Snow was coming down hard, better than an inch an hour according to the radio. Ed Wilson’s wife Winnie had gone to dinner with friends from the non-profit where she volunteered, unaware that the worst blizzard of the decade was blowing in. Maybe that was overstating it, but they liked to overstate things on the radio, and in fact, Ed didn’t mind the exaggeration. It gave him a mission. He had to get that drive shoveled for her. She was coming home to him.
He was worried about his wife, true enough. But these were well past the days when they drove beaters. Ed felt pretty certain that Winnie’s Monte Carlo with traction control and anti-lock brakes would bring her safely home. And if she did end up on the side of the road, the heated seats would keep her comfortable until someone—maybe him!—could come along and rescue her.
Of course, he’d already heard from her a few minutes ago, thanks to the cell phone he insisted she carry.
“I’m on Division. By that God mural, you know?”
“Radio says it’s pretty bad.”
“I don’t know. Looks like God to me.”
“I mean the weather, jokester. Trucks are jamming the exits off 131.”
“I think I’ll be all right.”
“Good. But call me, Win, if you get into trouble.”
Only Ed called her Win. It was his shorthand way of letting her know that he still considered her a prize, one that he likely did not deserve. When he called her by this name, he imagined roses falling at her feet, her cheeks ready for kisses, parades down the lane.
Ed slapped his gloves together, and pleased by the resulting thud, adjusted his hunting cap and kicked the ice off the aluminum blade of his snow shovel. Everyone else seemed to look forward to the elusive Michigan spring, but Ed preferred winter. The trees exposed, you could see the neighbors better as they struggled to clear their walks, get in and out of their houses. He had a share in their lives in this way, even without saying much of anything to them.
He did not own a snow blower because it seemed a cheat. He preferred his shovel, the feel of the honest wood handle in his hands, the scrape of the blade up his shoulders. He admired the beauty of the snow. It lay before him like manna, a happy excess of blessing. With near reverence, Ed plowed a furrow down the center of the drive, a parting of the sea, a minor miracle. He had a bracing sense of being the first person on earth to bend a blade of grass, pop a grape on the tongue. Him and him alone.
Just then a billow of snow chugged toward him, intruding from the left bank of his imaginary sea.
“Hey there, neighbor!” It was Greg, wheeling his new snow blower. Greg was from Texas, had just moved into the neighborhood last fall. He’d probably huddled in his entry, scanning the skies for the first sign of a flake. Ed didn’t care for the guy, his ponytail, or the odd strip of whisker above his lip the razor always seemed to miss. It could be worse, Ed figured. Greg could’ve called him “partner.” As it was, Greg had to shout to be heard over the engine. He had a wide grin on his face. “This is really something, isn’t it?”
Greg referred, Ed knew, not only to the snow, but the entire package. This was not an upscale area, but the homes were solid and well-maintained, substantial enough to fetch almost twice as much in Austin even in a depressed market. Or so Greg had said. But it did seem as if he were happy to have left the sun and higher property values behind for this chilly little corner. Win said it was cute how Greg was so happy, but Ed was put off by his stupid, dreamy joy. The guy clearly didn’t know what he had gotten into. Old houses were tough. The previous owners had done their best with it, but the old Vanderstrick place had too many problems for Greg and his copy of The Reader’s Digest Guide to Flushing a Toilet.
Greg cut the engine and stared up at the heavens as if the snowstorm, the cold wind, all of winter itself, were still more examples of things he owned. Ed wanted to tell him that his Texas ass gave him no right of ownership to anything in Michigan, particularly not the winters. Instead, he leaned forward into his shovel and said, “You gotta love a blizzard.”
Ed said this with the kind of sarcasm he knew Greg would appreciate, as if Ed in fact did not love a blizzard, and the whole idea made him weary. Even so, there was something to Ed’s words. Truth be told, he did love a blizzard.
“I hear you,” Greg said, and licked his lips. A sliver of fuzz glistened just above his top lip, a spot that should have been obvious to the man if he’d taken one glance in the mirror. It seemed to Ed just short of immoral.
Greg surveyed Ed’s drive. “Must be what, eight inches already?”
Ed cringed. In Michigan, a person didn’t talk about snow in numbers. Who cared how many inches? It was another thing for Ed to imagine Greg doing obsessively: scampering about in his home clutching a ruler, making sure everything was slightly larger than necessary.
Ed returned, “It’s a big snow.”
“Where’s Winnie?” Greg asked. “Inside?”
