by Kelly Spitzer
He refuses to go to the party. He says: It’s a weeknight. We can’t keep the kids up past their bedtime. He always says stuff like that, like living in the country rules out getting a sitter. So I go without him. I leave straight from work, carpooling with my boss to the banquet room at the dinner club. Edward drives. He rolls down the window, slings his elbow over the sill. In baritone, he sings “Young at Heart” the entire way there. “You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams” over and over, his voice melding with the windless, chirping night.
Past midnight, her boss’s truck drives up and my wife hops out. She carries cake in one hand, gifts in the other, and as she showers, I go through them one by one. Ten-year pin, pen set, paperweight with a butterfly on top. The last item is tucked in tissue paper inside a glossy black bag. I peek, see a company coffee mug. Folded into its center is a pair of green flowered panties with the word Wednesday stitched across the front. In the bathroom, I fling back the shower curtain, hold them up. She looks at them, at me, her eyes folding, unfolding, diurnal flowers in bloom.
Dad picks us up from school and in the car, he presses his mouth into the phone and says: Are you with him again? I know he’s talking about that man from work who sits on the edge of Mother’s desk and makes her laugh. When I come into her office he pats my head, and once, I ducked and ran off. Next, Dad says: I’m taking the kids. He promises me and my brother a trip to Portland, but an hour later he stops, buys us Cokes and a bingo game. In the motel room that night, I call numbers to myself until they run out.
At home, I run up the stairs and open the front door. All the lights are out, and I have to blink until all the sunshine leaves my eyes and I can see again. I find Mommy sitting at the kitchen table, her eyes wet from cutting onions. Daddy points at me and Sis and says: Wait outside. In the yard, I drag my toes though the sandbox and watch a spider crawl up the kitchen pane. The curtains are drawn, but I wonder if it can see inside anyway, and if it can, what it sees inside all that silence.