Tires on a gravel driveway, every time, like plucking guitar strings as he slowed down. Full stop. Children’s ears turned to listen. Water taps twisted off, slowly. Hunger flamed up. Even the stains on the ceiling loosened a little.
“Hey honey.” Gristly side hug. He smelled like wood shavings and sparks. He put his hand gently on her back and they walked together into the house. A blast of hot air still needed to escape the hallway, it spooned itself around the screen door and hung there for a moment before travelling on towards the garden out back. A gentle kiss in her hair pressed curls and sweat and sand that still sat there from her afternoon dip.
“I’ll go upstairs and shower, will you wait for me.”
“Of course, I’m going to take care of some of that wood, so save me some hot water.”
“Hot water, whatever.”
With her dad they didn’t need words. With her mother she didn’t want them.
He strode towards his wife, curled his arm around her waist and smiled into her neck.
“Fine, fine now.” She kissed his forehead, what she could reach and tasted his skin.
A glass of water sat on the blue counter, cooler for the wishing of it. He drank the water and sat down to a small cushioned chair and unconsciously threw back a whole handful of roasted cashews into his mouth. When he finished chewing he asked, “how ‘bout a cup of coffee, then I’m going to split that pile.”
“Not the whole thing?”
“I’ll see how far I get with it.” Swallowed hard. “How was painting today.”
Three breaths and a glance up the stairs.
“She was testing me.”
“She was not testing you.”
She looked for words on the simple patterned linoleum and in the sink drain.
“You’re right.” She won’t go under, even if I ask her to. She’s tougher than I was. “She’s asking about light, but I wouldn’t tell her. These days I don’t know. Sometimes the rules don’t work anymore. What if I tell her and it’s wrong?” A question.
“What if there’s a hurricane and we all go out to sea, it will all look different then.” A reach for her hand. “I didn’t mean that.”
Lowering her long lashes, “You know I don’t like swimming as much as I used to.”