This Great Society - Issue 6 - The Future

Creative Writing

Illustration by Jim Boraas

Plans by Thomas Cairns
Illustration by Jim Boraas

The house was dark and quiet when she got home from school, the frosty windows staring blankly out onto the street. She tried the front door, but it was locked so she walked around the corner and stood on her toes to reach the frozen metal latch that opened the picket fence gate to the backyard. She leaned hard into the gate to close it and marched through the snow to the back of the house. It was cold and hushed in the yard, the snow muffling her steps, as if the earth itself was jealously guarding its winter sleep. She shook off her mittens, letting them dangle from the strings that kept them attached to her coat and reached up into the dryer vent to find the spare key, faintly warm to the touch of her numb and searching fingers.

She stepped into the house through the back door, stomping her boots clean of snow as she went. The late afternoon light leaking through the kitchen windows gave the countertops and pale linoleum a faint blue tinge. Often during the past year her dad would be sitting at the kitchen table when she came home, watching the television where it sat on its stand in the living room, a box of Oreo cookies at his elbow. He would ask her what the news was and they would talk and watch TV until her mom came home from work. There were also those days when she came home and he would be sitting on the couch in the living room with no lights on, unshaven, dressed in his sweatpants. He would glance up at the clock and say that he was just straightening up a few things and pad down the hall in his socks to his bedroom after looking around the room in a vague, uncertain way. He would come out later in the evening, clean shaven and dressed in jeans and a sweater, laughing a little too quickly at the stories of her school-day while her mom pushed back from the table to do the dishes or go start some laundry.

Sometimes, after evenings like these, evenings when her parents focused their gaze on the far wall of the room when they spoke to one another, quiet evenings, she would sneak from her bedroom into the hall and lay on her belly at the top of the stairs, pressed up against the banister to eavesdrop on any explanations or arguments, to catch any hints of anger or reconciliation, but she could never hear anything more than a murmur. She would sometimes wake up on the carpet, her mouth dry and sticky, and the lights would still be on downstairs.

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