Everything is too neat.
Boxes taped shut and stacked into corners, clearly marked so the movers will know which box goes to which house. God forbid that one of us will end up with something that might remind us of the other.
Even the garage is swept clean. Only a half-full trash bag dangles from a nail. He must have forgotten to toss it. More likely, he left it on purpose, like an accusation: “Thanks to you, rubbish is all we have left.”
He’s the one who prefers booze over me, so why am I left holding the bag?
I drop it into the back seat of the car, go in to recheck each room one last time. Throw up in the bathroom. Am tempted not to flush.
It’s taken ten years to come to this. Ten years of begging, cajoling, shaming, screaming, threatening, lecturing—my voice becoming like the adults’ in the Peanuts cartoon: wa wa wa waa. But I couldn’t shut the fuck up. Didn’t get it—that words are no match for a fight with an addict. I should know; I’m as addicted to him as he is to scotch.
In the den now. I can picture him stacking wood in the fireplace on a Saturday night, sweet smear of old soot across his nose. He can turn our favorite room into a cozy patch of heaven, and every time, I think the same fool thing. How can he want anything more? He lasts an hour before his nightly rendezvous with a better lover. I let the fire die.
In the kitchen now. Blueberry pancakes sizzling cheerfully on a Sunday morning. Today will be a good day, you’ll see. But when ‘60 Minutes’ tick-tocks, he’s been out for two hours, a string of drool pooling onto the leather sofa. I pull a blanket up over his face. He might as well be a corpse.
In the bedroom now. I find him unresponsive on a Monday afternoon. Call the ambulance. This will be the day, you’ll see. There’s no deeper bottom. He’s drunk by noon on Thursday.
That’s when I tell him: “This is it. I mean it this time.”
He snorts. Tosses back another shot. “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”
Front porch now. Pulling the door shut for the last time. It doesn’t hit me. You’d think there’s a point in there somewhere. It’s lost on me.
Traci Mullins, a non-fiction book editor by day,discoveredflash fiction in 2017, and it’s been a love affair ever since. Her stories have been published in three anthologies, Panoply, Spelk, Fictive Dream, Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Boulevard, Blink-Ink, Dime Show Review, Ellipsis Zine, Cabinet of Heed, Fantasia Divinity, and many others. She was named a Highly Recommended Writer in the London Independent Story Prize competition.
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