Certainly, Ed knew there was a twenty-year age difference here, and that Greg had a wife of his own, Emily, but there was something between Greg and Win. Maybe it was a relief for Win to have someone close to their sons’ ages around again. Their oldest had met a native on a study abroad semester in Germany and hadn’t been home in seven years. The younger one was just over the border in Indiana but may as well have been overseas himself. It was best not to get too involved in their lives, Ed figured. For one, they didn’t seem interested in his opinions about careers or marriage, and for two, meddling would only bring a person heartache.
For Win, Greg fit easily into the absence. She would tell Ed, “Being nice to Greg might mean that someone is being nice to our boys, so it won’t kill you.” Win thought the world worked that way.
Greg looked toward Ed’s house hopefully, as if Win might emerge with a steaming cup of cocoa and complete the canvas of his new life. Ed was only too happy to disappoint. “She’s not here.” He left it hanging, mysterious.
Greg looked up at him, quizzical, as if to say, “Aren’t you worried about this? Why aren’t you worried? Shouldn’t a man be worried about the whereabouts of his wife on a night like this? A wife like Winnie?”
“She’s on her way home,” Ed said, gesturing slightly with the shovel, enough to let Greg know that Ed had a task at hand, and it was time to get back to it. Instead, another smile spread across Greg’s face.
“Partner, let’s get this knocked out!” and before Ed could protest, Greg had the snow blower cranked up again, spewing marble-sized chunks toward the street. There was nothing for Ed to do but watch.
No doubt about it, a snow blower moved faster than a shovel. But a shovel got to the concrete; the blower left a half-inch pack that refused to melt off the walk. As Greg finished, Ed heard the crunch of snow beneath tires behind him. Headlights lit the driveway like a stage. Ed turned in time to see Win’s Monte Carlo pulling to a stop, snow scattering and melting on the warm hood. Ed poked halfheartedly at the snow left on the drive.
“My heroes,” Win said when she stepped out of the car. She walked to Greg, gave him a quick hug. “Thank you, Greg. I know Ed could use the help.”
“Winnie,” Greg said, pausing as if he were about to relate something profound, “No problem.”
In his worst moments, Ed dreamt about running Greg over with his snow blower, scattering his hippie chunks to the curb. In his best moments, Ed considered milder solutions, like building an eight-foot fence in the backyard with surrounding motion detectors.
“Ed and I are so glad you and Emily moved in,” Win said. “He’d never tell you, but his back thanks you.”
There Ed stood, suddenly looking feeble next to the shovel. It hadn’t been that long ago that he’d been the one shoveling what was now Greg’s walk. Just last winter. The eighty-two year old Henry Vanderstrick never thanked him. He’d barely even nodded. And that was as it should be.
Spring came, and the trees began to obscure the houses again. Ed had to spray the crabapple trees in his backyard, to prevent fungus from ravaging the mature leaves later in the season. Greg was in his yard, too, laying fertilizer in a new broadcast spreader, which Ed noticed still had the cardboard overlay with instructions for its use. Greg had probably pored over it, trying to make sure he did everything correctly not only in English but also in French and Spanish. Cuidado, hombre! Ed chuckled to himself. He straightened his face when Greg waved.
Ed turned off the nozzle to his sprayer. “Getting the lawn in shape?” Ed said.
Greg nodded. “I can’t seem to get anything to come in here at the property line.” Greg pointed to the shrubs that separated the yards. There had never been a fence there, as long as Ed knew, but he’d been seriously rethinking that. “There’s these brown splotches.”
Sure enough, just on the other side of Ed’s nice green fescue, Greg’s looked washed out and sickly.
“I’m afraid there’s some kind of worm under there.” Greg stared at the ground, confused.
“Yeah,” Ed said. “It’s the tiny creatures that get us.” Ed gestured to his crabapples. “I’ve got to spray these every spring to keep the fungus away.”
“Fungus?” Greg asked, suddenly noticing with horror the sprayer at Ed’s feet.
“Don’t worry,” Ed said, returning to his work. “This bug doesn’t attack lawns.”
Greg nodded, but his look of horror did not subside. Ed realized that Greg was silently questioning his own tools. “A sprayer? Why don’t I have one of those? Where did he get his? I’d better check Consumer Reports. I’ll bet I can find one even better.”
From the corner of his eye, Ed saw Greg peering down, inspecting his lawn. He combed his fingers through the grass, as if straightening the blades might work. Then he turned the spreader upside down, as if the answer to all his problems might lie underneath.
