Drew Barth is a writer living in Clermont, FL. His work can be found in The Antonym and The Drunken Odyssey.
Cassandra Marshall pulled into her driveway slowly, making note of the skeleton on her front lawn. It lay across the lawn as though, in taking a break, some giant had simply reclined and lost its skin and organs. What remained was pristine, bleached white, and massive. Its head began at the path to their front door and ended with its toes just behind the line that divided their lawn and their neighbor’s. The hand brake clicked like a popped joint, and the car shuddered in the driveway. Cassandra remained in the car. She grimaced at the skeleton. Of all the days for something to appear on their lawn it had to be the one in which she lost her job. She could already hear Henry bemoaning her, telling her that her office job was only sapping her soul away and that they should have just gone off back to adventuring around Europe like they did before college. But she needed the house and the sense of stability. A thick air hung around the front of their home, only the buzz of a street lamp and a tire squealing from the main road kept the cul-de-sac from total silence.
She walked over hastily placed cobblestones and the weeds that grew between them to the front door and stopped. The sounds of the road couldn’t reach her. She went through her bag for the house keys and let them hover above the lock. Cassandra wanted to go back to the car, drive away, and simply not deal with the rest of the day. And yet she opened the door anyway.
“Welcome home, dear,” Henry Marshall said with a half nod, eyes never leaving the TV opposite him. A plate balanced on his lap, the brown stains and few grains of rice all that remained of his dinner. He placed it on the coffee table, the table leg clicking against the tile floor.
“Hey,” Cassandra said, the slightest tinge of a tremble coming off the last letter as though she wished to draw it out but changed her mind at the last moment. “You’ve been home all day, right?”
“Of course. Nothing but homework for me while you grind away at some office job that you’ll get fired from when it’s convenient to your boss.” Henry stretched his arms over the back of their green pleather couch and let out a grunt.
“Well, one of us has to make money.” Their eyes held for a moment, then Cassandra shook hers loose. She put her bag on a hook by the door. It wobbled under the weight, and she pushed it against the wall as though putting extra pressure would keep it from falling again.
“How about you, how was, what, your third late night in a row?” Henry rose from the couch and cracked his neck, just loud enough to echo.
Cassandra stayed by the front door, not wanting to cross the line in the different tile patterns that divided the entrance from the living room. Her hand wandered up toward the pocket the pink slip sat in like a bear trap. She wanted to take it out and show him, endure the snapping of metal teeth, get the whole thing out. Henry would have a blast with it. He might even dance from his excitement. Then they would be able to drop everything and go backpacking again like he wanted. But they were older now, Cassandra felt it in her own bones.
“Have you seen the skeleton?” she said.
“The one in the front yard. Is that something you were going to ask me about or?” Cassandra let the question linger. “Did anyone come over to ask about it?” She sighed at the end of the question.
“No, but, like, I mean a skeleton? Just there, in the yard?” he asked. Cassandra nodded and he pinched the bridge of his nose. “Do we call the cops? Or what? What do we do here?”
“Don’t you want to see it?” Cassandra asked. She walked toward Henry but remained in the entryway, the line between tiles only a couple inches from her feet.
“I guess?” Henry paused and began to pace. His toe slapped the tile as it peeked from the hole in his sock. “Would that mean anything, though? Would that implicate us or something?”
Cassandra shrugged and said she didn’t know. Henry continued his slow pace up and down the space between the TV stand and the couch. She could feel the rhythm of his steps through the tiles, as though they were still as loose as when they first put them down together. She remembered picking the tile out, saying how perfectly it matched the ones in the entrance before coming home and seeing otherwise. Henry already had the old carpet thrown out. He told her they’d made due for a week on bare concrete. Cassandra made sure to click her shoes as loud as she could whenever she would walked by Henry.
“Do you want to join me?” she asked before opening the door and walking back outside.
