I ran up the attic stairs when I heard his car pull in to the driveway, gingerly prancing over the rat shit. Our front door opened just as I climbed awkwardly into a large wooden bin half-full of wigs. The bin smelled of rancid sweat, but in a pleasant sort of way, as though the person sweating was a friendly sort of person. I struggled to pull the lid over me; I heard him start to call my name.
He’ll be wanting his dinner, I thought to myself.
I laughed, because he wouldn’t be getting any dinner. He wouldn’t even be getting a snack! I had spent the morning burying all of our food in the backyard. I made a map to where it was hidden that only I could read, so I’d be able to eat at night when he was asleep.
“LAURA?” he called out.
He loves that dog more than he loves me, I thought to myself.
“Laura! Where are you? What happened to our grass?” He was closer to the attic door than I expected, and I accidentally chirped in shock. The door flew open, and I could hear his feet sprinting frantically up the creaky steps. I withdrew soundlessly beneath the pile of wigs and lay motionless.
“…Laura? The light doesn’t work, what the hell is going on? Where are you?”
Still, I lay dormant. He left to find a flashlight, and I emitted an unearthly shriek when he made it downstairs. The panicked footsteps returned, with the slightest tinge of anger audibly present in the nature of their forceful stomping.
“Laura, that was fucking horrifying. Did Christine come through today? I swear to God, if she didn’t… Babe, please, come out. I’m tired. I don’t want to come and find you in this nasty attic. I want to make myself some pasta and nap on the couch. Did you eat? If you didn’t get your pills, you definitely didn’t eat…”
He’s doing that thing where he’s talking to me, but he isn’t really talking to me specifically. It’s like he’s talking to the situation, I said to myself.
“…Alright, fine then. I’m going to go call Chrissy and rip her face off over the phone, make us dinner, and meditate. Come down whenever you want. I don’t care.”
Slow, deliberate footsteps went back down the stairs. I was tempted to get out of this confined space, but I felt unconsciously compelled to stay put. A slam downstairs, recognizably the sound of our pantry door being flung shut, reminded me why. The stomping feet returned swiftly to my lair. I heard one side of an angry conversation grow louder and louder, until the footsteps were pacing the small square of space in our attic that allowed for pacing.
“Chris, I have to call you back, but we are not finished with this fucking conversation, so stay tuned. …Yeah, well, I wish I could continue that line of thought, but I have to start searching for all of the goddamn food that my wife appears to have hidden somewhere. I’d ask her where, but oh, wait. That’s right. She’s hidden herself too. All because you weren’t here to supervise and medicate her when you said you would be. Yep. Yep. Blow me. Goodbye.”
I scratched at the wood grain absentmindedly. My eyes had adjusted, and I had begun quietly trying on wigs. I didn’t have a mirror, so I could only tell if I liked them by how they felt. I heard heavy breathing, like that of someone who had been agitatedly running up and down stairs, and I heard the sound of fruitless searching slow and stop.
“Laura, honey, this is starting to give me anxiety spasms. I really want to know where our food is, and I really want to know where you are, and I really want to not have to bathe you for the second time in twelve hours. Are you on the floor, somewhere? God, this tile hasn’t been cleaned since elevators were invented. Please, please, please…”
He trailed off, and I heard more rummaging from across the room.
“I see your foot, babe… Oh, Jesus, no, it’s a creepy doll leg. I hope you didn’t hide any of the food up here. This just isn’t hygienic… That’s definitely a decomposed bat over there. I’m gonna vomit if we don’t go downstairs soon…”
Rustling in a nearby chest.
I got on my back and coiled my legs, placing my feet against the heavy oak lid, ready to spring. Sure enough, a stream of light spilled through, as fingers squeezed through between the wood and began to lift the roof. I kicked with purpose, causing him to scream and fling the lid against the wall, which gave me time to escape in his confusion. I paused at the top of the stairs briefly, shuddered a demonic hiss in his direction, and fled. I heard his voice echoing down one stairwell, then two stairwells, and then I was outside, sun on my face.
OH, MEET ME WHEN THE MORNING FAILS ON THE FIELDS OF DESIRE…
I ran into the forest, singing as I went, knowing he’d follow my voice.
WILL WE EVER CONFESS WHAT WE’VE DONE?
He followed me every time.
GUESS WE’RE STILL KIDS ON THE RUN!
I fell breathlessly against a mossy rock.
GUESS WE’RE STILL KIDS ON THE RUN!
I could taste the bloody fat of exertion in the back of my throat, my eyesight dimming on the distant figure in pursuit. Half a minute went by before he finally made it to the rock, and collapsed on the ground in front of me. I felt my own body give out, felt it slide down to the soft blanket of pine needles. We breathed, deep and hard. There was no sound in the clearing apart from us, breathing; the reddening light of the setting sun seemed to hush the world. We just lay there wheezing for some time before Nick said anything. “Did you have a good day?”
“I didn’t, sweetie. I really did not. I’m assuming your nightgown is muddy from digging up the lawn? Which, by the way, I did not appreciate. That’s going to be one hell of a job this weekend.”
And silence returned.
Perhaps his day would seem a bit better if he had a full belly, I thought to myself. I stood and announced that I’d be making macaroni and jack cheese, with green chili peppers and shredded bacon.
“That sounds unholy. But delicious. Laura, there’s no food in the pantry. Or the refrigerator. I’m having a hard time understanding where it all went. Do you have any clues for me?”
I handed him the map I had made for myself earlier. I told him that he was welcome to keep it, because I had already committed it to memory. He stared at the paper, and looked back at me with tears in his eyes. “…Alright.”
We walked in silence back to the house, arm-in-arm. What a team. At the front steps I broke away, grabbed the shovel from the deck where I had left it earlier and began to dig. Nick tried to stop me at first, but eventually he gave up and sat on the front steps, watching me work. It was when I unearthed a Ziploc filled with salami, it seemed to click for poor Nick.
“You, you didn’t. That’s impossible. You buried all of our food? What demented force would compel you to bury our food? Even in my most twisted and mortifying convolutions of reality, I can’t see what might possess a person to see this even as an option.”
I laughed, and excavated.
It had been a good day.
Profile: Harrison Lockhart