A couple of weeks later, Win invited Greg and Emily for dinner. Ed didn’t put up a fight; Win had long accused Ed of not really knowing what he wanted socially. He liked the company of others to an extent, but he also wanted people to let him alone. “Maybe you just want a succession of people to stop by, nod, approve of your solitude, and then go away.”
When Win smiled, her mouth opened to reveal her teeth, healthy, with a slight upward curve to the gums. Even with her lips closed, her teeth were always smirking. It was one of the things Ed loved about her, an inside joke he was always in on.
With nothing to do as Win prepared for the dinner, Ed set up his table saw in the driveway. From there he noticed Greg and Emily leave their house and begin the short walk over. He did not look up, but instead loaded another strip of wood.
As the saw spewed dust, Greg looked at the blade, mesmerized. He watched Ed feed the wood through and finish it with a guide. Ed had been doing carpentry work since he was a kid, and he made it look easy. When Ed finished ripping the wood, Emily was the first to speak.
“Getting some work done?”
“Oh, I putter a little,” Ed said.
Finally, Greg broke into a grin. “That’s some machine there,” he said, as if a table saw were a recent technological breakthrough.
Emily stroked Greg’s hair with the palm of her hand. “I wish he were that handy.”
Ed was surprised at her condescension towards her husband, but Greg seemed to accept it. Emily wore old-fashioned horn rimmed glasses and clompy shoes designed to make her look ugly. She might have been pretty, but it was impossible to tell. Ed was surprised she hadn’t gone ahead and slipped on a back brace and an Elizabethan collar to complete the look.
Greg held a stringy plant as a gift. It occurred to Ed that Greg looked a little weedy himself, bristly and uneven. Texas, Michigan—he could root himself anywhere and survive. Even thrive. Greg shrugged, jostling some of the potting soil to the ground. “Maybe I am,” he said. “Handy.” Greg seemed to think he possessed hidden talents that those around him had yet to witness. “You never know.”
Emily smiled at Ed as if, in fact, she did know, but she tolerated Greg anyway. Still, it seemed to Ed that Greg felt he had something to prove to his wife.
“I’d like to borrow that sometime,” Greg said, indicating the saw. “I’ve got a couple of projects myself.”
Ed made a sweeping motion with his hand, like a magician might, as if the entirety of his home were available to anyone, provided they just ask. “Take it tonight,” he said.
Emily sighed, as if she were allowing her toddler just one more toy from the store, one that she knew he would never play with.
Inside, Win made a big deal about the plant, and Emily’s shoes, and Greg’s helping out so much last season with the snow blower. Ed wondered how long before they went back home.
Win, who always tried to encourage Ed to interact, instructed him to lead Greg on a tour of the house. “And you boys come back with an appetite.”
Because he didn’t know what else to do, Ed showed Greg the lighting he installed in the upstairs closets.
“Our closets are pretty dark, too,” Greg said.
“When houses like yours and mine were built, people kept their clothes in chiffarobes.”
Greg nodded as if he’d heard the history lesson before.
Ed pointed to the ceiling. “I nearly knocked myself out getting up to the attic.”
“You do all the work yourself?”
“Yep. Just dropped a wire and plugged in the new circuit.”
“New circuit? Is that up to code?”
“What do you mean?”
“Any time you put in a circuit, you’re supposed to get a permit.”
Ed squinted. “I’ve never had any problem with that.” Was the guy planning to turn him in to the city inspector? “Hey,” Ed said, deciding the tour was over. “Maybe dinner’s ready. Let’s go check.”
Ed prayed before dinner, and he noticed that Greg and Emily seemed a little uncomfortable. Let them be, Ed thought. This was his house, his food, and they were going to eat it blessed whether they liked it or not. He drew it out a little longer than usual, adding a few more broad blessings and a lengthy pause before the “amen.”
After Greg complimented Win on the table settings, the pork loin, the buttery rolls, and the green beans from a can, the conversation got around to the previous owners of Greg and Emily’s home.
“The Vanderstricks were wonderful people,” Win said.
“They kept to themselves,” Ed said.
“We still get mail addressed to them,” Emily said. “Lots of sweepstakes. They must have fallen for every trick in the book.”
Ed cleared his throat and looked down at his plate. He didn’t want to hear about anybody else’s mail.
“You know they were married for fifty-eight years?” Win said.
Emily twirled her fork. “Remarkable.”
“Wonder what their secret was,” Greg said.
“Easy,” said Ed. “Henry did everything Regina told him to.”
