Kathleen Brenock

Matchbooks

I grabbed a match­book on my way out of the Alamo Motel. It all start­ed on a whim, not the affair with Vince, that was delib­er­ate, but the match­books. Next was a long card­board box from the Blue Skies Trailer Park which I took for the clear pic­ture of per­fect pine trees against a dark blue sky.

That’s what I’d always loved about my job, the clar­i­ty of it. Actuarial cal­cu­la­tions on the prob­a­bil­i­ties of death were com­fort­ing. Death would come, that was cer­tain, and with the right data, the age of death could approach cer­tain­ty too. Vince liked to show me off like a par­lor trick at the bars we sauced up in before our sex­ca­pades. “Tell her your age,” he’d say, “and she’ll tell you how much time you’ve got left.” I’d try to get out of it, but everyone’s curi­ous so they’d shout out num­bers, “37! 52!” “OK,” I’d say, “37, let’s get a look at you. You have a good 42.67 years left. You should die around 79 years old and 52? You’ve got about 32.59 years.” But all this did was make me think of .000873.

I didn’t wor­ry about David find­ing out. He didn’t notice me much and he’d made it clear I wasn’t part of his world since our son’s death. In a way it was sav­ing our mar­riage. That was my rea­son­ing any­way. Then the match­book thing became an obses­sion and I snatched one up to com­mem­o­rate every quick and dirty. I went to the base­ment and dug out a crys­tal bowl and cleaned it up. I kept them on our liv­ing room table. I added a match­book from The Orange Room, anoth­er from Blue Skies, and on and on until the bowl was full and the match­books formed a jagged moun­tain.

The last time I saw Vince, his truck was idling by the San Saba River. I parked my car behind some scrub­by pines. “We could skip the motel,” he said. “We could sit here and look out at the water.” This broke our rule, but as I thought of it, sit­ting by the riv­er was some­thing I’d always loved to do.

On the dri­ve home, I noticed the pine trees turn­ing green­er and as I turned in the dri­ve I saw David’s old Toyota. When I walked in the door I saw a match­book on the floor and then anoth­er and anoth­er until it made a train across the liv­ing room, weav­ing in and out of the chairs and tables, and David was on his knees plac­ing the last one.

He sat back lean­ing against his arms and looked at me.

Do you know the prob­a­bil­i­ty, David?” I asked. “Even for a boy who’s nev­er sailed before? I mean, even one who wouldn’t know a boom from a jib?”

~

Kathleen Brenock has had her screen­play, “Searching for Newt Chungly” optioned to Baccus Pictures, LLC. Her sketch­es have been pro­duced by the Boston Improv and her screen­play, “Catch a Falling Star” was cho­sen as a quar­ter-final­ist in Creative Screenwriting Magazine. She has a MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College where she won the EVVY for best comedic screen­play.