“I don’t want a drink,” Camille repeated.
“Suit yourself,” Ernest said, and walked the short distance from the couch to the fridge shakily, his high bony hips jimmying side-to-side.
Camille felt nauseous. She didn’t ordinarily get motion sickness, but then, this wasn’t exactly ordinary.
“Can’t believe they let us,” Ernest said, looking out the window, a can of beer sweating in his hand. Telephone poles ticked past. “Ain’t it something?”
Her husband’s eyes flashed with the passing landscape. There was something so vulnerable, yet so hopeful, about his face when they moved, that she found herself falling in love with him all over again, against her better judgment.
“Yeah, babe. It sure is.”
They’d bought the mobile home five years back when a big deal had worked out. Since then Ern’d stopped selling, so he said, but not before getting half his teeth knocked out when a deal went sour. Still, she was glad they’d had the money—the freedom the mobile home had given them had proved necessary. Sure, it was a production—loading the house on the back of a tractor-trailer, the wide-load convoy, taping things up, tying things down—but once you got where you were going there was no unpacking. Everything was right where it always was. They’d moved three times since buying the home, but this was the first time Ernest had been able to convince the movers to let them stay in the house during the drive.
Camille came to stand next to Ernest and draped her arms around him.
“Do you think we’ll like, what is it… Manorville?”
“Gotta be better than Brookhaven.”
Camille bit her tongue. A few months ago he’d said Brookhaven would have to be better than Knox. They hadn’t been run out of town or anything, but she doubted anyone was sorry to see them go. Ernest had lost his job—showed up late and hung-over one too many times—and had already gained too bad a reputation to find another. At least this time it hadn’t been her fault. The time before it had, she admitted, yes, it had, but she didn’t like to think about that, her fear and her shame, what Ernest had done to that poor boy. They’d recovered. It wasn’t as if he’d never cheated, after all. They’d forgiven each other and moved a hundred miles south.
Outside, a barbed wire fence blurred before a range of rolling green hills. Black heifers appeared here and there like brail messages written in the landscape. They just hadn’t hit their stride yet. She’d let herself forget how much she loved this side of him—so brave and optimistic, all of his best qualities shining through. His last job had been below him. All his jobs had. She held the name on her tongue: Manorville. Things would be different there. They went around a turn and the house leaned and she gripped Ernest’s arm and his beer fell to the floor.
“Dammit, Cam,” Ernest said, wobbling back to the fridge. A goat, she thought with amusement, watching his bony strut, that’s what he looks like, a damn billy goat. The house rocked back and forth, settling. Camille grabbed paper towels and wiped up the spilled beer, on her hands and knees. They hit a bump and the whole floor bucked and her stomach lurched.
“I’m gonna be sick,” she said, and rose shakily, steadying herself against the wall as she walked to the bathroom.
“Shoulda had a drink,” Ern said.
She sat on the on the bathroom floor, resting her head against the cool porcelain, feeling ridiculous. Relief wouldn’t come. If she could just throw up, get it all out, she knew she’d feel better. She moaned and stretched flat on her back. She wished they would get there. How long did the movers, laughing at them, say the trip would take? A fresh start. She couldn’t wait to get to Manorville.
Lying on her back, staring at the off-white ceiling, she realized the mold was back. Little black spots spread from the corners, gathering in places unseen. She’d been battling that mold since they bought the house.
“You almost done?” Ernest yelled, banging on the door.
Camille didn’t move, didn’t make a sound. She couldn’t believe the mold was back. She’d tried everything she could think of short of ripping the ceiling apart: bleach, sprays, airing-out the bathroom for days at a time.
“Okay in there?”
She could not goddamn believe that fucking mold was back.
“Alright then,” Ernest said. She heard his footsteps retreat and suddenly began to feel better. As for the mold—she’d find a way to get rid of it. It was just mold, after all. She obviously wasn’t going to toss her cookies; she should really let him use the toilet. She hauled herself up.
“It’s all yours,” she said, stepping out of the bathroom. “Ern?”
She staggered into the living room and saw her husband illuminated in the open doorway, bony hips thrust forward, pissing into the ever-changing landscape.
Ezra Koch recently relocated to Portland, Maine, with his wife, daughter, and son, after living as a guitar maker in Santa Cruz, California for a decade. He has an MFA from the University of San Francisco and has been published as a poet and journalist. His debut novel, The World Belongs to the Askers, is being represented by Trident Media Group.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Lawton Cook on Unsplash