Selected Stories

“Arrivederci, Goodbye” - Excerpt

ASCENT, August 2010

“You know what they call remodeling—the marriage buster,” Katia said, as she took a grim sip of her coffee in the disaster that was Tory’s future kitchen. The ceiling above them was bereft of skylights, only a shroud of thick plastic separating them from the elements. Lucky for them that December in Southern California meant eighty-degree weather.

Tory blinked in the fine drift of sawdust that blew continually, sideways and up from the floor, like living in some kind of tan snow globe. She imagined pirouetting in it, like some low-rent version of The Nutcracker. “But your spouse is supposed to drive you crazy. Not die.” She lowered her voice as a toothy boy with skin the color of almonds walked a drill saw through the room, stirring up a whir of dust. He had been there about a week, one of a revolving army of day laborers who came and then disappeared. She could be wrong, but she thought he was flirting with her, and despite herself she tried not to wear the very ugliest of her flannel pajamas in the morning. She noted that Katia bent over the table in front of him so that the dark cave of her cleavage was visible.

Privacy was a thing of the past, Tory and Gordon having given up the rental they had planned to stay in until the house was completed. It had been six months since they had euphemistically “camped” in their own house, jammed into a small maid’s quarters off the kitchen, sharing a dwarfish half bath, cooking over a hot plate, and developing a communal life with the construction crew that included drinking Pacificos on the roof at five each evening before knocking off for the day.

The crew went back each night to homes that, although undoubtedly less luxurious, functioned, whereas Tory and Gordon roamed the ruins of their future like ghosts, unable to enjoy any of it. A Wolf cooktop still in its cardboard box, a marble countertop upended along the far wall. The only thing that actually thrived in the house was the ants—long, sinewy trails of them, going from nowhere to nowhere. For the life of them, Tory and Gordon couldn’t figure out what the insects were looking for, there seemed so little to sustain them.

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