He dreamt about the last time he drove a car. It was such a silly little bump-splat sound the car made. To Stewart, it had felt like fate tweaking his nose and saying a meaningless “Boop, got your nose!!”
At the stoplight, the woman checked both mirrors and then regarded the man sitting in the passenger seat. He’d fallen asleep again; his head canted at an impossibly uncomfortable angle wedged between the headrest and the window, a strand of drool swaying as it descended to his lap.
He woke with a start.
The barked syllables felt wrong to her, obscene.
How dare he? He got off easy.
She wanted to hate him, and she supposed in a way she did, but the man who never checked his rearview mirrors before backing out of their driveway was gone. He’d been gone for years.
The man looked around, trying to determine how he’d come to be in a car and identify the woman driving.
“Petey will be home in three days.”
It’s always three days. Why is that?
“Hmm, that’s nice, Stewart.”
“It’s Phil, lady. My name is Phil. I don’t know any Stewart.”
Does he even know a Phil? Every day it’s a new name.
“Can you believe it? It’s his first time going to summer camp. He was so brave, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, very brave.”
Petey had gone to summer camp, but that was six years earlier.
She eyes the snow on the road and envies her husband’s escape.
Good for you, Stewart.
He thought again about the squishy little bump the car had made the last time he drove anywhere. After that, she’d done all the driving.
Initially, she tried to get him to accept the truth, but it was soon apparent that her husband, Stewart, was gone. He sits and sleeps and drools, inventing fiction after fiction, explaining why there were no longer any sounds coming from the little boy’s bedroom down the hall from the master suite.
It was such a silly little feeling the car had made when he backed out. He still thinks about it. Anytime he shuts his eyes, dreams, drools, or wakes in the middle of the night, he’s again in that moment, remembering. He remembered the little squishy bump, shaking his head, and parking the car to get out to see what had happened.