by G.G. Silverman
The man who blows up your house will do so disarmingly. Your appointment with him was for other, more innocuous reasons, the small drip from a pipe you fear will become a flood. When the doorbell rings, you run your hands over your unkempt appearance, a slap-dash attempt at looking less bedraggled. You hurry to the door, demanding “shhh” from the various children behind you — four, to be exact — who stop throwing toys long enough to allow you to cross without a flesh wound. You tune them out, forcing your best smile as you open the door.
The man on your stoop is attractive. Easy on the eyes. His are blue. And you have a type, a preference for cerulean peepers. Lord have mercy.
A pointed mustache adorns his lips, and a short neat beard announces his chin with a subtle but dashing entry. A fitted black vest hugs his toned physique over a white-collared shirt, and a black fedora rests atop his head.
“Hello, ma’am,” he beams, doffing his hat to take a short bow. “What am I here for today?”
You cringe a little at the word “ma’am,” as if you’re old and have no pulse. You usher him inside, apologizing for the mess, your living room a veritable junkyard of broken plastic cars and trucks in neon-bright colors and a graveyard of naked headless fashion dolls with impossibly flat abs, breasts that look like torpedoes, and legs up to there.
The man chuckles at your apology. “No worries, I love children.”
You lead him to the cabinet under the sink in your kitchen, passing a big smelly dog currently preoccupied with licking his own butt. “I’m sorry,” you say to the man, then you gently nudge the animal into the next room.
“No worries,” the man says. “I love dogs. I’ve had several of my own.”
The man opens the cabinet, then lies flat on his back to scoot beneath the sink. By some miracle, the fedora remains in place, as if held by mysterious forces. The man pulls a flashlight of alarming size from his seemingly small pocket, as if his pants contain an interdimensional space that allows for such anomalies. “Hmm,” he mutters. “I have a bad feeling about this. May I see your basement?”
“Sure,” you tell him, your intestines knotting at the hint of potentially unsavory news.
Together, you navigate the steep stairs to the cellar, which are also littered with toys plus boxes of dog food and packages of toilet paper. You flick a switch, and a dim bulb buzzes, and you walk the man toward the deepest darkest corner of the space beneath your home, past the large trunk you refer to as the Box of Broken Dreams, replete with dresses from your child-free days, slinky nothings you wore clubbing all night, tossing your stilettos when your feet got sore so you could dance even longer. Ah, those were the days.
In the farthest back of the basement, the man looks up, then shines his flashlight at the criss-crossing pipes that sweat and drip. He brushes cobwebs away to get a closer look. A spider skitters and drops from the ceiling. You shudder, and jump back.
“Uh huh,” the man says, flicking off his light, “I see. I know everything I need to know.”
You don’t ask what, because any minute now, all will be revealed.
His tone changes from ominous to bright. “Let’s go upstairs, and I’ll explain everything.”
You follow him up out of the gloomy, arachnid-crusted corners of your basement and into the warm light of your kitchen. As you sit at the table, you swipe crumbs with your hands, praying he hasn’t noticed the pile of dishes teetering precariously in the sink, as if a gentle breeze might topple them. In the other room, a child shouts, “Ow, stop hitting me!” You’re certain you hear crashing, the sound of objects being thrown. You tune the children out, leaning forward, anxious to hear the diagnosis of what, exactly, is wrong with your home. The man clears his throat, and clasps his hands on the table.
“The problems here are fixable. The structural ones are quite simple. But …” he leans forward. “I sense you need something different.” He pauses as if to gather his thoughts. “I also moonlight in another business …” He pulls some thin pamphlets and a business card from his pocket, the same one where the flashlight lives.
He slides them across the table.
“Have you considered …?” he begins.
“Yes,” you say without hesitation. “Yes, absolutely.”
Relief brightens his face. “Good, so you understand what detonation is all about.”
