that?”

“I’m making dinners for Sally and I since mom apparently doesn’t plan on feeding us … again.”, Billy squirms under his father’s fingers.

“I paid for this food. Your mother is in charge of deciding who eats it. You have not contributed and she has decided that you and Sally are not eating it tonight. So you’re not eating it tonight.”

“Come on dad, I really think she just forgot.”

The two look towards Alison, one with pleading eyes and the other with a hard-set jawline and steeled eyes. She looks down and picks at her food. He snatches the bread and jars from Billy’s arm as Billy slithers from his grip and runs upstairs. He tackles his bed and begins to cry into his pillow. “Billy, it’s okay. You tried. You really did.”, the voice comes from Sally in the doorway. Her comforting words are met only by soft sobs muffled by Billy’s Star Wars pillow.

Downstairs Alison begins to clear the plates and clean up the kitchen. As the sun set outside she went to sit on the flowered couch next to Steven who had taken off his sport coat at some point. He scrolled through news apps on his phone while she flipped through channels on an antennaed television set. 

——–

The grocery cart lists to the right side as it pushes along the faded linoleum flooring. Harsh lights illuminate the isles from frozen shelving compartments. Sally carries a torn piece of paper and collects things in her small arms to toss over the high sides of the cart. Billy hangs off the side of the cart, being pushed by their mother. A women with a short blonde bob in a tea-length floral dress rounds the corner into their isle. “Oh hello Alison, I didn’t know you were back out and about.”

“Hello Karen. Yes I am, thank you for your concern.”

“Oh, you misunderstand. I never said I was concerned.”

Karen walks through the isle without picking up anything and exits at the opposite end. Billy looks at Sally, a question in his cocked eyebrow. She shakes her head, dismissing the discussion before it can ever happen. Sally speaks up, “Mom maybe we can help you make spaghetti for dinner tonight. Does that sound good?” Alison looks down at her and shakes her head, seemingly confused to see her standing there next to the cart. “Yeah sure. Yes, we can make spaghetti”, she smiles then and looks back  and forth at her children, “Yes, spaghetti. All together like how it used to be. That sounds nice.”

——-

They pull up the driveway in a faded brown station wagon. The children exit from the rear-facing third row and round the car to help carry groceries from the second row. They push open the front door with a rustling of plastic bags to see Steven sitting in the living room. Four burly men sit near him with open notebooks. Steven’s head sharply turns- annoyed at the obvious interruption. Alison mumbles a quiet apology and ushers the children into the kitchen and pulls the curtains that lead to the living room together.

——–

“Jesus Neev, go easy on those turns. We don’t want to lose him just yet.”

“Hey Steven, how much longer?”

Steven rolls his eyes and speaks through his sigh “No more than 10 minutes.”

His ragtag group was obviously new in the world of crime that he was quick inducting them to. He relents to himself internally, well I did round them up from Craigslist- a cheap substitute for the gang squad he had always dreamed of. 

The black ford impala tears down the empty road that leads straight to the docks, which were currently being licked by the dark waters that reflected the moon the way the ocean only did at three in the morning. The car shudders to an abrupt stop at the entrance to the dock; all four doors open and five pairs of black boots hit the gravel, kicking up the small pebbles as they walk together towards the dented bumper of  the car.

“Hey Steven, I know this isn’t the best moment to be sayin this but I really gotta piss.”

“Fine. Whatever. Go piss off the dock or something and try not to draw too much attention to yourself.”

One pair of black boots heads down the salt soaked wood planks to the dock while the other four pairs remain huddled around the trunk.

“I think you should open it Steven”, the other pairs of boots ardently agree with this suggestion.

“Fine. I’ll open it- just don’t fuck this up for me okay? If this is going to work out for us then this needs to go well.”

The boots nod their reassurances of expected good behavior. Steven heaves open the heavy trunk to unveil the middle aged man resting inside- eyes wide with hands and feet bound like a freshly hunted boar.

“So Russell, are you ready to tell me what you know about the Lombardi shipments now?”

The body in the trunk, presumably Russell, shakes his head in defiance and curses around the gag in his mouth.

