The fire pitched its way across the neighborhood. She blinked twice because it was Groundhog Day. “I want to be sure what I’m seeing is real.” He’d been given six weeks. He said, “I don’t like that old chap in the tree telling us what to do.” She thought of what they could do with the extra time. “Do you think it’ll hit our house?” “I sure hope so,” he said. Wood screeched from the heat. The fire was ruled an accident of unknown cause. Each morning she’d wake in the motel and get a glimpse of flames. One day he bought sixty boxes of Epsom salt from Costco, circled every tree in town. “Those creatures won’t tell us how to live anymore,” he said. She looked at him and felt home.
The guru was a fraud. He bounced checks all over town. Who still uses checks? she asked her husband. They saw him twice a week for counseling. He said, What you need is more excitement, you’re puttering out. He carried a bundle of twigs he said were magic. When she saw him at Whole Foods he pretended he was someone else. Her husband had a congenital defect of his heart, holes the size of dimes. He had a few years to live which kept on going. At night she tried to get his heart racing, listening for an irregular beat. What you need is more oomph! He beat like a drum. In the morning they read a report of burglaries across town, someone had caught the guru on camera going through their underwear drawer. Who’s puttering now? her husband said, clutching his heart.
He pronounced Vancouver like Van-hoover. He spent his last remaining dollars on an egg breakfast. She wore a sun hat even though it was overcast. She said, “You use too much salt.” She was waiting for him to finish so they could go to the beach. He imagined a realm where beautiful people drove their cars into the ocean, and all that was left were cities of average looking losers. When they got to the beach the water was cold. They plugged at it for hours. “Ask me what you want to know,” she said. He wanted to know if her middle name was really Diamond or was it Zirconia? She had a sick lung and her cough was phlegmy. He thought she’d be beautiful with a foreign accent or the accent of someone who smokes. “It’s Linda,” she said. Her voice was flat and compact like sand.
Nicholas Cook’s work has appeared in New World Writing, Camroc Press Review and New Flash Fiction Review. He lives in Texas.