story evolved from a dream
They're letting us go back home.
It's been two months.
We stand still on the sidewalk, not really sure what to do. We face the house, face everything we left there and our feet are poised to go left, right, left, right, taking us to the front door, but we can't. I look at my neighbors to the left and my neighbors to the right, and we are all standing there, statues in a wicked game of freeze tag. It's as if we are waiting for a starting gun to signal us to go. Move. Walk. Enter.
The short, squat man who looks like the Monopoly guy but without the top hat or tux, is urging us to go already, get on with it. They want to push us back in there already, when the pain is so fresh and the wounds haven't even scabbed over yet, they are still red and raw and bleeding, and there's pus coming out of them.
I feel sick, my stomach lurching and turning and doing a dance I didn't request. I want to go. I don't want to go. I pick up my foot, I put it down. I hold Merilee's hand, and I hope that she urges me on, but she is standing there, coma-like, blank look and vacant stare and all those cliches used to desrcibe someone that is dead but alive.
I glance over to the right and my neighbors are still there, waiting like us. They are the quintessential American Dynamo family. Perky mom and Handy-Dandy Dad and the blonde-haired, blue-eyed children. Todd is all white teeth and strong arms and the star of his baseball team and Britney is giggles and smiles and long legs that propel her across the lawn during the spring and summer, backflipping and tumbling and dreaming of the Olympics. In a fit of cosmic Americana, they went and got a dog and the dog is named -what else- Spot and he frolics on the lawn and never barks at the mailman. They are nice and friendly, maybe too friendly, in that Ned Flanders "hididily ho neighbor!" kind of way, and Merilee used to swear that there was some kind of evil hidden under the trays of brownies and ripe vine tomatoes they would bring over.
Then there's the couple on the left, Jerry and Connor, the gay couple and their adopted son Ben. They are married. Oh, they are not married in the eyes of the state or in the eyes of god, but they are in the eyes of their neighbors, even the Aryan looking Republican neighbors on my right, and everyone bought them presents and baked and coordinated babysitting schedules when they adopted Ben.
That's when things were right. Before we all stood here like zombies, afraid to go in our own homes. Before, when Britney had two legs instead of one and when Todd was able to talk, and it occurs to me, looking at Britney's stub of a right leg, that baby Ben is only a year old and he will never remember any of what happened. He will only know what is told to him later, in different voices by different people and the story will grow and shrink depending on who is telling it, and he will only have known Britney as having one leg. He will not remember her left leg or her fantastic tumbling skills.
I realize I have to be the first to walk. No one else will do it. I take a step, and it's like the starting signal everyone was waiting for. We all walk. The blonde family and the gay family and the broken family two houses down and the elderly couple across the way and the midwestern family that just moved in on the corner. We all walk. The monopoly man watches us, his staff watches us, the newspaper reporters and cameramen watch us. Our backs are to them. We see only our doors.
Our house is a large, center-hall Colonial, and when you open the door you can see straight through to the back. A friend told us when we bought this house that we should hire someone to move the door because it was bad feng-shui. We didn't know what feng-shui was and he told us and we laughed, but he was not laughing with us. He said our doors should not be lined up because Good Luck would come in the front door and go right out the back instead of hanging around and getting comfortable. It would just come in and whoosh! leave right away. We didn't listen to him, didn't hire anyone for the expensive and intrusive job of moving our back door, and months later we were a bit sorry.
Things happened soon after. Merilee lost her job and then Mr. Cowl across the street landed his dream job the next day. Merilee had a miscarriage - we didn't tell anyone- and the next day the news about Baby Ben was announced. Merilee's mother's dog was hit by a car and killed and the next day the blonde family next door brought Spot home from the animal shelter. We sat in the living room one night, talking about our run of bad luck and neither of us said it but we knew. It was the feng shui. Not only did Good Luck come and go so fast that we never knew it was there, but it ran straight to our neighbor's when it left our house. Its' arch enemy, Bad Luck, must have been milling around the neighborhood, too, following Good Luck around town and through center hall colonial houses, except that where Good Luck went out, Bad Luck decided to sit on the couch and stay awhile. We didn't move the door even then, and maybe we should have, but we shut it and bolted it and put black construction paper over the four small windows in the door and never opened it again. We were going on the assumption that if Good Luck decided to make a repeat appearance, it wouldn't be able to escape.
