by Gay Degani
Pale morning light rims the kitchen faucet. I rub an index finger around its corroded bottom, sip coffee. Scowl at the stack of syrupy breakfast dishes. The town is taking a wrecking ball to our one local school, the kindergarten-through-high school kind, a two-story brick building with wide welcoming steps, large windows, and polished oak floors. Even now, thinking about it, I can taste the cafeteria’s mashed potatoes and gravy; smell the wet wooliness of winter cloakrooms, John and I behind the coats bumping lips.
Maybe the whole town will show up to watch the demolition. We can reminisce. Do a cheer. I’ll dig out my old basketball uniform: ‘Purple and gold, fight, fight, fight.’
Upstairs, my husband’s cell chimes. I move to the steps. ‘Get a move on, Hallie, Jay. You too, John.’
A few minutes later, John rumbles down, phone held high. ‘Got it. The job in Phoenix, algebra two periods a day. We can finally move.’
I haven’t seen him grin—really grin—in a long time. Still, I slap down my mug. Hot liquid spatters. I barely notice. ‘But that’s not full-time.’
‘I’ll get full-time, Amy, plus subbing. We’ve talked about this. We’ve got to go now before we can’t afford to go at all.’ He touches my arm. ‘It’ll be okay, I promise.’
Brushing past him, I yell, ‘Kids, time to go. Your dad’s leaving.’
They race into the kitchen, grab lunch boxes, then stop to gape at us. John hasn’t moved, waits for me to look at him. I do, and he says, ‘It’s a done deal.’
‘What’s a done deal?’ Jay swings the back door open. Cold air gushes in.
‘Something good, Jaybird.’ John picks him up and heads into the gray day.
Hallie trails behind them. ‘What’s good, Daddy? Is it ice cream night?’
‘It just might be, Pumpkin.’
I lean against the porch railing as John buckles seat belts, climbs in, and backs the Dodge over the curb, all three off to school in Waterloo, eight miles away.
Shaking my head, I suck in breath. Study our neighborhood of tidy houses surrounded by gentle hills and forests of cedar. I wonder if I can really give up the feeling of roots and family and small-town friendliness. How is moving to a desert going to save us?
But John is stubborn. His mother watched the kids while we drove through dozens of small towns, taking hours to complete his circuit of abandoned feed mills, ramshackle factories, empty main streets, broken down farms sitting on acres of neglected land so he could prove ‘the onset of the midwestern apocalypse.’
A cold wind stirs. I throw on a jacket, and leaving the door unlocked, trudge toward the school. I want a send-off, a carnival: the venerable old building taped off, police keeping order, an ice cream truck parked on the street churning ‘Pop Goes the Weasel,’ an enterprising teen selling T-shirts silk-screened with wrecking balls smashing the school’s familiar arch.
But, of course, it’s only me, the workmen, and Deputy Hayes in a folding chair, his thermos open and steaming. I watch as an excavator with a giant sharp-toothed maw devours bricks, like a modern T-Rex.
Gay Degani is the author of a full-length collection of short stories, Rattle of Want (Pure Slush Press, 2015) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press, 2016). Her stories have appeared in several anthologies including the recently released New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction edited by by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro and has had four flash pieces nominated for Pushcart consideration. She occasionally blogs at Words in Place.