Harmon used the last of his debt money to fly back to Orlando. He worked harder than ever before in his life, to find a legitimate broker and then sell the home he once shared with Carmen. She wasn’t coming back, and seeing that designer wardrobe still rotting in the pool would only make her feel worse, if she ever tried. A little joke, he told himself.
Carmen had been such a beautiful, vibrant woman. His favorite moment with her was when they moved into their first home, in Los Angeles. They’d been painting all day long and acting silly because of it. She wore the most casual piece of clothing he ever saw her in, a fake ‘Bayside Tigers’ t-shirt.
He didn’t recall the allusion at first, but then Carmen reminded him, and sang the whole theme song, confessed she had been hopelessly torn between Zack Morris and A.C. Slater once upon a time–and didn’t that guy wear the same stonewashed jeans in every episode?
What a silly, ridiculous woman. Not girlish, but really alive. He loved her, even when she was furious with him. Harmon had taken it as a sign that he and his wife would be able to get through anything, because even conflict should have been good to them.
But, for some reason, the petty universe had not been so kind. Yes, he’d made terrible mistakes, but Harmon felt he’d given Carmen everything in the end. He even pulled himself together and tried compassion, tried love. It was not enough to get her away from the brink. He’d only been able to save himself, by making one last pristinely human decision.
Harmon checked the mail one last time, before taking his suitcase into the car. There was a postcard from Binny Sparks along with so many bills:
Sorry we left in a hurry, but Washington, DC is expensive! Something opened fast, and then it went away, and we had to live in Virginia. But VA is amazing too. Well, there’s still terrible traffic; it’s the worst in the country–did you know that Harmon?
Carmen, I hope you are doing better. I’m sorry that we argued. If you ever want, our new house has a huge backyard with lots of pretty songbirds like in Snow White, you would love it. The front is a picture of the baby (he’s the pink rolly-poly one) the rest lined right next to him are the bunnies from a pet rabbit we adopted from the neighbor who raises them. So, we had a litter, surprise!
And, you know it means Sparky is happy too.
Binny-Bunny and Buster Tarrier Sparks.
Harmon sat in the car with the engine running, and wrote a note back. He wasn’t sure if he was going to actually mail it, as Binny had, and then used every inch of space on the back of the home-made card, to make a nice gesture. His response might go on the computer instead, but he wanted to finish with this all, here and now. One last glance up at the blaring Orlando sun. It began to rain. Yeah, he was going back to Cali, home, to deal with life as it was, and never coming back here. Nor would he ever go to Vegas again.
You are my friends. I’m glad for you.
What else? Harmon took a breath, wrote without blinking.
Carmen and I went to Vegas… we didn’t make it.
Oh God. How awful. But they deserved to hear back. Good people reaching out, when they know others are in pain.
But I’m still so glad for you two. I don’t know where she is. I know where I am–trying. I guess, sometimes, it’s just hard being human.
There was no other way to sign it.
A note: Animals was inspired by a course I took at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival a few years ago, during which the professor emphasized a defining element in the sorts of animal characters one finds in children’s stories–they are like ‘people in animal suits.’ Immediately, I felt challenged to try the opposite, when I always sought to write animals as realistically (or intensely, when it comes to fantasy fiction) as possible: I plotted a story about animals, who were wearing people suits.