Part 1: Chapter 8

“You have arrived –” Roy reached forward to use his right hand to turn off the Tomtom. Her wayfinding was no longer needed. He has turned into a grocery store about a half-mile from Jake’s family-home.

(shoulda written a list) he reflects as he enters the building. Tiny fractured squares line the edges of his vision. Tiny boxes full of tiny foods.


“Egg. … …”

His head twinges with pain. He is surprised at the sudden intensity and brings his hands to push against his forehead. (Ugh ; I drank too much … )

“Rice salad.”

He regains his composure and picks up a plastic shopping basket.


When he arrives at Jake’s house, Shirley comes out to greet him while he’s still driving the car. She must have heard the engine before he arrived. Roy’s car is no rust-bucket, but it’s not a hybrid like newer cars, gliding about unheard.

Jake has moved his family to a large stone house in the suburbs. He got a job as a teacher in Jers’y City, so it only made sense. He had wanted something nice and stately, but not too far of a commute. And still, he was able to visit his parents in Queens from time to time. Some of his friends’ parents had moved to Florida and the necessity of plane travel kept the relationships tense. His house was a sanctuary against disorder: the stone is faded amber and his grass is still green. The garage is open ; Jake’s car is gone but Heather’s car is snoozing to the right. In the shadow, its paint is the color of freshly dried blood. It is in Jake’s space that Shirley waits. Roy parallel-parks on the street in front of the house. Shirley walks on the sidewalk to approach him. She arrives when he’s just taken the brown paper bag from the front seat.

As soon as her eyes hit his back, a realization hits him like a cold shower. (Diapers. I forgot the – )

“Hon’. Hi.~” Her voice just rises at the end. She’s… defensive. Disturbed. It’s always awkward when someone talks to you pre-emptively.

(Apologize. You’re feeling ok. You’re not mad.) “Sorry I’m late. Traffic going through the Bronx was neck’n’neck.”

(Shoulder to shoulder. You meant ‘shoulder to shoulder’…)

Roy admires Jake’s grass – its uniform color somehow reminds him of sand. Shirley walks awkwardly behind him. He is holding the paper bag in both hands against his chest. She spurts ahead of him as they approach and quickly opens the door.

Jake’s house has the enlarged ratios of new-construction. Corners create spaces and nooks ; everything seems to have its place. But it’s so … white. They haven’t bothered to paint and the whole thing obsesses with ceilings and windows. The floors have an ever-polished gleen.

Roy aims for economy-of-movement. He doesn’t remove his shoes and instead goes straight to the kitchen to deposit the cache on the kitchen counter. When Shirley comes in to break into the bag, she is again without shoes. He goes to do the same.

“Where’s Charlotte?” he looks around.

Shirley makes eye contact sideways, just for a second. “Oh, the baby’s upstairs sleeping.”

Roy steps into the living room ; he looks toward the baby’s room upstairs. The landing is just barely visible. The baluster, done in light wood, implies the shallow angle of the sun. It is October and the longest night of the year hangs in wait.

Roy looks around the living room. There is a speaker mounted in the corner with a cord coming down the wall to an outlet. He looks at it in irritation ; it doesn’t appear to have any associated buttons. (A missing remote : an app on Jake’s phone?)

Suddenly Shirley turns on a television. A small CRT in the corner of the kitchen; 11” or so.

(It’s the news.)