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.