“If You Weren’t Here” by Erin Fitzgerald

Kevin hangs his baseball caps where he can see them. Last year, someone stole his cap from the coat claim shelf at his company’s Christmas party. It was a custom fit Earnhardt #3 pit crew cap, a present from Audrey. The authenticity certificate is still in a box of old birthday and Christmas cards. When Kevin opens the box, he’s not sure how to describe the feeling until he finishes a crossword puzzle one night. Four letter word for yearning. Pang.

*

The winter is mostly brown, and the sun’s arms are folded behind the dingy clouds. Audrey decides the ground is hard enough, and she pushes her ATV out into the yard. Kevin is sure she’ll flood the engine, and after a minute or two he looks out from behind the curtains. She’s riding around the front yard, her hair flapping behind the pushed down knit cap she wears. The dead grass beneath her wheels springs to life, and then lays low again. Kevin watches Audrey turn onto the dirt path that leads to town. She should wear a helmet, she’ll get a ticket from the town if she doesn’t. He doesn’t open the curtain to wave her down, even though he could.

*

He reads the high school sports pages to see if he recognizes any of the last names. You never know, people move away all the time. The Marcastle boy, the one in wrestling, his father played football. His father was in Kevin’s shop class. Marcastle is too coincidental to be coincidence. There’s a photo of the Marcastle boy on the mat, twisted underneath another darker boy from the next town over. The Marcastle boy’s eyes are closed — tightly, not like a dream. Just like his father twenty years before, drunk in the sod field after a game. Kevin nods, and smooths out the fold that would otherwise cut his face in two.

*

The furniture store is not that expensive, but it’s always free to look. Kevin wants ideas for making Audrey’s dining room cabinet himself. It will be Audrey’s cabinet even though the house is his. He paid for it with his money that he made doing things trusted to no one else, like choosing the right fuel supplier for his work. Kevin tells anyone who will listen that he chose the best one. He chose the company that was going to harness fuel out of local mineral deposits, using clean technology. He chose the one that would give other guys like him jobs. Then Kevin got laid off, and the fuel supplier wasn’t hiring guys with purchasing experience. Audrey’s cabinet had to be tall and thin in order to fit between the table and the window. It had to be cherry wood to match the other wood, or it had to have the right stain. Audrey wasn’t particular, but he would catch hell if he fucked it up.

*

Kevin and Audrey go to Easter dinner and there is a little girl, their nephew’s Brandon’s little girl, born right after Brandon graduated from high school. Taylor, the little girl’s name is, like the singer. Kevin’s sister was embarrassed last Easter, about what her son did to his girlfriend, ruining the future. Now, Kevin’s sister seems pleased with herself. Kevin doesn’t look at Audrey when his sister scoops up the baby and kisses her on the belly. Taylor’s eyes are almost perfectly round, her nostrils flared like a pig’s. Ridiculous, Kevin thinks in the truck on the way home. “You just wanted a boy is all,” Audrey says next to him, into the drifting freeway darkness, and that’s when Kevin realizes he’d said it out loud.

More fiction at Used Furniture.

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  1. […] And now they are together in one mega-awesome entity of goodness. Read this story, please. […]

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