Chad Patton is a graduate of Grand Valley State University. He lives in Grand Rapids, MI, where he teaches for
TRiO Upward Bound, coaches a swim team, writes and brews beer. His work can be seen in Specter Magazine, Safety Pin Review and Commas and Colons.
Back home: the empty paint cans and broken windows. The musty smell of moldy furniture and the taste of metal still ubiquitous in our mouths.
In certain rooms there were the remains of rotting pillagers. They had found the trap door, tossed our rug to the side and cracked it open with the axe they found in the workroom. The way they left it in the wood told us they didn’t find what they had hoped for.
Despite the hole, we still used the hidden latch, jumped into the trap and turned the false screw; heard the uncoupling of our final door and pushed it open so we could undo the lock.
Inside, our treasure glowed more than I could ever remember.
We went back home on the day that we lost Dougie. We were so thirsty that our sobbing never led to tears.
We found a grocery store off the highway to keep ourselves covered from the storm. Each night, with the coming of the rain, we watched the ceiling drip the milky white remains of the acid-corroded concrete.
Dougie’s skin stuck up when we pulled on it. His leg oozed a yellow cream that flowed like molasses. I asked Mom and Pop if they thought he would survive.
They answered with silence.
We got caught in the rain. Dougie got hit the worst. His leg was emaciated from the calf down. We tried our best to move around the town’s perimeter, but Dougie never lasted long. Each day we walked a shorter distance than before. And each night, when Dougie was asleep, we all took his share of the water. Silently, we knew he wouldn’t be much longer.
We heard about the rains long before they even came. Mom stocked up on bottled water while Pop spent his days in the workroom with Dougie as his apprentice. Pop cut the wood and told Dougie where to lay it while I helped cart the mound of dirt—smack dab in the middle of the living room—out the back door by the bucket full. It was a nice system.
When the rains finally came, we had enough water to last. Mom tried to get enough canned food, but she knew it wasn’t our priority. She knew we needed water the most.
And when the people from the subdivision came to our house, knocked on our doors, and broke holes through our windows, we knew it was time to leave. We knew they’d seen us every day, and they’d torture us until they found our stash.
We kept backpacks by the cellar door and, when we left, made our way toward the road. Pop said we’d fight them peacefully; we’d wait until they died before we returned.
Each night, together, we wondered how long it would take.