This drew some chuckles, but Emily laughed out loud. “It’s working for us so far! Right, honey?”
Greg shrugged, embarrassed. “I guess.” Then he turned away from his wife and looked at Win. “I can’t seem to get the yard under control. I’ve got these viny things coming up, and I have no idea what they are.”
“I think I can help you with that,” Win said.
“We’re also thinking of composting,” Emily said, sticking a thumb towards Greg, “as soon as he figures out where to put the pile.”
Emily looked to Ed like the kind of girl who married for the same reason she bought recycled paper towels. She thought Greg was eco-friendly, a choice she made with the strength of her convictions. Some people’s marriages held firm on a foundation of religion; theirs was the Green Party. Someday, Ed would have to mention the snow blower to Emily, see how exactly that fume-chugger fit in with her worldview.
“How’s the grass?” Ed asked.
“Not so good,” Greg said.
“No. I think some animal might be ruining it, or…” Greg lowered his voice, “or someone is coming in at night and urinating on it.”
Suddenly everyone at the table cast their eyes toward Ed. He looked at each of them separately and said, “What? Don’t look at me. I’ve enjoyed indoor plumbing for years!”
Amid laughter, Win said, “I wouldn’t put anything past you.”
“Listen, if I were going to mess up your lawn to make mine look better, I’d find a much more creative way to do it. A trained mole, maybe.”
Ed basked in the enjoyment he was providing at the table. He even smiled at Greg. When a person laughs at your jokes, it’s hard to dislike him. By the time Emily finally thanked them for a wonderful evening, Ed was almost sorry to see them go. “Wait,” he said. “The saw.”
Greg refused any help. He picked it up awkwardly, so that all the weight was on his back. As he was waddling home down the sidewalk, Ed cupped his hands to his mouth. “Don’t cut your finger off!”
Win slapped Ed on the shoulder.
“What? I’m being helpful,” he said with a smirk.
Greg turned and nodded in the dark. The table slipped and Ed heard the clang of metal.
Ed shook his head. “I’ll never see that saw in one piece again.”
“That’s the price you pay…” Win said.
Over the course of the summer, it seemed Greg did everything he could to sabotage any hope of a friendship. First it was an invitation for Ed to join the other neighbors and pitch in for a mosquito zapper. “West Nile is a real problem,” Greg said, adding, “especially for the elderly.”
“Watch yourself,” Ed joked.
Greg went on to say that Ed’s feeder was a problem because birds were carriers. “The fewer birds around, the better.”
Maybe, but Ed didn’t tell him it was Win’s feeder—Greg probably would have changed his tune.
Greg also mentioned that he might have seen “some kind of rat” in the sewer and would they mind getting a container for their trash? He gave Ed a can of foam sealant, directing him to use it to fill the holes in his basement. Keeps out mice, “or whatever” he said ominously, as if Ed’s house were crawling with pests, the scourge of the block. Greg also suggested sharing a landscaping service to “spruce up the neighborhood.” The last straw was Greg’s offer to scrape, sand, and paint Ed’s shutters “to match the color you’re thinking of painting your house next. It’s about time for that, isn’t it?”
Since these requests, Ed had stopped mowing as regularly as he used to. He’d let it go a couple of weeks. Dandelions began to sprout, but instead of spraying Ed left them alone.
Finally Win asked what was wrong and he said, “Nothing. Other projects on my mind. Gotta seal up that basement, you know. Keep the neighbors happy.”
Win shook her head. “He just wants to be your friend. Can’t you see that?”
“He made you take down your bird feeder. He doesn’t think about anyone but himself.”
Win sighed. “Look out the window. How many cars do you see in the driveway?”
He didn’t have to say the number. He could see that Emily’s car was gone. “I suppose that means something?”
Win closed her eyes in disgust. “Emily has decided to go back to Austin for a time. That house that Greg kept talking about its value? They haven’t been able to sell it. Or maybe Emily just never wanted to.”
“How long has she been gone?” He’d seen that her car had been gone for a while, but he hadn’t let himself think about it. It wasn’t any of his business.
“Maybe a week. He didn’t want me to tell you.” Win went to the kitchen and brought back a dish of meatloaf.
“Me? Why? What would I care?”
Win glared at him. “That boy is in a crisis,” she said. “Not that you’d see it.” She opened the back door. “I’m going over there.”
Ed asked what for, but the only answer he got was the door shaking in the frame. Ed considered the house around him, larger without Win. He remembered how it had gotten larger when his boys had left home. He already wondered how long she’d be gone.
