The road signs warn a corner and a speed to take that corner. I’ve never been able to follow directions, not even recipes, and this other guy with me is nearly blind with cataracts. It’s night and it’s raining and this guy also has epilepsy because he looks back into his head in a seizure. For people with epilepsy, there’s a trigger. Sometimes it’s a sound, like when someone’s chewing gum and the peace of it puts dogs to sleep. For this guy, his eyes roll back in a catastrophe when headlights bounce on rain. All that reflection runs lightning through his skull.
I take the corner like it’s a straight line and then we’re off the road and in a field with tobacco leaves browning up the windows. I keep going like this is any good for my car. The guy next to me is jerking around. He strains his seat belt and I feel bad for him. I put my arm across his chest like a mom. We run out of field and there’s a big house right there in front of us. No sense stopping short. I see a brick wall to put my head against and sleep a while.
My car breaks against the house and my door pops off so I can step right out like from a carriage. The guy next to me is still in his seizure dream. I pull him through the broken windshield. His left arm jerks over his head like an erection. I try to ratchet it down, but it stays stiff. I remember the time my cat died with her tail in the air. I had to break it to bury her. A soft snap like a carrot.
This guy is strong. He was standing at a bus stop downtown and he has exactly what I look for in another man. His beard makes his face a mystery and he’s blind as two milk glass marbles. His arm hair grows past his elbows and up into his t-shirt sleeves. When he got in the car, I asked his name and he ignored me and said he knew a place in the country. We’re in the country. If this is his place, I’ll be damned.
I drag him up on the porch and let him slump over me on a swing. No one comes out to give us shit. This must be the guy’s place. It’s a nice place. Big and old and the sort of place I’d want to be during a storm. The rain stops and the guy wakes up and says, “Oh.”
He tells me about his seizures. How he growls and cusses and no wonder religious people think he’s evil. How he bites his tongue and the blood stays in his mouth until he wakes up and tastes pennies. How the blood gets thick in his throat like melted chocolate and no one can understand what he’s saying.
I say, “But you didn’t do any of that.”
He says, “Well, I didn’t bite my tongue this time.”
“And you didn’t cuss,” I say. “Or growl, really.”
I force the swing back and let go. The creak of it is like a bad door. The guy puts a hand on my leg. I ask his name again.
“Simon,” he says. “It’s Simon.”
I ask if this is his place and he says it is. He says how damned I must be to have found it like this. Like I was blindfolded and threw a dart at a map and landed on the exact spot where I stood and threw the dart.
“Damned I am,” I say.
There’s a noise like a stiff broom. An opossum is hauling itself up the porch stairs. Simon puts out a hand and calls the opossum like you’d call a dog. The opossum comes up and chews on Simon’s fingers.
I say, “Thank God you can’t see how ugly that looks.”
Simon picks up the opossum and says, “I’m not all blind. I can see you want tonight to keep moving.”
But we don’t get up. Simon puts the opossum in my lap and the thing wraps its nasty eraser tail around my wrist. I try to aim my mind for the prize of Simon pushing naked and hairy behind me. I was doing nothing tonight and now I’m petting a opossum.
Simon says, “I’m sorry about her. She’s a little boy crazy.”
I look out into the tobacco while the opossum tries to open my fist with her velvet tongue. It’s like being rimmed by a tassel. The rain starts up again. Thunder and lightning, too. The opossum is getting scared. She starts hissing and Simon tries to calm her down by putting his hands over her eyes. I take this moment to stand up and act like I own the place. I hold the front door open for Simon. He picks up the opossum and I get a shiver knowing she’s going inside with us. It’s the country and you take what friends you can get.
There’s a basket of apples on the dining room table. Simon dumps the apples and puts the opossum inside the basket. The opossum looks like a germ. I run a finger up her long snout. She opens her razor mouth and yawns.
Simon takes my hand and we go upstairs. I remember my car against the house and I think maybe I’ll just leave it there forever to mark how we met. Maybe I’ll never leave this house. It has a smell where when I breathe, I smile without any help. No ghosts, either, and that must be a full-time job. Maybe Simon is the ghost. Maybe I’m here to manage him. I look at his body from behind and I think I can manage.
The storm gets bigger. The house cracks and pops. Simon says we’ll be OK. He gives me a towel and we take off our clothes and get in the shower. There are no windows in the bathroom. The house could fall down around us and we wouldn’t know it till we pulled back the curtain. We would be clean, though. We would be naked and clean and happy. And the opossum would be OK, too, though playing dead like opossums do. She would be a ghost hiding her breath behind a mouthful of foam. We would stand over her and eat the apples from the dining room table and wait.
Casey Hannan lives in Kansas City. He has had stories in PANK, wigleaf, Annalemma, and others. He accounts for his time at www.caseyhannan.com.