My car, the Marvelous Maytag, churns like a washer in an unending cycle, agitating clothes from coast to coast. My girlfriend sits beside me flexing her muscles and tracing the lines of her tattoos. I regret breaking her out of prison. It wasn’t a big deal—minimum security, the same thing I get from her. That’s all I want. I don’t even want that much.
People magazines and empty cans of Red Bull litter the back seat. She lives on Red Bull, vitamin C and cocaine, when she can get it. I’m taking the Marvelous Maytag demo derby. That’s the only foreseeable way out of this mess.
We were in a motel when my brother Allen arrived. My sister-in-law had broken a decorative ceramic squirrel over his head and stabbed him with a sharp shard. Allen needed “a place to hang,” and I couldn’t say no. His wife followed, of course, furious that he’d called 911 and she’d been arrested.
It was a matter of survival, Allen told her as she stood outside the door.
It was a matter of survival for me too, she replied. Her psychology was infantile, and this was how she invariably handled conflict, by turning around whatever was dished to her and feeding it back.
I asked: Your survival depended on him bringing home a six-pack?
He promised, she answered.
It was cold that night, below freezing, and now that I’d dared challenge her, she felt justified to push her way in. They began arguing again. My girlfriend got angry. Sometime in the past, she’d been an M.P. And, of course, she’d been in prison and had lifted a lot of weights there. She threw them out. We watched them skulk down the sidewalk, heads down, plotting revenge. I hoped they wouldn’t come back in the middle of the night and do something destructive to the Marvelous Maytag.
Across the street from the motel, a phalanx of geese, who live at a nearby lake, make their determined way through the Target parking lot, dropping cylindrical poops and causing consternation among drivers who are drunk, or at least buzzed. They don’t want the soul of a goose against them in this sacred season. I watch from my motel window.
The geese head for Target’s front door. The electric eye finds them and the doors swish open. They pass the Customer Service Desk without a look in that direction. Their sliding steps on the polished linoleum reminds them of sliding across the ice of the lake. I don’t know the name of the lake. I don’t know why the geese have come or what they’re looking for.