D. M. Kerr

Enough to Last the Week

The downstairs of Judeen’s townhouse remained dark. She was still upstairs: even if she did come down now, Ben Dusselman figured, she’d still have to grab her coat and do those last-minute womanly things. They were definitely not going to make it to the theatre on time.

Dank, clammy November air seeped in through the body of Ben’s car. The day’s light had faded in the way that light always fades this time of year: too tired, too weak, it had slid away to the southwest sometime in the afternoon, leaving the town in a huge malaise of gloom.

Fifteen minutes, Ben thought, with a glance at his watch. If he left right now, chirping his tires as a fillip to Judeen, he would just make the theatre.

But, instead, he sighed, and stuffed his hands deeper in his coat pockets. The breath from his sigh condensed on his windshield.

Back in the late summer, it had seemed a good idea. Five years he had been back from university, and five years the economy had remained stuck, congealed like tar. He had no money to escape the town: even the lottery ticket of theatrical fame seemed worth a gamble.

The mention of money sent him scrambling through the pockets of his coat. No, they contained no deus ex machina. He lacked the spare change he could use to gas up the car. Whatever he had would have to last to Friday when his paycheck, sans overtime, dribbled through the banking system.

Anxiety leaked from his hands into the area just below his diaphragm. He might not have enough to last the week.

He had parked his car opposite Judeen’s townhouse almost ten minutes ago. An empty lot sat to his left. In the summer, when the director had first sent him to pick up Judeen, it had been a makeshift baseball field. Ben could still glimpse a base track etched in the weedy grass. Beyond the lot, fading in the overwhelming gloom, lay the brick walls of another row of townhouses. And beyond them, brooding over the scene like a distended, fat hen, the huge drumlin, Topham Hill, from which the town took its name.

A needle-straight flagpole stood solitary on the hill’s crest. It lacked a flag. Ben couldn’t remember if the flag was not flown in the evening, or whether some punk had stolen it. He had lived twenty-five years in Topham under that watchful hulk of that hill, and he couldn’t remember when the flag was supposed to be there and when it was not.

Ben shoved back his sleeve to expose his watch. The minute hand was now closer to the second last tick. “Hurry up!” he moaned. “Ten minutes!” Their director, Garnett, had pointedly remarked last week about ‘some people constantly straggling in late’. Then he had praised something Judeen was doing. The injustice dug at Ben.

The warmth had now dissipated completely. November chill began harassing the anxiety in his bowels. “I’ve had enough,” he muttered. “I should just leave her and go.” He reached forward to the steering column. But as he heard the starter wind, he also heard the slam of a door, and a terse voice. He glanced through the condensation on his window. Judeen was striding across the road towards the car, pulling behind her a young girl. She tugged so hard the girl was almost parallel.

“-ever dare say that to me that again.” Judeen’s words broke into focus as she yanked open the rear door of Ben’s sedan. The girl half scrambled in, half struggled to regain her balance. She scurried across the back seat, and sat, silent, in shadow.

Judeen snatched open the front passenger door and flung herself into the seat with a crumpled sigh. She pulled her seatbelt, turned to Ben and smiled. The smile seemed out of place below the callous anger still brimming in her eyes.

“Denny had to work tonight, so I’m bringing company. Varla, you’ll be a good girl, won’t you. You’ll just sit in the seats and you won’t say a word. Varla! Don’t slouch! You’ve made Mister Dusselman late. Sorry, Ben, these things happen. I was all ready ten minutes ago. You’re not mad at me, are you?”

Ben turned the ignition on the car, causing a terrifyinggrinding sound: his engine was already running.

D. M. Kerr is the writing name of a Canadian writer currently living and working in Singapore, where he teaches game design and programming. His work has recently been published recently in Wire’s Dream, Ideate Review and The Interpreter’s House. He’s been late for practice more than once.

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