by Craig Holt
Through the wavy glass of old windows, we watch an army of contractors swarm our neighbors’ house, moving walls, expanding the kitchen, sanding the floor.
“They don’t have kids” you say, swinging your legs out of the bed to place swollen feet on splintered softwoods.
You’re busy with some new construction of your own. Right now, it’s the size of a grain of rice, but you’re working fast to build a downstairs sacrum, a rib cage play space for the heart, an upstairs room with a view. Boy or girl, we don’t know. Code name: The Passenger.
The neighbors, glamorously childless, glide from their half-done house in the morning
like an Armani photo shoot, all silk and shimmer, perfect hair. The spice-and-jasmine smell of them drifts through the bad seal around our front door as I flip pancakes for the miniaturized tyrant we call son. His screams of protest over the absence of Cocoa Puffs drown out the shriek of rip saws next door.
The neighbors invite us to bear witness to their work—clear oak floors, Wolff Range, Sub Zero fridge. We leave quickly, a tangle of jealousy snarling our guts. The Passenger kicks you in the lung, The Tyrant rides my shoulders, using my ears as reins. I put him down and he charges forward, driving his bony shoulder into the half-open front door, slamming it into the crumbling plaster. “Your super power,” I tell him, “is destruction.”
In the spring it’s new windows. Our neighbors go for custom made, double pane glass in wood frames, worth more than I make in a year.
“Dick move,” I say, raising my voice over the brain-dissolving lilt of The Tyrant’s children’s music, as I rub your aching lower back.
You say, “I never appreciated bladder control until I lost it.”
We scuffle along in our grubby world of honey toast and dirty windows, leaky bathtub and balky dishwasher. Our kitchen sink exhales crypt vapors. No plumber can explain why.
The God damn neighbors paint the outside of their house. Now, they’re done. The place is a jewel box, achingly perfect.
Our passenger is still in transit, but he gets a name. We’re not religious people but the name means Gift of God because that kid was a statistical impossibility, and sometimes, man, you can’t help but feel a little wonder.
Three months later, the neighbors are gone. Divorced. Their house is on the market.
There’s a hush over our place, too. Even The Tyrant is quiet and smiling. The basement
leaks, the dryer yips like a hurt dog, but it’s alright. We’re good.
Our Passenger has arrived.
Craig Holt's flash fiction piece, “Gingerbread,” was recently featured in Psychopomp Magazine. Holt's debut novel, Hard Dog to Kill, was published by WildBlue Press in November 2017, and recently won the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards gold medal. It was also a finalist for the 2017 Foreword Book Award, and the 2017 Indie Excellence Award. Read mnore of Craig's work at: www.craigholt.net