That evening, Win had still not made it back home. Ed went out back, and stopped at the property line between their houses. He saw only one light on, in an upstairs bedroom. It couldn’t be possible that something was going on between them. Greg was just a kid. If anything, she was reading him a bedtime story.
Ed thought of his own sons, when they were six and eight, the ages he’d enjoyed the most. They’d laugh at the funny faces he made, and they rooted for the same teams he did: Tigers, Lions, Spartans, Red Wings. He knew his kids, without even having to talk to them. As they got older, things got harder. They got interested in soccer, and video games, and other things that made no sense to him. The first time he encountered a closed door, he respected that, and walked away.
Here in the moonlight, Ed knew he was sheltered by the leafy trees that surrounded him. He did not know where his wife was. He could only guess where his sons were. He knew his house was behind him, and his two feet stood firmly on his own ground. He drew down, and felt the night under him, and he felt the release as he made zigzag patterns across Greg’s lawn. He stood there a long time before turning around and walking back home.
After a couple of chilly weeks with Win and no word at all from Greg, Ed thought he had won. As always, it was better to leave people alone, and let these things blow over. They had a way of working themselves out. Then Ed heard a knock on the back door. It was Greg.
He had a towel wrapped around his left hand, and safety goggles strapped around his eyes. Sawdust clung to his ponytail and flecked the rims of the goggles. “Is Winnie here?”
“She’s not. She’s over at her mother’s.”
“Emily’s not in the house, either.” Greg paused. Two tiny red dots shone on his cheek. “I’ve got a problem,” he said, looking over Ed’s shoulder as if Winnie might materialize. “Can I borrow some ice?”
“I think we’re all out.” Ed went to the freezer, pulled out an empty tray. He turned it upside down to demonstrate.
“All right,” Greg said, turning to go. He looked a little woozy, so Ed stopped him.
“What’s the matter? Why do you need ice?”
Greg breathed deeply. “I cut off the end of my finger, and I was hoping to pack the nub in some ice.”
Ed could see now the red in the towel was not a design but blood. “Which finger?”
“Just my pinky,” Greg said, dismissive. “But it’s kind of got me freaked out.”
Ed dropped the tray on the floor. “Let’s think here. Think.” Ed clapped his hands. “Something cold.” He opened the refrigerator. “Milk!”
Greg leaned in the doorway while Ed removed the carton and rummaged in the cupboard.
“Win’s got some Tupperware here somewhere…here!” Ed produced a 12-cup mixing bowl and emptied the milk into it. Ed pointed with the empty carton. “Go ahead. Put it in there.”
Greg hesitated. “Are you sure?”
“It’s what you do with a knocked-out tooth. Happened to our oldest boy.” Of course, those many years ago Win had been the one who knew the milk trick. It worked, too. But Greg didn’t move. Frustrated, Ed slammed the carton in the trash. “You have a better plan?”
Greg looked up at him, then moved toward the bowl. He unwrapped part of the towel from his hands and shook it over the rim. The nub snagged on a loop of fabric on the towel and hovered over the bowl. Greg’s eyes glazed, and it looked like he might faint.
“Don’t look at it,” Ed said. Ed reached out and flicked the pinky. The second time he batted the finger, it released and plopped into the milk.
Ed spilled a dozen lids on the floor, but couldn’t find one the right size, so he tore off a long strip of plastic wrap. “Don’t worry,” Ed said, wiping a drop of sweat from his head. “I can get it really tight.” He wrestled with the wrapping a moment. “See? You could bounce a quarter off that.”
Greg seemed satisfied with the job and they piled into Ed’s truck, Greg holding the bowl on his lap.
Ed asked, “Does it hurt?”
“Not really,” Greg said. “I was hallucinating crickets for awhile… Hope I didn’t ruin your saw.”
“I’m sure it’s fine,” Ed said, looking ahead to the traffic. After a moment, he said, “I told you not to cut your finger off.”
Greg blinked. “I should listen to you.”
“Now you’re talking.”
Despite Ed’s offers, Greg insisted on carrying the bowl inside the emergency room. He looked at his finger through the Glad Wrap. “It floats,” he said vaguely.
Ed peeked in, and nodded. The nub bobbed as Greg walked, and the milk sloshed at the sides of the bowl. Ed regarded the plastic wrap on the bowl with pride: it was holding tight. They approached the receptionist together. Greg still wore his safety goggles.
