He went out to the car and found his ex in the front seat listening to a song from back when. The song seemed familiar, but the title danced away from his recollection. The ex, she wasn’t going anywhere, so when he went for a drive it wasn’t alone.
I didn’t expect to see you again he said.
I need some money his ex said.
Whatever you can spare.
I can maybe give you twenty.
Forty would be better.
Twenty’s what I can afford.
The ex slumped in her seat. OK OK she said. OK OK.
They headed in the direction of downtown. The sky turned storm-green. The wind picked up. Blobs of pollen whirled past the windshield like lost birds. A scrap of paper blew in one window out the other. At the atm by the liquor store he withdrew twenty and the ex put it in her purse and he waited to see, all right now, and she made no move to get out of the car.
Let’s keep on driving the ex said.
Where to he said.
See where the road takes us.
Which would have sounded fun, like an adventure, if not for all the times he’d been down the road she meant and ended up exactly nowhere.
Minutes later they passed a house with a swaybacked roof and leaning garage.
I used to cut grass at this place he said, slowing the car to a crawl. A lady on crutches lived there. She lost her feet in an industrial accident. She used to sit on the porch and yell about being a cripple. How her stumps hurt. How everyone always wanted to help when she didn’t want it and ignored her when she did. She wouldn’t shut up. I’d hear her over the lawn mower engine.
When did you ever cut grass the ex wanted to know.
Back in high school. I didn’t do it long. I’d see these guys who’d been cutting lawns a few years and they weren’t alive anymore. The sun beat them down. Their hands were stained green from picking up grass cuttings. I didn’t want to turn into that and got a job in a garage.
I remember those wrenches of yours.
Gone. Them and that job are history.
He stopped the car and got out and opened the door for his ex and they waded through kneehigh weeds to the rear of the house. During the previous winter or perhaps the one before a birch tree had fallen against the garage. The windows of both the garage and the house were missing. The storm was getting close. Flash of light. Count one two three four. Here came the thunder.
His ex dug through her purse for a cigarette and lit up. She exhaled soft smoke and the scent whisked him off to a place he’d thought locked up and forgotten.
I hate summer he said and pretended, not for the first time, to be the only human being left in the world.