“Where did we think we were going?”
By Valerie Martin
December 4, 2017
As we rush out into we know not what, my fingers investigate my shirt pocket, and then my jacket pocket, where I make the discovery that I have not left my reading glasses on the kitchen table, as I feared. So I can read, and I have my passport (right Velcro-sealed pocket). In my backpack I have a bank envelope with $500 in cash, my phone, for what it’s worth—the cell service is out from here to Hawaii—my wallet with a bank card and two credit cards—ditto; the machines aren’t working—my survival packet of oatmeal crackers, dried fruit, and a chocolate bar, my warmest socks, my dad’s old Swiss Army knife. Jack has his passport, I know because he was holding it as he came down the stairs, but I don’t know what else he grabbed as we were running from the front of the house to the back. We could hear the planes, and as we stepped out into the yard, some kind of underground explosion shook the earth. The smoke bush I planted last year, just leafing out now, pushed right up out of the soil and fell over into the viburnum.
Money has been chasing money out of this town for some time now, and then there was the malfunction at the water treatment plant that killed a lot of people and their pets. The bottled water users, which included Jack and me and our dog Fidel, were okay. In the summer, Fidel, who was old by dog standards, crawled under the back porch and died. We pulled him out and buried him in the yard. Then we had a power outage that lasted three weeks, and we were drinking rainwater from the roof runoff, which turned out to be pretty good. I just set the trashcans under the three weak spots in the gutter where it pours through. We had a lot of rain. In Burley, two towns over toward the shore, there was a big explosion at the tire factory they said was no accident, and the government got into it, which meant a lot of mischief. That’s when the helicopters started with the circling every day at dawn.
Everybody is broke and everybody is sore about that, and nobody knows whom to blame. Jack lost his job at the college, but I still have mine at the DMV. We planted a garden because vegetables were sky high at the store. A tomato cost 10 bucks.
It’s bad all over, including other countries, and for some time Jack and I have been planning to leave this one.
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Valerie Martin is the author of 11 novels (including Trespass, Mary Reilly, Italian Fever, and Property), four collections of short fiction, and Salvation, a biography of St. Francis of Assisi.