Henry shuffled up behind her as he closed the door, the night air hitting them like a moistened brick. Street lamps had flickered on hours earlier, each with its own cloud of moths buzzing, harmonizing with the murmur of the lights. The heat of the day descended on the front yard after the sun went down, moisture piling up on untrimmed grass. It beaded and ran down the rough curves of the skull, pooling beneath the lacrimal that watched the neighbor’s yard next door. Henry placed his hand on the top of the skull as he looked out among the bones. Other homes had all but gone dark as the night began to drag.
“Why didn’t you mention how big it was?” he asked, fingers rapping along the bone.
Cassandra shrugged as she walked down among the left radius. “I guess you have an actual excuse now not to mow.”
“The mower’s still broken,” Henry mumbled. He attempted to step through the ribs but stopped himself. “Christ, should we even be doing this? What if someone sees us?”
She sat on the femur and looked down the road. “No one’s come to ask us about it yet. I don’t think they even will.” Henry sat near the top of the ribcage. “What do you want to do about it?” Cassandra asked.
“I mean I don’t know. Is there anything we can do with it outside of selling tickets for kids to play on it?” Henry got up and started moving back toward the house.
“Where are you going?” Cassandra asked. She moved to the other femur, traced a path around the calcaneus to the tibia.
“I’m just going back in, I need to sleep on this or something,” Henry said. He shook his head as he made his way up the cobblestone path.
Cassandra stayed on the femur and reclined into the bone for a moment, the knee cap pushing against her back. The streetlamp stopped buzzing. The only noise she could hear was her own breath and the small clink of a moth bouncing off their front lights. She got up from among the bones and put her hands in her pockets. The pink slip scratched against her skin.
The skeleton remained on the lawn. The Bakers pulled into their own driveway across the street. They paid no mind to the skeleton. It lay in the grass in a yard larger than any other yard in the neighborhood, on the bottom of the cul-de-sac’s circle. No bird perched on its ribs, no cat found a space to hide inside its pelvis. A caterpillar crawled across the frontal bone and stopped, reached its head up into the humid night air, and resumed its crawl. The skeleton wanted someone to recline on it, maybe talk about life if it could talk.
Henry was the first to rise the next morning. He opened the curtains to watch the skeleton take on a shade of green as yard clippings caked most of the feet bones. Their neighbor mowed without stopping to look at the skeleton. Henry closed the curtains and fell back into bed believing he was still alone in the house. Cassandra jostled awake and looked around the room. Henry sat up and watched her check the clock on the bedside table. He stood up from the bed and stretched as the floorboards beneath him squeaked and sighed under the pressure. Their room was the only completely finished one in the house. They promised each other that when they first moved in—that they would at least have somewhere nice to sleep while they worked on the rest. But he could never get the floorboards to sit right, no matter what he tried. He eventually took that side of the bed to ensure Cassandra would never call him out on his handiwork. And besides, he was always up after she left. She would never hear them anyway.
Henry was careful not to creak the floorboards again as he walked out of their room. The hallway leading to the stairs remained unpainted for the last three years. He ran his hand along the wall, the same few spots every morning, to see if the drywall felt ready to paint. Cassandra decided on a shade of blue years before but they never found the time to apply it. The buckets remained in the garage with bits of wood and spackling materials he’d picked up in case they ever got time.
The coffee had begun to drip when Cassandra entered the kitchen.
“Morning,” Henry said as he leaned against the counter. She made a noise as she dropped into a chair at their kitchen table, a seafoam green thing they had restored before moving in. It was before Henry kept insisting they should travel again and before they both found themselves in an office all day. At least he got out while he could, started taking some online classes so he could work overseas. “I thought you had another day at the grind?” Henry watched her back straighten and eyes bulge. She looked down at the table and swallowed. He wondered if she dreaded spending time with him or if she would notice he’d dropped out of his online courses weeks ago.
“Oh, yeah, work.” Cassandra drummed her fingers against the table. “I got an email, yeah, something about the servers being all weird today, so upper management gets the day off.” She finished and leaned back into the chair, the vinyl making a noise not unlike a croak. Henry smiled and looked at the coffee percolate.