You nod, and an eerie relaxation comes over you, and déjà vu, a strange sense you’ve done this before. Or not. Your whole past life feels like a dream. Did it happen? Did it not happen? You can’t be sure. You’re on your third husband. How did you get here? You have a feeling you’ve blocked this memory. You make weird decisions when you’re desperate.
An accumulation of children shriek from the next room.
“You know how this works, then,” the man says.
“Uh huh,” you say, the words like syrup in your mouth, your head in a fog.
“When would you like to schedule your evacuation and subsequent detonation? I have slots as early as this afternoon, in fact. We can begin at any time.”
You nod. And you remember the children again, and the nagging sense of duty you have toward them, that if you don’t care for them, no one else will, and they will become feral, wild children of the street. You read about that, once. “What about the kids?” you say. “And the dog?”
“Bring them. I adore children and animals.”
You chew on your lower lip.
“In case you have second thoughts,” the man says, “let me explain my pedigree and qualifications, thus proving that I am perfectly capable of detonating your home. Of course, there are the obvious qualities that point to my favorable genetics.” He waves a hand over his person as if to point out his good looks, the swoon-worthy ones you have already noticed. “Plus, I come from a long line of hardy Nordic folk. Nothing fazes us, and we age well. I’m fairly certain we were Vikings, at some point in our lineage. My grandfather, well, he’s 95, and he goes out every night, has a pint with his comrades.” He raises an invisible beer stein. “SKOL!”
He pauses a moment, then taps a finger on his chest and winks. “Good genes.”
You feel his pull increasing, that magnetic handsomeness. His body under his elegant uniform exudes strength, the kind you’d like to test, in bed. Good genes, for sure.
He rambles on, tells you how much he loves his mother, as if hoping to seal the deal. A man who loves his mother must be a catch.
He hands you a pen, also procured from the Impossible Pocket, and a piece of paper he unfolds before you, a tiny origami heart that somehow becomes a full-sized document.
It says, “Detonation Contract,” followed by “blah blah blah” and “blah blah blah” and small fine print that says something potentially important, but your eyes blur. You shrug. No one ever reads fine print. You sign, and calm washes over you, as if you’re drugged. It’s done, you think to yourself. You push the pen and paper toward him, in a trance.
“Congratulations!” the man beams. “I think you will be very, very happy.”
You stand from the kitchen table in a daze, motioning as if you might like to pack some things for your trip.
“No, no, dear. I’ve already done that for you. Everything you need is in my car. And the kids’ stuff too, and the dog’s.” He stands and shouts, “Come on kids, we’re going for a ride! You too, pup!”
Barks and howls of joy trail out of your home, and you follow, letting the man hook his arm in yours, leading you to his station wagon. You see the Box of Broken Dreams in the trunk, but feel numb. He settles you in, and you’re dizzy, not even sure where you are anymore. He moves the car to a safe distance from your home, which looks small, and sad. The paint is peeling, and you never could keep up with that landscaping.
“Would you like to watch, before we speed off?”
You don’t remember if you said yes, you only know that you’re sitting here in a strange car with a strange man you may have just married in a bizarre business transaction. There’s that déjà vu again, and a low-level paranoia — memories bubble to the surface that you drown: Your last husband was a Detonator, and the one before. A lesson you never learn.
The man squeezes your hand. “Are you ready?”
“Don’t worry,” he adds. “I have preemptively called 911.”
He reaches forward, pressing a button in the dash of his station wagon. Your former home explodes in a ball of heat and light, the blast rocking the car from a distance, the warmth palpable through sealed windows. The kids, normally raucous, murmur in awe under their breath. The dog lets out a low whine.
“You okay, honey?” the man searches your face for signs of life.
You feel heavy, as if you could sleep for days, eyelids flickering in that space between dreams and waking.
“We’re going to be so happy,” the man says.
The vehicle rolls forward, slowly, and you close your eyes.
We’re going to be so happy.
G.G. Silverman is an author of speculative short fiction who lives just north of Seattle. She is also disabled and the daughter of immigrants. For more information please visit http://www.ggsilverman.com
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