It was three nights later that we were sitting in the living room, doing crossword puzzles and contemplating another chance at having a child, when we heard the front screen door slam. We thought perhaps the blonde mother had come over with a tray of brownies or fresh cukes from the garden and we got up to greet her like proper neighbors should. But there was no one there. The wind, we surmised, had opened and closed the screen door, which never worked properly. Or....Merilee's eyes said it all. Good Luck had come back for another go! Merilee slammed the wooden door shut and slid the lock into place. Captured! We had captured Good Luck in our very own house! We ran around and made sure all the windows were closed and there was no way that luck would escape us this time. When we were sure the house was fully sealed, we met back in the living room. We waited. We weren't sure how long it would take for the luck to start working. Maybe the phone would ring with a job offer. Maybe Ed McMahon would finally show up at our doorstep with a million dollars. Maybe, just maybe, if we had sex right there and then, with Good Luck swirling all around us, Merilee would get pregnant and we would have our perfect dream child, a child that would rival anything Todd or Britney or Ben could ever amount to.
So we did it. We did it right there, on the living room floor, which for us was a major digression from our sexual routine. We were straight and narrow. Man on top. Fuck, hold, come, sleep. Not this time. This time I fucked her until she screamed at me to stop and when I came inside her I was sure that we had just made the finest baby in the world, because Good Luck was hanging out in our house, watching us in our fit of misguided passion.
Merilee felt sick after, and I thought it was because I treated her so roughly and I tried to soothe her but she just cried face down on the bed and wouldn't even look at me. When I got a terrible stomach cramp as I tried to console her, and spent the next two hours puking all over the bathroom floor, I knew something was wrong. I didn't have to look out the window to know that it was wrong all over. I just knew. But I looked anyhow. Curiosity. Fear.
We hadn't trapped Good Luck in our house, after all. It was Bad Luck and it wasn't even bad at that. It was Horrible Luck. Worst Luck Ever. Evil twin of Bad Ass Luck. It came into our house and took hold of every ounce of energy it could find and when we started fucking, that energy became twofold and then threefold and kept growing until Bad Luck had grown to incredible proportions and it flew out the chimney (we had forgotten to close the flue) and whipped its way around the neighborhood.
Our street became dark like winter midnight and cold as that, too. I heard shutters banging and people wailing and babies crying and dog barking. Twigs were snapped off trees and one twig broke free from its limb and and flew straight at Spot and took his eye right out. Lights flashed inside houses and then lightning flashed outside the houses and there was thunder that for a moment drowned out the screams of my neighbors. At some point we all ran from our houses, in pajamas or work clothes or naked, whatever we were at the moment, we ran from our doors to the middle of the street where we watched a green cloud of noxious smelling gas rise from the sewers. It engulfed our houses and we cringed and cried while we watched.
They had declared it was some type of gas leak and maybe there was an explosion, which would explain the missing limbs and the brain damage and the dead animals. The thing is, we didn't really want it explained. It was just easier to believe the lies and half truths. The monopoly man came around that night, and arranged for us all to go somewhere while they did tests on the air and the water and cleaned up what they could.
Two months later and they're letting us back in. Our houses are clean. The smell is gone. It looks like the same neighborhood it was before I fucked Merilee on the living room floor, before the door banged and Bad Luck came to visit. I'm going to take Merilee's arm, lead her into the house, fix her up on the couch with a pillow and blanket and reach for the phone. Someone is going to have to move that back door.