--LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE BEGUN THE INITIAL DESCENT
...A couple of years back I was asked to join a writing project whereby 30 writers were each given a specific day of the year and then we were supposed to write 12 linked stories completing a year. My date was the 14th and this was the first piece.
Tuesday, January 14th 2014
The storm hits without warning, and by Tuesday, snowdrifts as tall as four feet have already blocked the front door.
I try to call my wife but there’s no cell service. Today’s our anniversary: seven years. She’s in Baltimore for a convention. When she returns we’re supposed to make a decision about whether we’re too broken to mend, her having had an affair with her boss, me being too scared to leave her.
Snow continues to drop, thick as mud, plates of the stuff. Outside tree branches break every half hour or so, the wreckage sounding like thunder and gunfire.
The power’s been out since evening. Rotten food odors fill the kitchen. The refrigerator leaks dirty water. The silence in the house is so still it’s unnerving, and now I can see my breath.
The dog stares at me, her head cocked, as if she senses doom. When I let her piss in the house, then mop up the floor, she scampers to a corner and begins mewling.
Outside, the lake is a white shelf, an ivory island. Ducks--looking more like decoys than the real things--cluster in the northeastern corner. Part of me wishes I owned a gun.
Our house in the woods is set a mile back from any road, and I know no one will be coming soon. Power outages in these parts can take days to be repaired.
The dog starts to moan, as if it’s sick or injured or possessed. When I toss a sock at her, she shreds the thing in an instant.
The marriage counselor my wife and I tried always seemed to take my wife’s side. He said my wife’s motivations for the affair could be numerous. He suggested I was, in many ways, more than responsible. He said men who ignore their spouses are asking for trouble.
When I look over at the dog, she’s chewing the leg of a stuffed chair and staring at me, growling as she rips off splinters. “Have at it,” I say.
I ball up old newspapers and my wife’s Vogue magazines and start a fire in the sink. I go to the bedroom and rummage through her dresser drawers, returning with lacy bras and thongs, most with the price tags still on. They’re slow to catch flame, smoldering a ghostlike smoke.
When I was a kid, my brother and I used to walk across the lake when it froze over. He’d go out the farthest, mocking my cowardice. I told him I’d heard another boy had fallen through the ice, but that only caused my brother to titter and call me chicken shit.
The homes across the shore all have their lights on. It’s a half mile trek. I get my coat and hat and boots. I walk through mattresses of snow, down a slope to the frozen waterfront. I look back at the house, hooded with drifts of gleaming white. I tell it goodbye and I think I mean it.