by Daniel Link
Evaluate. Supplies. Communicate. Account. Protection. Exit. She went over Roy’s checklist, then stuffed it back in her purse. She had been preparing for the better part of a year, but she couldn’t be sure she had done everything right.
“I’m cold, Mama.”
Not now, Gayle thought, then picked up her daughter. “You’ll be fine once we’re on the train.”
“All aboard.” The conductor’s call spurred her forward. Before showing her ticket, she took one last look back. The blue-black clouds looming over the city were ominous, but they weren’t the source of her fears.
The National Weather Service had predicted twenty-three inches of snow, the worst blizzard in Boston’s history. She knew this was the one she had been preparing for. She put Roy’s plan into action.
He had gotten so paranoid when he came back from the war. She supposed that could happen with all those bullets flying, but she tried to tell him nothing like that was ever going to happen in the good old USA. He wouldn’t hear of it. You have to be ready, he had told her. The difference between life and death could be as simple as a solid plan.
The list was worn from so many times being folded. She looked over each point again. First, she’d evaluated the situation. Roy would be so proud of her. The second she got the report on the storm she told Lucy they were headed out of town on the next train.
Supplies were easy. She stuffed all the clothes she could into her valise. There was no room for the first aid kit, and it wouldn’t matter that she forgot Lucy’s coat. How cold could Detroit be? No colder than Boston, that was certain.
She called her mother, told her they were on their way, and that Roy would be calling her as soon as he was off work. Then, in her best handwriting, she scrawled a note: Blizzard coming, went to Mama’s, and tacked it on the refrigerator. That was communication.
There was no account. It was just an envelope full of cash Roy kept under the mattress for emergencies, but he loved his little acronym so much he called it their secret account. She took all but fifty dollars and stuffed it in her brassiere.
After the war, Roy had become crazy for guns. He bought a shotgun, a hunting rifle, and two revolvers. Gayle took the small one with the pearl handle that flashed pretty when it hit the light just right. Protection didn’t have to be ugly.
She had to hand it to the man. She went back over the steps, and after tucking the gun into her purse, she and Lucy were out the door. Only seven minutes.
The train lurched into motion, and Lucy gave an excited squeal. Gayle was tempted to, as well. She had to stop thinking of herself as Gayle Lenihan. From now on she was Cassidy Turnbow, and she had Roy and his plan to thank for it.
She took her own coat off and wrapped it around Lucy. She could see the girl’s breath. Gayle herself was too excited to be cold.
She almost felt bad for Roy. It wasn’t that he was a bad man. He had been good to her, and to Lucy. It wasn’t even the mechanical way he made love to her, or the fact that he insisted she have another baby when they were almost done raising their first. If not for Lucy, she could be free and clear and able to divorce him with a clean conscience. Instead, here she was, almost forty with a seven-year old. He brought it on himself, really.
She checked her wristwatch. He would be off work by now. She imagined him rushing home to see if they were safe. He was good like that. She grabbed Lucy’s hand and shook with elation.
The plan: ESCAPE. It was a thing of beauty. It wasn’t just for her. Roy would be following it, too. He would also evaluate the situation. He’d see her pretty dresses were gone, and Lucy’s things. Then he’d see the note.
He had supplies. He kept a little bag ready to go if anything happened.
He’d call Mama. She’d confirm that they were coming.
He’d see she left him money for a ticket and expenses. That was a nice touch.
Then he’d go for a gun. He’d never leave without one. That was the one thing in all this that Gayle—that Cassidy—could count on; it’s what she was banking on.
Roy was smart. She figured he would notice the smell. He’d see the pilot light was out and turn the gas off. There should be enough in the house by then, though. He’d be careful, sure, but with a bag already packed he’d only be in the house a few minutes. Maybe he’d hold his breath.
No matter what, though, he’d get the gun. Those little pieces of flint she’d wedged in the dresser drawer made it hard to open. She’d tested it so many times. They made a hell of a spark when she did manage to yank the thing open. She’d also poured some gasoline in the drawer, just in case.
Maybe it would work. Maybe it wouldn’t. Either way, she’d be looking over her shoulder the rest of her life. Her new life. Whether she was a widow in Detroit or just running from an angry husband, it was all the same. The last step was to exit.
Category: Fiction, Short Story