He poured two mugs for them and sat down opposite Cassandra. They sipped their coffee and avoided eye contact until she spoke up again.
“What about you, anything to do today?”
Henry swished the coffee around in his mouth and looked up at the ceiling. Only half the popcorn he put up had taken and the rest stayed in scant patches that made him hunch over dinner when they ate at the table, as if waiting for more of it to peel off and rain down.
“Nothing much right now, just waiting to get some grades on mid-terms. You remember how that was.” Henry put the mug down and scratched the back of his neck. He hadn’t thought about classes for days, hadn’t been enrolled in them for months now. He couldn’t remember the exact day he stopped or even why, only the red marks that showed up more and more on his online assignments before he stopped looking at them entirely.
“I see,” Cassandra said. “Well, once it’s done you’ll be able to get a better job this time, right?”
Henry wanted to slam his mug against the table, cause a distraction and run out the back door. Or maybe climb on the table himself and weep, asking for forgiveness as he bowed to his wife, and vowed to never act like such a devious bastard ever again. He would plead for her to just drop it all and go back to Europe where they could rent a little cottage somewhere without offices or online schools for the rest of their lives. Instead he nodded.
“Should we at least work on the front yard today?” Cassandra asked.
“The mower’s still broken,” Henry said.
“I mean the skeleton.”
Before Henry could answer, a knock crept from the front door like a reluctant spider. Cassandra and Henry looked at each other before getting up from the table. Catherine Scott waited outside their front door, clicking her nails together and looking down at their cobblestones. Henry put his hand on the door knob, and Cassandra grabbed his wrist. She shook her head as he turned the handle.
“What do you want me to do?” Henry asked. Cassandra looked at him and back at the door, wincing at another knock. Henry opened the door anyway.
“Well, good morning to you two,” Catherine Scott was not saccharine although her voice would inform otherwise. It entered Henry’s ears and left a kind of sugary residue that felt like molasses. She stood just outside the doorframe, shorter than either of them. She switched her eyes between both of theirs, never focusing on one for more than a few moments. “Now, I’m not sure what you both were planning for Halloween but we’ve still got another six months until you need to worry about it.”
Henry had seen Catherine at other houses before, theirs maybe once or twice in the past. She was the HOA vice president and brought out a ruler to measure grass and had towed a few cars in the past for parking on the wrong side of the street. He could already feel the blood in his face boiling.
“Catherine, hi, how are you?” Cassandra put on a voice Henry only ever heard when she was at work. “We were just trying some things out the other day, you know how it is. That one just slipped our minds yesterday. We’ll get it out of the way soon, alright?” Cassandra stood and smiled while Henry pushed his shoulder against the door frame. He looked down at Catherine with one eyebrow raised.
“I’m just here to tell you that you should consider what you wish to do with your lawn ornamentation. Now I know you don’t take much pride in your own house but the rest of us do. I’ve sent an email to the rest of the HOA, so, you know.” Catherine clapped her hands twice before turning her back to them again to leave.
“Oh fuck off with that,” Henry said. He slammed the door before he could see Catherine’s reaction. Cassandra looked at him, eyes wide. He dropped his shoulders and went to lie on the couch.
The skeleton bleached in the afternoon sun. Everything from the phalange to the talus had been covered in grass clippings, as though it were wearing green socks. Errant moisture floated through the air, settling on the bones, keeping the grass in place on its feet. A small spider began to build a home beneath its slightly curved metacarpals. The skeleton enjoyed nature, wanted to be more of a part of it. This was its best option for now.
Cassandra sat with her hands opening and closing on the steering wheel, not committing to holding it. She wore the same pants, never letting them touch the hamper for fear that Henry might do laundry in his free time. The pink slip would poke out ever so slightly, enough that he would see it, smooth it on the kitchen table, and wait for her to come home. He would yell about how he knew she hated working there, that she got fired on purpose so they could pack up their things and leave the neighborhood forever.
