My wife left me for good this time. She euthanized our dog, an action I believed extreme. Quit her job, salted the flowerbeds, grabbed a suitcase it turns out had been packed for months, banged the door behind her. Didn’t even say goodbye to our boys. Just stared at them for a moment, as if ciphering. Me, she’d learned to unsee. Then she scrammed.
She abandoned others, too. Her father and brothers, her best friend Nan’s very gassy husband Art, old Günther next door, Dan at her office —
“He’s not as vile as most men there,” she’d sigh, the way she did when forced to choose between frozen pizza or bucketed fried chicken for dinner.
I never queried her about Dan, sensibly, because of my print shop assistant Natalie. Oh, that cutie worked under me, yes she did.
In our past my wife would storm out the front door, windmilling with rage, still in her pajamas or underwear or whatever, only to pace the lawn cinders until she cooled off and surrendered. Dirty blood purpled her bare feet.
One of those times, I followed her and said, “You’re not wearing as much clothing as usual. Are those new panties?”
I couldn’t read her facial expression because hair clotted to the tears and snot and whatnot. She howled.
Without knowing it, I took a step backwards. “What’s the matter, Sweetie?”
“You. Our sons,” she groaned through her teeth. “You and our sons!”
“Hey, don’t worry about us,” I laughed. “We’re fine. Come back inside before Günther gets an eyeful.”
Today my spouse’s attire was fabulous. I peered between the solar curtains and watched her bustle into my ground-car. Pavement shrapnel scattered when she slithered out of the driveway. Laser-welding those crumbled veins of cracks had been on my honey-do list for months.
“I guess you won’t ask me again,” I whispered as the gal I wed for life hightailed it toward the rendezvous point. The orbital shuttles ran hourly but it would end. And no woman wanted to be the last on Earth.
“Ask you what, Daddy?” The four-year-old. Second in line to my throne. Always smelled of poo. A question flickered and died in my mind: at his age should he still be in diapers…but how could I know?
I blinded him with a big smile. He was my youngest, a wee fledgling, ignorant of how the world worked.
“Shut up, jackass,” I said. “Go fix yourself a snack.”
He clutched his plush toy giraffe, tiny pink fist turning pale, and damn, the cuteness. His bottom lip looked set to fill the room.
“I can’t reach,” he whined. “And Mommy says I’m not supposed to touch stuff or do things.”
“It doesn’t matter now,” my eight-year-old said from his beanbag chair. He stubbed out a cigarette. Holographic vid-game characters froze in mid-assassination. “New rules. Come on, brat, I’ll help you.”
He towed his little brother into the kitchen. Condiments clanked and jingled when the refrigerator door swung open. A debate flared up; monkey-chatter about whether or not beer was fruit juice.
“Close the door, losers, we’re not trying to cool the whole neighborhood!” I yelled in my sternest dad-voice. “We don’t work for the utility syndicate, you know.”
Yes, my Pop had barked nearly identical words, and his father, and his father’s father who’d bitched about the expense of ice blocks. Pop’s potent refrain would conclude with my own progeny, who, along with the greasy indentation on my pillow, would constitute the entirety of what I’d bequeath this sundered, doomed world.
“Dad, he’s crying,” called out my eldest. “I told him to be quiet but he won’t.”
“Lame!” I replied, wiping my eyes. “So lame. Nobody loves crybabies OR tattletales.” A dragged kitchen chair groaned across the tile floor.
Outside, imposter early stars pinpricked the dusk. Orbital jump-stations, gateways to interplanetary travel. Thousands of them, the largest nearly a kilometer in diameter, circling, filled with our wives, mothers, daughters, sisters. Glittering cities clasped to the sky. A rope of knotted sheets men didn’t comprehend until it was too late.
Good riddance for the most part, but did every female have to go? Without letting us tell them why we thought they were doing it? Our male-only world would be fun for a while, until it wasn’t. I saw Natalie at my print shop yesterday and she avoided eye contact with me, same as my wife. New hairdo, outfit, the works. On her desk, a bugout bag. The feral growl in Natalie’s throat vibrated my internal organs.
“I’ll have some, too,” I said, loud enough for my boys to hear me above the sound of something unknowable sizzling on the flattop griddle.
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