Thursday, April 15, 2021

House 147 by Nate Ealy

“You called me fat.” Mike shook his head and sighed. Never in their six years of being together or six months of engagement had he ever said anything close to that statement.
“No, I didn’t. I never said that.” Mike said.
“But you didn’t defend me! When Zach said I didn’t need any more cookies and then LOOKED AT ME you didn’t tell him to shut the fuck up. You said nothing.” Amy crossed her arms and looked out the car window.
True, she had gained a little bit of weight since they’d been together, but nothing that would constitute as fat. Mike had even gained weight too. He was still the larger of the pair, and no one considered him fat. They both looked good in their striped Christmas sweaters tonight.
The drive home from Avonworth to Greensburg was long enough as it was, but now it was going to last twice as long if not three times as long. The weather was good, just a few of the first snowflakes of winter, little dreams waiting to pile up into nightmares, which helped the drive. Mike thought he could take a short cut to make the drive even shorter, but now he was doubting whether or not he remembered the directions right.
Zach’s ugly sweater party was a good time while it lasted. Somehow, through the trials of young adulthood, Mike and his friends found less and less time to chill together. Just a couple of years ago they were spending time in cramped dorm rooms in college, but now they rarely had time for drinks. For one Saturday night in December though, they could all hang for a few hours together.
But that ended as soon as Zach’s couple drinks caught up with him and he started to insult the guests. Mike felt awkward as the host shot out at everyone, one by one until his sights landed on his fiancé. Amy had asked for the cookie tray so she could have exactly one cookie. It was to be her first cookie of the evening. And then Zach said she didn’t need any more unless she wanted to put an X in front of her shirt size.
Now Mike was driving his fiancé home.
“Where even are we now?” Amy was scrolling around his phone, messing with the maps.
“My boss said if we skip 376 after Pittsburgh and then head east through some suburbs, we can shave a half-hour,” Mike said.
“And you trust your boss more than Google right now?” Amy asked.
“I just want to get home,” Mike said.
“Me too. I’m gonna type in the address and you’re gonna follow it to a T.” Amy tapped the screen.
They rode in the car for a few miles listening to nothing but the weird voice coming from the phone telling them where to go. Neither Mike nor Amy noticed when the screen blipped, and their destination changed from home to a new location just a few miles down the road, before displaying Palace Road in Greensburg as the destination once again.
They were still silent as Mike drove into the home development. There was no need to look at the phone until it dinged and said they’d arrived at their destination when they were in front of a cookie-cutter two-story house. The black mailbox had 147 in red letters on the side.
Mike put the car in park. “Why are we here?”
“I don’t know,” Amy said. Her eyes were wide and she kept looking around at the identical houses all around them. “I put in our address. We should have gone to Greensburg. Look, the phone says we’re even in Greensburg!”
Mike looked at his phone. It did say they were on Palace Road, Greensburg. However, they most certainly were not. They didn’t live in this brooding gray house with the cement walkway to the front door.
“What’s wrong with your phone?” Amy opened her car door and stepped outside.
“Nothing. It got us to Zach’s apartment. I don’t know why it couldn’t get us home. Maybe if you would’ve trusted me on the shortcut, we’d be home by now,” Mike said. He was undoing his seatbelt.
“Maybe I was too fat to trust you.” Amy then slammed the car door shut.
She was going up the walk to House 147, and Mike had to run a few steps to catch her. The ice melt crunched under their feet like gnashing teeth.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to ask whoever lives here where on God’s green earth we are, and how the hell we get back to Greensburg.”
Mike followed his fiancé up the walkway. Dead roses were in the flowerpots by the front door.
“I don’t think we should be knocking on random doors. We can just backtrack.”
“NO. I want to get home tonight. We’re asking for directions. I can’t trust you or your phone right now.” Amy said.
She then knocked on the door three times.
Mike waited three heartbeats.
The doorknob turned.
“Hello?” A middle-aged man in a black sweat suit answered the door. He opened the door only far enough to poke his head through, only far enough to strain the little lock chain. He wiped his forehead and smiled.
“Hi. I’m Amy. This is my fiancé Mike. We’re lost. Can you please tell us how to get back to 376?” Amy asked.
The man nodded and undid the chain. He opened the door wide enough that they could walk through. He then motioned for them to come in. His hands and clothes were dirty as if he’d been gardening on this dreary evening.
“Absolutely. Please come in. I can help you,” the man smiled.
Amy walked inside the house. Mike made eye contact with the homeowner’s hard, blue eyes before following his fiancé inside. When the door closed behind them, they had no idea that the reason Mike’s phone didn’t take them to Greensburg was because of a little setup in the basement of this house designed to lure them to the same fate as the couples buried in the backyard.
The dirt hadn’t even settled on the last couple yet.


© Nate Ealy

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