“Oh honey,” the woman behind the counter said to Greg, as if he’d brought in a baby and was holding it the wrong way. “Let me have that.”
She asked Ed if he was Greg’s father, and he responded with a quick no. She handed a clipboard to Greg, but he just stared at it.
“Can he fill these out later?” Ed asked, but she said no.
Ed found a seat, and he did his best to just use the pen and try not to remember any of Greg’s most personal information. But it was impossible not to listen. He learned that Greg did not smoke or use drugs, occasionally had a glass of wine, had asthma when he was a kid, an appendectomy when he was seventeen, and was a few years younger than Ed thought—only twenty nine. Ed wondered how many other things he might have been wrong about.
In the waiting room, Greg began to get a little panicky. He even started to moan, drawing looks from the women behind the glass. “I can’t do anything right,” he said. “Emily’s going to kill me.”
“Take it easy. It’s not like it was your whole hand,” Ed said. “Look.” Ed wiggled his pinky. “I hardly ever use mine. You sip a lot of tea?”
Greg just shook his head. He confessed that things had not been going well with his marriage. Emily had experienced two miscarriages since their move to Michigan.
Ed wanted to tell him that what happened in his own house, behind his own doors was his own business. But he couldn’t. That door had been flung wide open, and he couldn’t see a way to get it closed again.
“She’s down a lot. She misses Texas.”
“Maybe you should move back,” Ed said, suddenly realizing maybe he could solve their problems along with his own. “To Texas.”
Greg shook his head. “I can’t. I’ve thought it through. If we move back there, she’ll never have any faith in me. I gotta make my stand here.” Greg stared down at his wrapped hand. “But maybe she’s right. Maybe I am a screwup.”
Ed tried to think what Win would do. What if Greg were his own son? What would he say then, if he had the chance?
Ed paused, took a big breath. “Look, Greg,” he said. “I’ve been pissing on your lawn.”
Greg stopped moaning and stared back at him, his head cocked. For a moment, Ed thought Greg might hit him.
“I don’t know why. Maybe…I was jealous. Anyway, I’m sorry.”
Instead of hitting him, Greg said, “You’re just saying that to make me feel better.”
Ed shrugged. “Take it however you want.”
Greg nodded. “Thanks, partner.”
Ed walked to the receptionist’s window and tapped on the glass. “You’d think a guy cuts his finger off, he’d get seen a little quicker.”
Instead of responding the woman said, “He’s not from around here, is he?”
“What are you talking about?”
She looked over at Greg. “When he moans, he doesn’t say ‘oh’ like a Michiganian would.”
Ed wanted to tell her there was a man in pain here, that he felt sorry for her if she couldn’t understand that. Instead, he just shook his head, looked her in the eye and said, “Michigander.”
When the microsurgeon arrived, Ed told Greg he could wait for a while if he needed him to. A half hour later, a nurse came out and stood in front of Ed. She held the Tupperware bowl. “Does this belong to you?”
Ed shifted in his seat. “Yes.”
“The girls back there saw the bowl and thought you’d brought a dish to pass.”
“Is the finger okay?”
“We’d never heard of dunking it in milk, but it cleaned up just fine.”
“So everything’s all right? The finger’s back on?”
“Oh, no. It’ll be a miracle if we can reattach that finger. Even if we do, he probably won’t be able to feel it, or move it like he should.”
Ed considered this information. “How’s he doing?”
“Fine. Great. He wanted me to tell you to go on home if you want.”
“He cut that finger off with my saw.”
The nurse nodded. “This could take several more hours. Really, we can call you when the time comes.”
Ed stared down into the empty bowl. A couple of drops of milk remained, hugging the rim. He thought about Win. He imagined her coming home to an empty house, kitchen in a mess. He wondered where she would think he might be. She would probably check the garage first. She would see his truck was gone. Would she think he had gone to the store? Or would she think maybe he’d done something that he’d never done before? Would she think he had driven to Indiana to see their son? Would she for a second think that? Would she for a second imagine where he was right now?
“Nah,” he told the nurse. “You go back in there and tell him I’m staying.” Ed motioned her back to her post. “For as long as it takes. You go tell him. Tell him I’m his ride. I’m going to take him back home.
Art by Kerri Augenstein
Chris Haven teaches undergraduate writing classes at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. His own writing has appeared recently in Arts & Letters, Grasslimb, The Grove Review, Blackbird, and The Hollins Critic. He won the Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Prize by Seneca Review and edits, Wake: Great Lakes Thought & Culture.