Oct/Nov 2014  •   Fiction

Crossing the Road

by David Karraker

Tapestry artwork by Susan Klebanoff

Tapestry artwork by Susan Klebanoff

You're telling me this was my fault. So you'll help me change the sheets next Saturday? It'd be a whole lot better if you'd help me find Adrianne. Listen up here, I was looking for my car is all. I'm going up and down the rows searching for SQYZME, and I turn around and she's nowhere I can see.

Pay attention, watch my lips making words: I'm not me if she's not here. She's been my life since when I was back in the corner again and Miss Kramer is hating me and waving her ruler and pointing and I look over to where Adrianne is third row over nine desks back and her eyes are soppy and I am one gone goose. Making me feel like shit on a sidewalk and wishing I'd been born someplace where they don't let girls look at you goofy when your second grade schoolteacher sends you off to the corner. Every second I'm thinking what does she want from me? Adrianne I mean, not Miss Kramer.

Maybe if my desk wasn't fourth row back three rows up from where she could watch me from behind all day. So she walks me to my locker afterwards and says tell me why you're a jerk and making me laugh when what I want is catching the 8:15 AM rocket ship to Saturn. Which was all the time more or less back then. Galaxy and Amazing and Astounding Science Fiction piling up on bookshelves in the attic where my dad went and hid out when things got weird with Mom.

So I say leave me be and I can't talk right now and I wave my arms around and holler Shazam and she sniggers and sniffs my locker and touches my cheek and says save me Captain Marble, and I say don't please and how anyway it isn't Marble and my true name is Billy Batson, and she feels up my face again and says don't stop. I didn't know what she meant so I guess I didn't.

So where she's gone off to when I need her? We move into Tornedo River Retirement three years ago last January and they put her in assisted living after she went off and said she'd never come back. Told me later she needed time to be by herself. It would be a whole lot better if she'd just tell me what's going on.

What seems funny now is how there was this time I couldn't get her to stop talking to save my life. So you think she might be out looking for herself again? At least the time before she left me a note. Captain Marble my ass. I was thinking only yesterday about how back when we're in sixth grade and I spot this cutie Alison first row over on the left and I make my mind right there to follow her after school to see where she lives. Where's the harm in that, for God's sake? So anyway I'm sneaking along Willow Road watching her tweak her sweet butt left and right and we get to the ballpark and I turn around and Adrianne's half a block behind.

I wound up giving her my lanyard in seventh grade so she'd just leave me be. Good luck with that, Captain Marble. So now we're reading Jack London in sophomore English and I look over and she's jabbering up this fuckhead linebacker on the JV football team like I never occupied the goddamn planet for Chrissakes, and I'm thinking I'll kill the bastard dead in his tracks except he'd wipe the floor with my ass if I tried. This was right after my dad took off for keeps with our babysitter Karen from before and left my mom with the three of us to look after on her own.

I got used to it after awhile. A whole lot quieter when I went up to the attic to read. After awhile Adrianne more or less gave up on the linebacker and came back to me. I'm thinking she will this time, too. She would have three years ago except she couldn't find her way. That's what she told me anyway.

So Mom would drop us off at the movies on Saturday afternoons and pick us up afterwards. They had this soda shop in the foyer where we'd wait for her to come. It took her awhile sometimes but it didn't matter. We'd sit by the counter and Adrianne would tell me stuff from the Arabian Nights and put her hands on my face until it got so I stopped feeling freaky when she was being that way. She'd say what are you thinking and I'd tell her stories from dad's magazines, like the one with the monster from another galaxy stuck in a space ship under the ice on the North Pole a million years ago and when they find him and go to get him out he changes himself to be like them and turn them into himself and he almost does it. She got spooky after that one and hugged me and told me to stop talking for a little while.

We got married two days after New Years. My dad wiped himself out with his Magnum the summer before and Mom went kind of screwy afterwards thinking he'd come back and be somebody it seemed like I never knew. So she bangs around the house shouting shit and asshole and it wasn't much good being there and we'd both graduated high school and had jobs so why not? Well not me, but almost. Adrianne was already working in the office for the railroad but I was still learning how to run a bulldozer courtesy of my Uncle Harold, my dad's little brother. He'd come by sometimes on weekends and keep Mom company when they thought we weren't around. Mostly we weren't.

I keep thinking back on the minister telling Adrianne and me invite Christ into your bedroom. Right, I know, he couldn't have, and I remember afterwards thinking how I'd been damned to hell and later how maybe I'd been redeemed.

Like we almost never went anywhere in those days except to work or over to the movies. Don't ask me what we saw. Okay, Man with the Golden Arm. Night of the Hunter. Picnic. We'd walk home afterwards and hold hands and she'd tell me what they were about and I knew she more or less almost always had it right by the time we got there. It got so after a while I just shut up and let her talk. Seemed like she was mostly arguing with herself anyway. It felt sometimes like she was almost singing.

Sometimes she'd ask me why I didn't tell her stories anymore. I wasn't sure why so I said I couldn't remember what I was reading before and she'd say so make it up yourself. But come on. The last time I tried that one, I had Jesus in our bedroom, for crying out loud. Anyhow, it didn't matter what I did. She loved me more than both of us put together and it felt really good.

Truth is, we could have used a bigger place once Angeline came along. Adrianne stayed home and I was making enough so it wasn't a problem, but we didn't actually get around to buying the house almost until after Angeline was old enough to go to school.

I'm trying to bring back when it was I felt her going away from me. It must have been after Angeline was in middle school but before we had Jerome. Dinner would be ready when I got home from work like always, except now when I'd tell her what Floyd and Rich and the other morons said on break or afterwards having a beer at O'Donnell's and how before she'd giggle and call me a fool, now she'd just smile and turn her head away from me. I could never figure out why. I did ask once her just before we turned out the lights and she told me I'm fine and I didn't know where to go with that, so when the union brought me indoors and made me an apprentice mechanic trainer I decided to check out Karen in the President's office who was always calling me handsome. The business agent telling anyone who'd listen how hot she was. She was and it was even nice for a while, until she starts talking nonstop about this asshole Larry who'd fucked her and left her pregnant and never checked back in once she had a kid born dead. Blah blah blah, if you get my drift. That was one sad lady I know, but come on. I had troubles enough already and what was I supposed to do anyway? So I started making it home on time for dinner again, and after a while it felt almost like before. Jerome was still too little to notice and Angeline was hardly ever home in those days anyway. Adrianne even put a flower in my water glass for Father's Day, for crying out loud.

So what do you want from me? I'm out trying to find my car one minute and I'm searching for the girl of my dreams the next. It starts raining and I'm going up and down the rows yelling Adrianne goddammit, and the parking lot guy comes over and grabs my shoulder and asks me what's the problem and Christ, I say my wife's up gone off and left me flat and he calls somebody on his cell phone and the security people show up and I guess you know the rest. I did finally find my car, I got to say that much. Maybe if I'd done that earlier, this never would have happened.