Deficit by Sarah Vernetti
I turn on the sink, but nothing happens. Months have passed, but I still expect to see a familiar white column spilling into the sink.
“You need to take a bath today. No excuses. It’s been five days,” I say.
“Mom, no,” Iris whines. “What does it matter?”
She has a point. It’s been — how long? — three months since she went to school. And two months since the neighbors left. The last time I saw them, the man was loading up the back of their black SUV, while the woman paced in front of their house holding a rifle, a can of pepper spray dangling awkwardly from her belt. I didn’t bother waving good-bye.
“But you need to stay at least somewhat clean,” I finally reply.
Through the slightly parted blinds, I can see the street in front of our house. We live on a cul-de-sac. At one point, that seemed significant. I remember telling people about our new home. “Lots of families on our street. We love it here,” I had bragged.
Iris rolls her eyes as she reads her book and contemplates the prospect of the dreaded bath.
I need to check our supply. I walk out to the garage, where ten 2.5-gallon jugs are lined up against one wall. We’ll need to buy more water soon. I walk back into the house and pretend like she won.
“OK. No bath today. But we need to go to the store, and I don’t want to hear any complaining.”
I pull the handwritten list from the cork bulletin board that used to be home to flyers for school recitals and shopping lists and friends’ phone numbers. I start with the grocery store at the top, the one closest to our house. No one answers. I make my way halfway down the list before someone picks up the phone.
As we drive out of our subdivision, I notice that the park is empty, but there are signs of life when we reach Charleston Boulevard. Protesters from Kansas or South Dakota or somewhere with water stand in a row at the intersection, their long denim skirts flapping in the wind.
“Sin City, REPENT,” their sign reads.
As we drive by, I stick out my tongue at them, and Iris does the same. She laughs for the first time in three days.
Our mission to fetch enough water to make it through the current “water brown-out,” as the news often refers to it, is a success. On the way home, we stop at a solar-powered red light. I stare absent-mindedly out my window at the truck next to us. Finally, I realize that the woman in the passenger seat is staring back.
My heart starts racing.
“Mommy, why are those men riding in the back of that truck?” Iris asks.
Just as she’s finishing her question, the two men aren’t riding in the bed of the truck anymore. They are pulling on my car’s door handle, pounding on the driver’s side window. I take a quick glance in either direction, and gun it through the red light.
The truck follows us. I can’t lead them home. Not to our safe haven or our water supply.
My mind can’t settle on a destination. Where to go? Iris sits silently in the backseat. She knows. She lets me concentrate.
The Line of Fate
No Sleep till Deadtown
Pigs Fry; Pigs Fly
Ripples From The Weather Aggregator
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