She backed out of the driveway and watched the skeleton in her rear view mirror fade until it was just a mass of white. Her left turn signal came on but she turned right, a habit that she couldn’t forget. She corrected and turned left out of the cul-de-sac and drove down the street. Theirs was an appendage to a full neighborhood, one that didn’t have an entrance or a large brick sign that spelled out that people were entering somewhere exclusive. Only houses built together, following and adding onto the road, growing further and further back until they pushed against a dead end.
Cassandra stopped her car in a Target parking lot, pulled out the keys, and sat. She didn’t move for a moment, only breathed in a mixture of vanilla and something called “black ice” that hung from her rear view mirror.
The pink slip crinkled like tissue paper in Cassandra’s hand, didn’t have the weight she thought it still would. If she blew, it would lift off and sail onto the dashboard. The sun would hit it and burn the thing away or at least bleach it white like an old receipt. She crushed it in her fist and got out of the car. A breeze blew in and whipped her hair in front of her face. A styrofoam cup clinked in the wind, echoing around the parking lot like an out of tune bell.
Cassandra stuffed the pink slip into her pocket and went inside the store. Spring cleaning displays hung from the ceiling, bright and iridescent. She walked a slow lap and considered the things they wouldn’t be able to afford soon. Neon storage containers, desk organizers, and one of those massive TVs they could mount on the wall. And if not anchored on the wall, they could prop it up on a new entertainment center. All of their movies and picture frames and bric-a-brac lined up along the shelves would give the whole thing a sense of being their own. She wanted it all. She wanted to load up the cart with whatever would fit and bring it back home. That would be the first step before fixing everything else, painting the walls, getting the ceiling re-popcorned, laying down new tiles. Even if they left to somewhere else they would always have a house to come back to, an anchor to steady them through whatever could happen.
Cassandra drummed her hand along the storage container and continued to walk through the store.
The skeleton waited. No lawns needed to be mowed near it, save the one it lay on. It watched the cul-de-sac curve, the other homes all in a similar style. Like pigs’ snouts the garages jutted from the houses, tongues rolling out to form the driveways. It could only see three in a line but they kept the same shades of dark red, blue, and gray to their facades. Even the grass had been cut to nearly the same length, all green with no islands of dirt. The skeleton didn’t know what life was and wondered if that was it. A wasp nest began to form under a rib.
Henry sat on the couch and opened his laptop. The cursor hovered over a link to their bank account but quickly moved to a forum he began frequenting after he quit his online classes. They talked about traveling, although most of them complained about their own lives and the inability to leave their houses. Henry tried to offer advice when he first came on, but realized soon after that he was likely the oldest person there by more years than he was willing to admit to himself.
“What are you working on?” Cassandra draped herself over the back of the couch as Henry clicked away on his laptop.
“Oh, you know, things for class, getting those last-minute assignments in, you know how it is.” He fumbled with the screen, angled it further down into the keyboard.
“Is it a group thing?”
“No, no, it’s just, you know, a study group. We’re all in this together so we may as well work together, that sort of thing.” Henry fidgeted. His fingers froze on the keyboard as he looked up at Cassandra. A small smile came upon his face as though he were caught stealing a piece of candy while he held more in his mouth. “And don’t you have work today?”
“I took a day off. Call it a mental health day.” Cassandra pushed herself up and walked around to the front of the couch. She plopped down next to Henry.
“Didn’t you have a day off yesterday? Are you finally getting tired of the grind?” he asked as he angled the laptop away from her eyes. The thread opened on the screen started with people asking how to make some side cash when they didn’t make enough to get through the month. Henry came more for ideas than to impart his advice.
Cassandra sighed and said she enjoyed having the day off, but she insisted she wanted to go back. Henry shrugged and kept his computer screen low. He opened his mouth to speak before a knock on the door stopped him. He looked at his wife, and her brow furrowed. They got up from the couch and walked to the door, expecting the Hendersons to come around to complain about the skeleton. The peephole showed a small image of three people standing by their front door. A woman in a long coat and a man carrying black camera bags stood with their backs against the porch railing while a second man rubbed his hands and looked straight into the peephole.