“That’s a shame Russell, that’s really quite a shame. I thought all this trouble that I’ve gone through would be made worth it by your confession of closely held family secrets.”

Steven sighs deeply, “Well, Se La Vie. Dump him.”

Steven walks back towards the front of the car and gets into the passenger seat, slamming the door behind him. The boots work together to life struggling Russell out of the trunk and walk him down the dock – past Neev who is still peeing somehow – and toss him in the water. Neev’s stream peters out and they all return to the Impala together. “We did it boss. He’ll be swimming with the fishes in no time.”

“You idiot, the phrase is ‘sleeping with the fishes’, not swimming. He’s not turning into a goddamn mermaid.”

“Isn’t that what I said?”

“No. No, it’s not. Did you put the weights around his ankles or his wrists?”

“What weights?”

Steven contorts his body so he is facing the man speaking from the backseat, “The weights in the trunk. The weights that will pull Russell to the bottom of the ocean so he will no longer be our problem. the weights that will make sure he drowns before he figures out how to untie himself.”

“Oh, those weights.”

“Yes, those weights. Where did you tie them?”

“They’re still in the trunk.”

Another boot speaks up, “Guess he might be swimming with the fishes after all eh Steven?” The grin on his face quickly dissolves once Steven’s full rage breaks through his mask of understanding.

“THE TRUNK?! They’re still in the GODDAMN TRUNK?! You have got to be fucking kidding me right now. Please, for the love of all things good and holy, tell me you are fucking kidding me right now.”

“No boss, I’m real sorry though. Maybe we can get him back and tie the weights on?”

“Get out.”, Steven’s face has turned bright red and it looks as though the pressure in his head might make his eyes pop out like bullets aimed at their target.

“What?”

“Get. Out. Get out of this motherfucking car and walk home you morons.”

“But-”

“No. Get out.”

The boots grumble in anger as they reluctantly slide out of the car. Steven shifts into the driver’s seat and whips around the Impala at full speed, spewing gravel in a soft arch towards the four men who watch him go.

“Well what the hell are we supposed to do now?”

——-

Soft light from the hallway slicing through the solid darkness of the bedroom as Steven slinks through the small opening. Alison stirs in bed as he sheds his suit and drapes it over the corner armchair. “How was work?”, she whispers from underneath the mountain of blankets. “It did not go according to plan.”

“Oh I’m sorry. Did the couple not like house? You really went out of your way for this deal, showing it to them at an hour like this. What did you say they did for work again?”

“They work as personal assistants to some higher ups at a bank.”

“And that’s why they were only available to see the house at 3 in the morning?”

“Yeah. They aren’t off the clock until the bankers go to bed and they stay up very late counting money.”, Steven reported while taking perching on the side of the bed to remove his shoes.

“Okay that makes sense.”

“Of course it does.”

He slips into bed beside her and rolls away from her expectant puckered lips. She sighs and shifts to lay on her side facing the framed family portrait on the wall.

——–

“Sally did you hear that?”

Billy’s question is met only with silence. He lifts his legs and pushes against the bottom of her bed, a few feet above his own. She shifts under her blankets and he kicks the bed again. “What Billy?”, she mumbles, still heavily under the influence of sleep.

“Dad just came home.”

“Okay, so what?”

“Doesn’t that seem weird to you?”, Billy gets out of bed and stands on the side railing so he is eye-level with Sally.

“I don’t know…what time is it?”

“A little after five.”

“Are you sure he didn’t just wake up early?”, her voice was more clear, having shaken off the last dustings of sleep.

“I’m pretty sure, he just now came upstairs and he wasn’t here when mom went to bed.”

“I’m sure it’s fine Billy.”

“Yeah but it doesn’t seem weird to you? Mom’s forgotten to feed us three times this past week and Dad keeps having those weird guys over and it’s just weird, it’s definitely weird I think. Things just haven’t been the same since we got back from grandmas.”

“I guess but I think it’ll be fine Billy, just go to bed. You have a spelling test tomorrow.”

Billy sighs and gets back into his bed while Sally folds her hands over her chest and stares up at the ceiling- searching for shapes in the plaster and a reason for her father’s actions in her mind.

