By Joseph Hoft
He backed into the driveway. The radio rambled on about vaccine holdbacks. He sighed, got out of the car, and walked to the front door.
It was unlocked.
That’s unusual. The lights are off, too.
He walked into the kitchen. Empty.
Maybe she’s just taking a nap.
He unknotted his tie and unfastened a shirt button or two as he walked toward the bedroom. The door was ajar and the room dark.
Definitely taking a nap.
He turned around and walked into the living room then threw his tie onto the couch that was full of stains from baby vomit. Food crumbs sunk into the cushion cracks. The TV was on; muted. The coffee table was clean besides the coffee ring stain in the center, but a book sat in its corner. Worn brown leather binding.
He sat on the couch, kicked off his shoes, and picked up the book.
My journal. That’s odd. Did I leave it out here? Shit, the suitcase.
He sighed, put his shoes back on, and walked outside. He felt the heat radiate from car as he opened the passenger door. The rear facing car seat in plain view in the back seat. Bright neon green and clean. No vomit or coffee rings or food crumbs. Clean.
When he walked back to the house, he closed the door too hard.
He looked to the bedroom again. Still dark.
She must have had a long day.
He stared into the darkness of the bedroom. When was the last time he saw his son? Really saw him? Played with him, looked at him, made him smile? He stared at the floor.
Of course she’s exhausted. She’s doing all the work.
He walked back to the couch and kicked off his shoes again.
She’ll probably be hungry when she wakes up.
He took his phone from his pocket and called Peninsula, her favorite Mexican restaurant, and ordered her favorite meal. Quesadilla, wet with lettuce and pico, extra taco, and a sweet tea. For him, three tacos and a soda. Delivery. 30 minutes.
No dishes in the sink.
She’s a rock star. A three month old and a spotless house.
He picked up the TV remote.
There’s gotta be a romcom that she’d like streaming somewhere.
He scanned for movies until he heard a knock at the door.
“That was quick,” he said.
“$27.46,” the driver held out a plastic bag full of food. A little overweight wearing a sweat-stained baseball cap, a pubic hair mustache, and bloodshot eyes.
He took the food and drinks. “Hold on a second,” he said, “Let me get my wallet. Sorry.” He walked back to the couch. No wallet.
The driver knocked on the open door, “Listen, man, I got more deliveries.”
“Alright, I get it,” he walked back to the door. “Can you not knock like that though? My wife is sleeping with the baby- ah crap, wallet’s in my pocket. Sorry. Okay, let’s see. Here’s thirty.”
“Are you okay?” the driver asked.
“I believe so. Are you?”
The driver took the money and walked away.
He closed the door gently, brought the bag of food to the coffee table, and sat back on the couch.
This spread should make her feel better.
He leaned back and put his feet on the table.
I guess I’ll wait until she wakes up. Oh yeah. This thing.
He picked up the journal. A pen bookmarked the latest entry.
They’re gone. Let them go.
That’s not right.
With the pen he drew a line through the entry and closed the journal.
I’ll just wait until she wakes up.
Good spare prose. I could tell that something was amiss from the beginning but you built the suspense really well. I started to figure out what had happened before the reveal but the journal entry was an unexpected twist. Well done!