“Hello?” he said, drawing out the last syllable. Henry winced before opening the door.
“Yes, hello, is there something I can do for you?” Henry asked. The man handed him a card that reflected in the sunlight. A camera with wings and barbed wire encircling it. The man introduced the woman and the other man carrying the camera bags. He asked if they could borrow the skeleton for a while.
“I mean it ain’t going to be long or anything—we just wanted to ask if it was cool.” The man at their door kept rubbing his hands together.
Henry scratched the back of his neck and turned his head toward Cassandra. She stood behind the door and mouthed “I don’t know.”
“Yeah, sure, I guess it’s fine? Just don’t take too long or look at the neighbors,” Henry said. The man fist-pumped the air and said his thanks. Henry walked to the end of the cobblestone path and watched them set up. A tinge of desire shot through him, of being able to come and go wherever, to go somewhere else when he wanted. Cassandra stood in the front door with her arms folded. Henry threw his hands in the air and shook his head.
“How do you think they found us?” she asked. They went back inside and shut the door.
Henry shook his head again and fell back into the couch. It popped and wheezed like a broken squeaky toy. He opened his laptop back up and continued scrolling through the thread.
“Do you think this is going to be a thing now, people coming by for the skeleton?” Cassandra asked as she walked to the back of the couch.
“Maybe? I don’t know, it’s not really hurting anyone so I guess they can use it. What else are we going to do with it?” Henry looked up at her. She asked if they could move it somewhere else, maybe bring it to the backyard. Henry told her he had been thinking of something to do with it, that he had ideas. He knew he didn’t have any, but it was better for him to make an attempt than admit he hadn’t done anything with his free time.
“But you haven’t said anything to me about it.” Cassandra stood over him while talking, her eyes pointed forward at a point Henry couldn’t see. “At least you don’t have to wake up every morning and look at Catherine fucking Scott judge you from her driveway while you wave awkwardly and the skull is just sitting there behind you so your eyes don’t have anywhere else to go but across the street where everyone else is doing the same.”
Henry got up from the couch. Cassandra didn’t move.
“How’s your class going?” she said.
Henry walked up the stairwell, passed two different shades of paint on the wall along it. Those two shades they couldn’t decide on and just let them sit there.
The skeleton didn’t mind people taking pictures of it. It was the most attention it had gotten. A woman reclined against its rib, posed on the sternum. One of the men kicked the wasp nest away from under its rib. The three people were all chased away by the swarm. The skeleton would laugh at their liveliness if it could.
Cassandra pulled into their driveway earlier than normal. She sat in her blue hatchback for a moment with her eyes closed, fingers drumming along the bottom of the steering wheel. The radio was off, and the only sound coming in was from around the rest of the neighborhood. A fuzz of white noise rose and fell with her breathing, short breaths in and long breaths out like she learned in high school band. The messenger bag of memos, papers, file folders, mail, and mock-ups had been left behind at the beginning of the day while Henry still slept nestled against his side of the bed as though it were a cliff. She waited through several parking lots throughout the day, came up with excuses as to why she hadn’t come back for her bag, why she had left it in the first place. The white noise gave way to a white tent wall that had been invisible to her despite it being right next to the driveway. A white enclosure large enough to house at least another two cars.
Cassandra stepped from her car and looked at the new object that assailed her lawn. The wind made it immaterial, just barely. The walls rippled and shook as she walked the perimeter. A laugh, nearly silenced from the constant rumble of the vinyl, crept out from under the walls. The entrance opened up to her, facing away from the street. She poked her head in as the wind flipped her hair across her eyes, and she tensed at the sight of what she thought was the skeleton.
“I’m sorry, we’re closed for the day,” a voice said from deeper inside the tent.
“Who is this? What are you?” Cassandra asked before pausing to place a hand against her head. “No, wait, never mind. What are you doing on my lawn?”
