Sarah Kendall

Sarah Kendall is an MA candidate in the Writing program at Johns Hopkins University. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in a few places. She prefers her coffee cold and her eggs piping hot. Ideally, her world would revolve around stories and breakfast foods.  

 

We All Think That Way Sometimes (July 20, 2011. Issue 29.)

She takes her first step inside, crossing gingerly over the divide between before and after, and sees the outline of his shoe on the deck.

Can you grab the garbage on your way out?

He'd shushed her and knotted the drawstrings as carefully as he would his own necktie. He'd tossed the bag over his shoulder like Kris Kringle, winked, and walked out.

Now, lying on the street, he wears a real red sash, sticky and warm, across his chest. Back in the kitchen, she can't stop craning her neck to look at the footprint still fresh and walking away from her.

Things like this happen every day, is what she says to herself solemnly when she sees terrible things happening to other people. She cradled Isabelle's feet in her lap when they watched the news last night. She nodded when Isabelle said that's so sad.

Chryslers hit other people, not her ex-husband, when their breaks fail on a Sunday morning. These things happen to other people, not to her. Don't we all think that way sometimes? In hospitals and cemeteries and cramped living rooms holding cups of coffee, we mourn and hope and silently thank God it's not us. Until one day it is. And we can't stand to look at other people because behind the tears they are thankful for something too.

Frozen, she can't bring herself to slide a new white trash bag under the sink. They'd mapped out rules: he would arrive late and leave before sunrise; she would guard the hallway while he climbed the stairs. Isabelle would never know about the visits. It would only confuse her. The two had not spoken since the divorce, and nobody, least of all a child, understands this.

Isabelle is stomping around in the attic two floors up. Emily slept over last night and they are playing horses. Braying sounds and clomping hooves occasionally shake the teacups hanging in the hallway. Sometimes they ask her for ribbons to make bridles. She doesn't worry about anyone choking because those things don't happen to her.

Someone is knocking at the front door.

Be right there, and the someone walks away.

The oval window above the sink frames his glossy black car parked one block down next to a set of silver trashcans. She knows it is time to be an adult: follow the ambulance, call someone to watch the girls, but she can't let go of the bag in her hand. She knows his glass of water is still on the nightstand; his smell lingers on her clothes; his phantom footprint haunts the floor.

Cracking the door an inch, icy air and sidewalk cacophony slip in. A crowd has gathered. She sees her neighbor, Celia Ramirez, the other young mother on the block. Celia's eyes dart wildly from Nathan's bruised and bloodied body to her safe brick house next door and back to the man crouched on the sidewalk blubbering into his cell phone.

She stops watching and walks upstairs. She taps on the attic door, and when she turns the knob the air is as foggy and dense as her mind.

We're winter horses!
Isabelle cheers.

Isabelle gallops around cardboard boxes and grandmother's ancient divan while Emily squeezes two bottles of baby powder, one in each fist. They've discovered a treasure trove of toiletries and can't imagine a world other than this one. A layer of white cloaks the room and the girls are ghosts in a frosted kingdom.

She can do nothing but laugh at the tracks they leave in the snow.

The Legendary