restricted access The Strike
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She really couldn’t say what came over her that day.

Maybe it was the scene from her bedroom window as she folded laundry. Across the street, a neighbor pulled purple winter pansies and one by one, replaced them with red tulips, which in a few short weeks would become a spectacular display of red beauties visible from any window in the house. Next door, another neighbor cleaned his grill for family steak night. It was “T-bone Tuesday.” Two doors down from the red tulips, Cheryl Sanderson slid like a mink into her brand new Mercedes wagon. It was beautiful—white with tan leather interior—the exact model Cheryl had wanted. The effort Cheryl’s husband Jeff had devoted to the vision in white totaled 623 miles, 7 dealerships, and 41 phone calls. He’d surprised her on Christmas Eve—and in the glove box, he’d left a letter he’d written listing the reasons he’d loved her from the moment he first put eyes on her, how her laugh always lifted his spirits no matter the circumstances and how he’d never forget that yellow sundress she’d worn on their first date.

She turned her attention back to her bed and surveyed her handiwork; the bed was completely covered with towers of neatly folded shirts in various colors and sizes, which, now that she considered it, looked like a city full of miniature skyscrapers. Downtown Cincinnati, maybe. She rolled her neck from side to side and listened to the bones popping and the crackle of what most certainly had to be cartilage, something keeping the bones from floating away right out into her bloodstream down to the bottoms of her feet. A chiropractor might be a good idea. Her lower back ached from scrubbing the tub and sweeping, and leaning over the bed to fold clothes had only made the pain worse. But the thought of another appointment jolted her out of her musings. What time was it?

She purposely avoided looking at the digital alarm clock on the bedside table. Something about the digital display of time reminded her of a race—a swim race or a half marathon—and so she always felt like she immediately needed to begin rushing around regardless of her destination, or of whether she even had one. She would not look at the stick-like numerals that always reminded her of the displays on the iconic ticking time bombs in the movies but rather, she’d check the kitchen clock instead. She found the undetectable, fluid movement of the minute hand reassuring, especially given the physical [End Page 114] distance between the numbers. The oversized parisienne styled clock boasted eight or nine inches between the numbers and so a minute physically stretched further. She had one and a half feet before she needed to get the kids.

In the kitchen, she examined the countertops with the mental acuity that years of housecleaning experience bring. They were covered with a variety of crumbs in all sizes, shapes and textures. The evidence suggested that the kids had eaten Eggo waffles for breakfast, and that Dan had made himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with corn chips for lunch. A few mushed up grapes that didn’t make the lunch cut lay lonely near the edge of the sink. She grabbed a sponge and began wiping in large circles, and while she wiped, she thought of Cheryl. Of the Mercedes wagon and how Jeff had gone to such lengths to be sure it was the exact one she wanted—the E-63 AMG wagon in white with the tan leather interior. She smeared the mushy grapes around in angry circles thinking about the beautiful letter he’d written, and she thought about Dan and the kids. She couldn’t remember the last time they’d written her anything—a birthday card, a valentine, or a smiley face on the kitchen note board—anything other than “need milk and toilet paper.” She pushed the morning’s carnage around in circles, and then suddenly she froze. She just stopped.

And without sliding the crumbs into the garbage...