JUST A SHOT AWAY by Hannah Grieco

I can picture Mark’s face, the surprised V between his eyes as he watches the news. Or answers his phone at 2AM. Or opens the door to two police officers. Who knows how he first finds out?

But I know he’s shocked, absolutely floored, in full denial. This has to be a mistake, he insists. Nat would never, she barely even—

We have video footage, they tell him. We have a clip of your wife shooting a pretty blonde bank teller right in the face. And Mark says, my wife? Natalie? She couldn’t—

We have another one of her blowing up a gas station, my man. Spraying gas all over a young man’s brand-new pickup truck, the 30-day tags curling in the wet, the gun rack drip dripping, and her flicking a lit match at that truck like she didn’t care if she went up in flames, too. But don’t worry, she’s a fast little number, as you must know. She smiled at the security camera and took off in a neon green Suzuki Samurai. It was practically held together with duct tape, it was so old. That’s not your car, right? Not according to state records.

A Suzuki Samurai, Mark says, I didn’t know those were still street legal. Where did she get it?

He pauses, before asking almost hopefully: did she steal it?

No idea. We couldn’t make out the plates. But she drove off with these two other women. Hot young things, too. Has your wife ever mentioned an interest in women?

Women, Mark says, and a whole new world of possibilities opens up, as if he’s been blindfolded and now he can see. And right then Joey comes in, rubbing his own eyes. His pajama bottoms sagging in the back from his pull-up.

Mommy, he asks? Is Mommy back?

No, no, Mommy’s some kind of serial killer lesbian now, Mark says, and the words feel true, they feel good, they roll off his tongue with a buttery victimhood that settles his nerves, relaxes his tight neck and shoulders. All the arguments, the simmering shame—he knew all along the problem wasn’t him.

We’ll get you a nanny, he whispers into our son’s soft hair. Maybe Grannie and Gramps can come stay with us for a while. You’re safe, kiddo, don’t worry about Mommy.

I can picture his face, the V between his eyes smoothing out as he walks Joey back to his bedroom. 

I should feel more than a slight pang at the idea of never seeing my kid again, but all I feel is relief. A luxurious, deep-lung breath that I hold for a second and then let out.


Hannah Grieco is a writer and editor in the Washington, DC area. Her work can be found in The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, The Rumpus, and more. Find her online at www.hgrieco.com or on Twitter at @writesloud.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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