When We Get There We’ll Be Herehttps://i2.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Desert-Photography-Mar-2019-7.jpg?fit=1920%2C1280&ssl=119201280Ben SlotkyBen Slotkyhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/ac8d47e8821b2d3cc91b1c799359f266?s=96&d=mm&r=g
Brady asks if it’s his birthday yet and I say no because it isn’t. We talk about this a lot, about what he wants for his birthday. There are lists and they are updated a lot. He says I want an octopus fish tank and I say I know because I do. I have heard this before. Like a fish tank but for octopuses, he says, eyes big, tiny lines on forehead. I can see his breath. Do you want me to draw it he says and I say no. I say I know what you mean already, because I do.
We are in the back seat and mom is in the front. She can’t hear what Brady is saying because the car is too loud. There is something wrong with it, something rattling, and she says she’s about to get it fixed even though she never does. There are no car seats because we are too big anyway. It is cold and I do not have gloves on. Brady’s hands are tucked in his shirt. He lost his glove a while back but didn’t tell mom, even though she didn’t ask. It is early and it is dark and everybody can see everybody’s breath. Mom is pointing at a sign. Her face is peeling. Pancake makeup, clumps and globs, flaking as she talks. Maybe we’ll go here, do you like this honeys? She is pointing to an apartment complex. We could maybe go here. There is a sign. If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home or something. Vista Ridge or Villa Green or something. There are trees, there are green roofs, and it is dark, and it all looks the same, and it all looks the same. I start to close my eyes and I see myself breathing and I think about before.
It is like this.
We have to go, mom said. She was standing in our room, standing over us. We were sleeping on the floor. This was before. It was early. We gotta go, she said, c’mon. We are late, she said. We rubbed sleep out of our eyes, Brady and I did. We rolled, we groaned. It was too early to be this late, I thought, because it always is. Again and again, and this time will be different, and it isn’t, and it never is. Brady is up already. He is good at this, I think, because he is. He does what he’s told, he doesn’t ask. He gets it, I think, because he does, and this makes me sad, because he shouldn’t. He loves mom and so do I, but still, I think.
It is like this, and it is like this every time.
I wasn’t there when they took the beds away, none of us were. They were there when we left, gone when we got back. The beds, the furniture, the TVs. We came back to the apartment, to empty rooms. To dents in the carpet where our bunk beds used to be. Soft circles and holes. We were probably going someplace when they came to take our things, probably coming from somewhere. Probably hurried and late because we were always hurried and late. They can take everything, mom says. You miss a payment and it’s like that. She snaps her fingers. Gone, she says, just like that.
This is what happens, I think, because it does, because it has. You get up in the middle of the night. You hurry, you run. You don’t ask questions. The next place will be different, even though it won’t be. We just need more time, more money, more something. Brady’s butt is covered with Rocky and Rubble. He is pulling sweatpants over the Paw Patrol underpants he is wearing.
I liked Rubble the best too when I was that age, when those were my pants. These pants are too big for him, too small for me. They do not fit anybody, not anymore, but we keep them because they might. Keep them because they may. We move them from place to place. We move them in the middle of the night, first thing in the morning, and every time is the last time, even though it isn’t. Rubble is a bull dog. Rubble says Rubble on the double. He is four. Like I was then, like Brady is now. I see Rubble on Brady’s butt, I think, because this is what I am thinking now. Rubble is there and then he is gone, pants are up, and Brady is stumbling toward mom. Mom is looking at her phone. She is not smoking because she doesn’t smoke anymore, even though she does, maybe every once in a while. It is hard raising two boys, she says. Brady shambles across the room toward her and he turns around and says you coming and I say I am because I am.
Ben Slotky is a writer living in Bloomington, IL. His work has been featured in Numero Cinq, the Santa Monica Review, Hobart, Barrelhouse and a bunch of other places. His novel, An Evening of Romantic Lovemaking, will be published by Dalkey Archive in 2021.