“Oh, hey, I didn’t think you had come back yet.” Henry walked forward from inside the tent. “Wait, hold on.” He went back and fiddled with wires on the ground. The white walls shone an orange glow as a circle of Christmas lights popped on around the top of the tent. Cartoon bats and cobwebs lined the walls along with a menagerie of black shadows covered in chalk dust that slightly resembled bones. A couple of other people inside the tent wore masks of different skull shapes and sizes. Others pushed the masks over their sweaty hair to get at cans and bottles better. They continued to laugh and talk as Henry walked over with black curtains hanging over his shoulders like massive, limp wings. He pushed the half skull from his face as he went to touch Cassandra’s shoulder.
“What is this, what’s going on?” she asked.
“It’s fine. It’s just something we put together.” Henry tossed his mask by the rest of the real skeleton.
“Why? What did you do? Who did this?” Cassandra’s eyes moved like a moth without a light, scanning faces and decorations. She recognized them all, the decorations from Halloweens past that they kept around despite their dollar-store quality. The Christmas lights that used to hang in the front windows when the molding was still there and the outlet still had wires attached to it.
“It’s just some people from my study group. I told them about our situation and a few of the local guys wanted to do something fun with it.” He looked back over his shoulder at raised bottles and waved.
“But this tent, the costumes, where did you get all of this? We can’t afford all of this.” Cassandra rubbed her hands as though she were washing them.
“Sure we can, I’m not bringing anything in right now but we’re thinking about selling tickets for this next time. We’ll make back twice as much in a day. Don’t worry about it.”
“I don’t want this on the lawn,” she said, the words rushing past her teeth. Henry gave her a soft look as he put his hand on her arm.
“Oh, don’t be like that, we’re just having a bit of fun. Right, everyone?” Henry looked back at the gathered dozen, and they cheered before returning to themselves, unaware of anything outside of their bones.
“When did you come up with this?” Cassandra spoke after a pause.
“Last night, after I went upstairs. I don’t know, it just seemed like a cool idea, something to pass the time.” Henry shuffled and closed his mouth as though keeping another word from falling out.
Cassandra’s shoulders dropped and raised. She straightened her back and looked at Henry, past Henry at the skeleton, all of the people looking like skeletons. A hint of worry started to flutter away in her mind, caught on the breeze that came past the tent. She didn’t know how many people had come by to see the skeleton, but Henry looked close to exhausted with his costume on, with the other people behind him looking similar. The idea of doing this, of turning their lawn into a kind of attraction, a spectacle for anyone to see, tickled something inside her. She knew it wouldn’t be enough, it would never be enough to replace her own income, but with Henry nearly done with his classes, it could be enough to make them comfortable, if only for a little while. And it was their house, their skeleton.
“When did you want to start selling tickets?” she asked.
The skeleton was patient. Even after the people had left and the lights had been turned off it was left alone in the tent with the plastic spiders and bats. They hung from the ceiling and the walls. But no one dared to touch the skeleton, no one wanted to add anything to it. They said it would detract from the experience if they hung cotton cobwebs between the tibia and fibula, that it would turn it into a sideshow. The skeleton paid them little attention but wouldn’t have minded a bit of adornment. It would at least liven things up bit more.
“It’s only a few more minutes before you too can experience the enigma of the skeleton,” Henry intoned in a voice not completely unlike Vincent Price. He danced about in his black curtain wings and mask, attempted to entertain the people waiting in the line that had begun to stretch beyond the borders of the tent. He felt as though this was his true calling, the ringmaster to some spectacle. If he and Cassandra were lucky, they could start their own circus with the skeleton. Cars lined around the entirety of the cul-de-sac, the only noise that could be heard over the small stereo playing creepy music in the tent was an almost constant beeping of horns and exhausts. Henry continued to prance, eyes went back and forth to check the line and how many people were going out of the tent. They were eyes that were unable to see the rest of the neighborhood looking on at their spectacle. Cassandra walked from the tent and pulled her skull mask off. Henry crept up next to her, always staying in character. He enjoyed it, the life of a ringmaster, of directing a crowd to see something strange. He imagined himself in striped shirts and suspenders, taking nickels from kids waiting to see bearded women and lizard men.