Coping

He stepped forward into the nothing. I think I screamed but now all I can remember is that sudden sound of the emptiness. It seemed like the place that he was just standing in was quivering in his wake, ripping apart as time seemed to jump. How was it true? How did we get to this place? A month ago we had our anniversary dinner on this rooftop with candles and blankets and kisses all over. And now there is a violent absence: the deep rasp of his voice, the spicy bite of his cologne, his hair blowing in the soft breeze. And now what do I do? How do I honor his memory? I grocery shop and watch films and go to work and try to pretend it didn’t happen. Try to pretend he didn’t happen. My brain is still short-circuiting the loss.

“Can you come over? I think I need to clean out his things and I just don’t know how. I don’t know if the clothes should go to his family or to Goodwill..” I was rambling again. Olivia knew this and cut me off, “Of course, I’m free all afternoon so I’ll be right over. Can I bring anything? Never mind that, I’ll just bring some coffee.” She rarely lets me answer these days because she knows I’ll go on forever without actually getting anywhere. An hour later and she was at my doorstep, she’s always getting distracted by things and runs late because of this tendency. Our friendship works because I understand and am never actually ready when I ask her to come over anyways. She looks at me deeply, searching for an answer to a question not yet satisfied, “How are you?”

This question will never make sense to me. How am I? My husband decided that diving into slick asphalt from twenty stories up was a more appealing choice than spending another day in the life that we had built together. If you can go through and not be in a constantly shitty state of mind then please write a book or go on a speaking tour because I know lots of folks who would love to know your secret. “I’m fine, thanks.”

When the apartment looked sufficiently like we had to wade through boxes to get through the front door we decided to take a break for lunch. Olivia suggested a new cafe downtown and I didn’t have an opinion so that’s where we decided to go. With her mouth half full of sandwich she began in, “So are you thinking you’ll stay in the place or move? I’ve seen a bunch of cute studios in midtown for sale. Maybe that would be good for you Margs, a fresh start.”

“Maybe yeah. I don’t know Liv, it just seems so fast. His family hasn’t even been out to the place since everything, it might be too soon to just up and leave don’t you think? I would hate for them to come and try to settle things just to find it empty and you know as well as anyone how completely unhelpful the landlord is, he would never be able to direct them to their new place. What if…”

“Yeah I suppose that’s true logistically. I’m just thinking of you here. You have to deal with it in the best way for you Margo, you have just as much right to grieve over him as anyone else.” She sighed into her coffee cup.

“What?”

“I just worry about you that’s all – you seem to be internalizing a lot of this.”

“Well I don’t exactly have the luxury of laying in bed all day crying.”

“I know, I know, I’m not suggesting that. I don’t know…” Olivia trailed off as she absently traced the edge of the table with her finger, “You just don’t seem to be acting the way the most people do.”

“Oh is that what you think?”

“Don’t get mad Margs, I’m just worried.”

I got angry and my face grew hot. I was furious she would say such a thing and frustrated with myself because I knew she was right. Suddenly, my cheeks grew sticky with warm tears.

“Sometimes I wake up and reach across the bed still expecting to find him there. My fingers grab and pull at the sheets even after I remember. They look anyways in the hopes that my head is wrong, that I’m remembering wrong. Sometimes I watch tv and make a snarky comment and jump a little when it’s met with only silence. Then I shrug it off and try to pretend it didn’t happen and that I’m fine because you know what? Sometimes I get so mad at him that if he came knocking on my door I don’t even know if I would open it. I want to scream at him and throw things and make him hurt. I want him to realize how fucking selfish he was. I want him to realize that his leaving was only half of it, he left me here alone. He bought a ticket and went on a trip without telling me to pack my bags.” Olivia reached across the table and grabbed my hand. “And then the worst part is the guilt. I yell at the empty places and cry and pull at my hair and then it’s all out and then I feel so awful. I think I must be the worst person in the world to hate someone I love more than I miss them. And it’s true Liv, there are moments where I really do think I hate him. How is that okay? How do I live with that? If he hadn’t gone and done what he did then I had vowed to love him forever but instead he’s gone early and I hate him sometimes more than I love him. That isn’t how I’m supposed to feel. That isn’t how normal people feel in these situations.”

