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Home → Wonderful by Tom McMillan

Bobby buys the corner unit of that new subdivision, because why? Because his whole life needs a shave and a haircut. He signs the mortgage papers wondering if his signature looks too boyish. He talks out the corner of his mouth so his teeth don’t look too crooked, so his face doesn’t look so much like, well, itself. ←. Ralph buys that wartime bungalow with cracking white siding because tech stocks are up, because he’s a man and because he can. Money is living, of course, and living best be good. ←. Donna buys the one-bedroom house because it’s 100 miles from Ohio and a fixer-upper. Exactly what I need, she tells her sister, who says nothing. Sweat, ambition, rebirth. ←. Cole rents the basement suite because Nixon is President and when the bombs hit basements will matter. Awake, he pictures nuclear combustions; asleep, he pictures his father’s empty face and a symphony of cows screaming inside a flaming barn. ←. Gladys buys because the house is so clean and virgin its tile shines, because her gut has an eye for value in everything except men and because the size of your dreams depends on the depth of your misery. ←. Orson builds the home because he can’t sleep, his skin is paper and tumours balloon inside his colon. One night he stares at the pasture beyond their kitchen, the dry dugout and the three-strand barb wire, thinking how every man needs a legacy. ↑. ↓.
Orson’s widow sells the home two days after contractors finish grouting the tile. She signs the sale papers wearing white gloves and a cheap red watch he bought from the hospital gift shop. →. Gladys sells the house after her husband returns from the war and runs off to Minnesota. For a butcher’s daughter, people say. She spends a final night inside the living room with the shades drawn, spilling vermouth and dancing alone. →. Cole, he leaves after his dystopia gets published, but not before pulling a bender and lighting the hallway carpet on fire. →. Donna sells because early onset Alzheimer’s hits even harder than Jimmy did and her ex-husband found Jesus hiding behind sobriety. In Ohio, crickets sing all August. →. Ralph knocks the entire block down, feeling more the real estate mogul with every blow, but sells the units below cost to pay for experimental blood transfusions in Mexico. Spends the 98-minute flight to Cancun wishing he’d lived differently, stepped slower, worn condoms more. Worn them ever. He worries for his children, not his ex-wife. →. Bobby buys furniture online, every unassembled piece a muted pastel, already knowing he’ll never sell this place, not ever. He cleans the kitchen, hears the clock ticking towards that day when a woman walks inside as an acquaintance or cleaning lady and leaves his lover or wife. It could be anyone, anytime. Life could change any day now. ↗.
Tom McMillan‘s fiction has appeared in the Toronto Star, the Feathertale Review and many other places. He once saved a horse’s life. It was not the least bit grateful.