I’m paying bills endlessly: Legal bills. Vet bills for sick dogs, and vet bills for cats that have passed from this world to the next. I get a notice in the mail that a series of tests done on The Child are not covered by my health insurance – rather unexpected, as they had been under my old insurance. The Departed took that insurance with him and canceled both our policies last November, when I didn’t deliver his new iPhone fast enough to suit him.
The bills are endless, the money finite.
And one afternoon, I try to put detergent in the washer – bought within the past two years – and the faceplate falls off.
The machine doesn’t even wait a full day to break again: The Child tries to do her own laundry, to help out, and lights start flashing at her. It’s jammed.
She calls me over. “Mommy, help. It doesn’t work.”
No, it doesn’t, and pressing buttons doesn’t work. Slamming them and crying doesn’t work either.
Nor does hurling laundry across the hall and screaming “I can’t afford any more problems!”
I finally unplug the machine and slam my fists on it a few more times for good measure and when I plug it back in, it seems to be working again. I call up to The Child but receive no reply.
I look around the house, and call out a couple more times, and she’s not there.
I start to rewind the evening in my head and realize I heard a door slam earlier.
I call outside the house, but the result is the same – no reply. It’s getting dark.
I think maybe she went to be by herself in the college next door. She likes to go exploring there. I start to leash up the dog to take him out with me and then remember, he can’t walk that far anymore.
I walk around the corner and into the college, calling her name, over and over. I hear children, but they are not her – they’re at a neighbors’ house. I see movement near a dumpster and start to walk toward it, but then hesitate when I see a lone man standing nearby. He watches me, from a distance.
I cannot see him clearly, but he gives me chills. I go back to my house, still calling her name, over and over.
At home there is me, and a sick dog, and a cat I can’t even see because he knows things aren’t right and he’s hiding. I find my phone to call the police, and when I pick it up, I can see there’s a new voicemail.
My neighbor had called me 20 minutes ago, so I wouldn’t worry. The Child is there at his house and can hang out as long as she likes, he says.
They’re playing cards.
I want to cry, but it will not come.