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Surface Tension

Published: December 17, 2012

Caren swung open the front door and stood frozen in the driveway, all quiet except for a gentle breeze blowing through the wind chimes. Eyes wide, jaw hanging open, she stared at the pool. The black gate was flattened, rammed to the ground and twisting different directions like curled fingers. Both mahogany leather couches were submerged in the pool as if they were jagged rocks jutting out of a shallow shore. Their soaked, brown armrests floated inches above the surface along with the oak wood dining table, which bobbed like driftwood in the middle of the ocean. Amid the pieces of furniture towered the back wheels of the Chevy Tahoe. Its silver rims gleaming under the morning sun, entire vehicle vertical and sinking underwater except for the tail lights, backdoor, and license plate. From Caren’s perspective, it looked like a ruined grand vessel, its steel wreckage plummeting into the sea, the hull shredded to shrapnel upon colliding into an uncharted iceberg. Surrounding the destroyed SUV were wooden furniture legs from a dozen chairs and the cherry-wood coffee table, poking out of the water like thin crosses pegged in a graveyard.

She sprinted over the mangled gate and ran to the edge of the pool. The plasma screen TV was crushed under the front tires of the car, power cord floating over a white web of cracks spreading across the black LCD display. The car windows were shattered to pieces, shards of glass mixing with the crystal chandelier that had sunk to the bottom of the deep end. Her eyes darted to the driver side door, dreading the thought of Job’s gray, lifeless body fastened in a seatbelt or floating between the car-seats.

“I’m sorry Caren.”

Numbness settled into her stomach. Her veins pumped ice as she turned around to face the voice of her husband. Job walked out of the garage, drenching wet and wearing only a t-shirt and boxers. Lex twirled around his legs, sniffing at his waist as the man approached the pool and his wife.

“I guess you saw the pills,” he continued.

The wind dragged dead leaves across the driveway between them.

“I’ve been taking them on and off for a couple months now.”

“Why?” she asked. She cupped her hands over her lips.

Job nodded to the pool.

Caren squeezed her eyelids shut, so hard they started to hurt. Job moved closer to her.

“What made you get out?” she asked without looking, “Why didn’t you just stay in that car and die?”

Job stepped over the ruined gate and stopped inches away from her. He put his wet hand on her dry shoulder. Caren swatted it away and stared into his dark-brown eyes.

“Don’t touch me.”

She left him. Turned away from him and the pool. She walked across the cobblestone driveway and went inside the house.

Job stared at the pool and its wreckage. He stood motionless as Lex licked his fingertips. Dead tree branches swayed to the wind chimes.

He heard the door slam shut. Footsteps approached him from behind and then ceased. Several feet to his left, Caren thrust down a cardboard box filled with her pearl china, candles, linens, and silverware collection.

“Are you and Hope leaving me?” he asked.

Caren opened the box and pulled out a pearl dish. She held it close to her face and gazed at her circular, faded reflection. Then she launched the plate into the pool, shattering it to pieces against the sinking vehicle. Its fragments drifted down to the broken chandelier at the bottom of the pool.

Upstairs, peering out her bedroom window, Hope watched her parents throw plate after plate after plate into the pool. When they were all out of dishes, they snapped the candles in half, ripped the linens to shreds, and dumped them all into the deep end along with the silverware. Her mother and father faced each other from opposite ends of the pool, all the stuff between them soaked, ruined, under water. When the ripples finally calmed at the surface, Hope thought the only things left in the house would be her parent’s king-sized mattress and that old, dusty television monitor hidden away somewhere in the attic.

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