“Christ, why is it so hot in there?” she asked without seeing him and fanned herself with the mask.
“It’s as though it’s a portal to hell itself!” He gesticulated flames with his fingers. Cassandra let a small laugh escape. He hugged her, and she put an arm around him. Henry saw Catherine Scott, made eye contact with her from their house on the other side of the lawn. Her arms were folded. He sighed and looked away from where she stood. He patted Cassandra’s back and made his way to the line without saying anything else to his wife. “And remember to give your dollars to the skeleton holding the orange bucket ooooooooh.” Henry continued to dance about. He stopped when the sirens started. Three squad cars pulled into the neighborhood with their lights flashing and sirens whooping over the noise of the crowd. The cops parked in the middle of the street and made their way up to the tent. The line dispersed as the small crowd made their way back to their cars. Henry pulled his mask off and cupped his hands.
“Please don’t leave. We can get this sorted out.” But his voice only traveled so far. Henry’s skeleton friends from inside the tent ran off through the lawn for their own cars. Cassandra came behind him and held onto the orange bucket she had picked up from one of the running skeletons.
“I told you to get rid of it,” Catherine Scott said as she walked from her side of the lawn. “But no, you had to go make this big spectacle of your decorations and look at what I had to do.” She shook her head.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Henry shouted.
Catherine Scott shrugged. “What? HOA regulations clearly state that crowds are not allowed to gather on front lawns without proper permits and permission from the HOA. As I didn’t hear anything about this, I did what any law abiding citizen should do.” She walked off and left Cassandra and Henry to stand and watch as the cops slowly approached the tent.
“Well, we’ve got about fifty bucks here,” Cassandra jangled the bucket. Henry pulled his mask off and tossed it at the tent a few feet away. It bounced off the white tarp and landed in the grass facing down. Thoughts of a full traveling circus, of lizard men and bearded women evaporated from his thoughts. It moved instead back to the tent, to their own skeleton.
“I guess you’ll have to go back to the grind again, huh? So much for vacation time.” He dropped down and sat in the grass. The cops poked around the tent as Catherine Scott pointed them toward Henry and Cassandra. “And I thought all of this would work out.”
The cops’ questions came quick and terse, mostly about the skeleton and where they got it from. Henry told them it appeared on their lawn one night and Cassandra concurred. And the cops didn’t believe that. Henry knew cops never believed anything sincere.
Yellow police tape stretched across the white tent and along the perimeter of their home. Henry wanted to pull it all off and toss it over into the Scotts’ yard but Cassandra pulled him back to their front porch. She disappeared into the house and came back after a few moments as Henry steamed and tapped the wood porch he sat on. The pink wad of paper dropped into Henry’s lap as Cassandra sat down next to him. He read through it and his face went blank.
“It’s been two months since I dropped out of my online classes. I didn’t know how long I could go without saying anything,” Henry said. “Do you know how boring the house gets with nothing to do?” He paused and wanted to continue. He wanted to tell her about what they could do now, about how they could pack up now and run away to adventure like they had years before. But he couldn’t make the words come out, not a damn one.
“What are we going to do?” Henry said. Cassandra shrugged next to him. He knew all of their plans would evaporate like the rest of their savings and there wasn’t much either of them could do.
“Didn’t we used to have plans for our lives?” Cassandra said. Henry lay down on the porch, arms and legs outstretched. Cassandra slapped his leg. She slapped it again and again until she got tired of the leg and moved on to his chest and face. Henry’s face didn’t change the whole time. He let the short stings trace themselves across his cheeks. Cassandra got up and walked to the tent. He watched her enter and close the flaps behind her. Henry stood up, face flushed with short pain and ears ringing. He went in the tent and saw Cassandra sitting on one of the femurs. He shuffled over and she let him take a seat next to her. The backpacks and adventure spilled from his mind. He only wanted to sit on the skeleton and see what could happen with them together.
“I think we need to talk.” Henry said.