I collapsed into the wall and Olivia slid in next to me, placing her arm around my shoulders. She let me cry for a few minutes – the ugly kind where my nose ran and my chest heaved and I didn’t even try to fix my makeup. “I don’t know how people are supposed to feel in this situation but I think you’re going to be just fine. He took away the most important thing in the world to you and that was a shitty thing to do. One of my exes – Tommy, you remember him right?” I sniffled and nodded. “Well when we broke up he took my favorite candle just to spite me, I know he doesn’t even burn candles. I still hate his guts for it and I didn’t love him half as much as you love Richie so I can only imagine the level of passion there. Look what I’m trying to say is that I think that you shouldn’t worry about what’s ‘normal’. I’m sorry about what I said earlier, I didn’t mean it that way. You feel whatever you need to feel to get through this.”

I don’t know when I stopped reaching across the sheets or talking to ghosts in the soft light of the television. I don’t remember when the anger faded but I remember that it did. One day I was reaching for a box of cereal in the grocery store and realized I wasn’t angry anymore. I still don’t understand why he did what he did and I’m still working on being okay with that but I know that day will come too.

A Brightly Lit Stage

Question:

How does a train eat?

Punchline:

It goes chew chew.

 

 

A blue mustang with the top down parked in a driveway lined with flowers. A cold glass of lemonade dripping onto the asphalt. The glistening blue water filling the pool. A white French door opens from the kitchen a woman in a green dress steps onto the patio. She places a platter of teacups and finger sandwiches onto the wicker table and sits in the matching chair. The wooden gate opens to her left and she looks over her shoulder, expecting company. A man in a cream-colored suit and lavender shirt walks through with his coat over his shoulder. He smiles in the corner of his mouth at her and she stands and takes a step backward- cutting from the frame as she falls into the pool. The smile widens to his eyes and he runs to leap in after her. They tumble ever downward, impossibly deep for a common swimming pool.

An open marble doorway suddenly rushes up to meet them and they step onto the tile flooring, completely dry and presentable – the pool water and rushing wind seeming to have had no affect.

I know what you’re thinking, really, I do. When I was told to record this story I was skeptical. It seems so fantastical that it’s almost – unbelievable. However, dear reader, I can assure you that I am a reliable narrator and that this account is completely factual. My advice is to not worry so much and just sit back and as the cliche goes, “enjoy the ride”.

“Maya, Charlie – so glad you could join us this evening,” the voice comes from a tuxedoed man off to their right who presents them a silver plate supporting two champagne glasses. Charlie takes the two glasses and passes one to Maya at the same moment she takes his arm and they follow a rapidly unfurling green carpet in front of them. After many minutes of walking the two share a furtively loving glance and step out onto a vast, wooden stage from the right wing. An interlaced grid of faces look up at them- conversations halted, phones fallen to laps, babies cheeks dry. Have you ever seen an audience like that? An audience so completely enveloped by the scene unfolding in front of them that they become completely unaware of themselves self? No? Yeah, me neither. Charlie sits at the grand piano as Maya climbs a ladder to sit on a swinging bench, high off the stage.

Now this is where things get tricky, try to keep up. Oh here, this tip will help: try to imagine these character blurbs as if you’re watching through a camera lens – you know, the one that swings and pans around that they use for films. It’s like you’re tracking different characters who may be of great importance or maybe they are completely insignificant. Either way, it provides different viewpoints. Now pay attention.

Following the show, the couple is met by adoring audience members in the opulently decorated lobby. You are pushed to the back as fans more rabid than you elbow ever forward as if physical closeness to the pair is all that is required to share in their success. You watch Charlie throw back his head in laughter and Maya cover her mouth in mock surprise. Soft heel clicks on the marble flooring and the calling out of men’s voices to their wandering wives. You push out the double gold-gilded doors to the cobblestoned courtyard. Snow quickly coats your hair and shoulders as you hurry to unlock your small, brown flatbed truck.

You push towards Maya and Charlie, elbowing people who clearly don’t want it as much as you do. Your hands push open into the open space just in front of them, close enough to smell Charlie’s cologne and to hear the delicate swish of Maya’s silk dress. Someone tells a raunchy story and Charlie throws back his head in laughter and Maya covers her mouth in mock surprise. You shake their hands politely and compliment them on yet another incredible show. Feminine eyes glaze over to either side of you as Charlie begins to tell a story about their first performance together. You lose focus and are slowly cajoled into the back of the crowd by people who apparently want it more than you do. You push open the heavy door where the fresh snow rushes down to meet you and see a small, brown flatbed truck pulling away from the curb. Your heel slips into a crack between cobblestones causing you to fall onto your knees.

After the show, you head towards the concession stand where you purchase a large bouquet of pink candy floss. You pull webs off and eat while you watch the hordes surrounding the performers with amusement. What were their names again? You can’t remember. Too many shows in too few nights but the one thing that remains the same- candy floss. That and the crazed fans; always eager to observe, to please and to be viewed. A woman pushes past you to reach the stairs to your left, most likely hoping for a better view of the show-ponied duo. After a few more moments of watching, you push open the gold-plated door and see a woman fall to her knees- puncturing the white lace blanket of snow.

Well I hope that little segment wasn’t so bad for you dear reader, I really did try to make myself clear but critics have said that my ideas are too runny and messy to be held on a page. That’s why I’m providing this commentary, see? I’m trying to be generous and kind and to make sure that you get “it”.

Maya and Charlie make their exit through the wooden, backstage doors and stroll toward a gently bubbling fountain in the center of the cobblestoned street. They perch on the lip, resting their feet on a small mound of snow. “You were incredible tonight,” Maya says, leaning in towards Charlie. “The black and white keys are nothing without the painted rainbow of your voice, my love,” Charlie responds and places a soft kiss in Maya’s snowflake-laden hair.

“Charlie, I know you were hesitant but I am very glad we decided to do this show. I could see it in the audience’s eyes that they needed it.”

“I agree completely, I just worry about how much it takes out of you. You are stunningly talented and watching you question that… well, it just darkens the softest corners of my heart.”

“I know sweetie, I know. I am working on it.”

“I’m so glad to hear that. We just can’t lose you, Magnificent Maya, we just can’t – the last time was much too close for comfort.”

“I know, I know. I really am trying”

Charlie smiles and leans in to delicately kiss her cheek.

Maya’s dimples deepen and she asks, “Where to next?”

“Let’s go home.”

Maya smiles and nods, gripping Charlie’s hand tighter as the pair fall backward into the shallow base of the fountain. The two fall much deeper than the meager inches of the ceramic fountain, leaving the shining layer of copper undisturbed in their wake.

Sunlight cuts through the water of a surface they are rapidly falling towards. A surface quite far from the one they tackled minutes before. The world inverts and they walk out of the sea, hot grains of sand like a thousand tiny needles on their feet. The beach is devoid of beach towels and neon swimsuits and people altogether. Water drips from them like the shedding of a second skin. Warm sun licks their skin similar to a dog welcoming a much-beloved owner home after a long trip. They ascend the concrete steps to a waiting blue mustang with the top down. Yes, it’s the same Mustang that was in their driveway when they fell through their pool. “How’d it get to the beach?”, you might ask. At this point, I would like to remind you of what I suggested earlier- to worry less and “enjoy the ride”.

They drive along the coast on a highway seemingly deserted until they reach a small street past a white wooden fence. They turn into the flower-lined driveway of a small yellow house. Charlie shuts off the car and goes around to open the passenger side door. Maya takes his outstretched hand and the pair head up towards the bright red front door together.

Okay, so you know how I swore to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God? Oh wait, no that was at my court hearing last Wednesday. Well, either way, I said I was being factual. So maybe I wasn’t being completely honest with you, reader and I am truly sorry about that, truly I am. But maybe people can’t actually travel through water but the truth is that it’s not about the water. Maybe it’s about the travel and the weightlessness and the purity of it all. Or maybe it’s about nothing at all.