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To There and Back Again
by R.H. Slansky

It happens so quickly our parents first meet
on the day we move in. His mother; too thin,
nerves dancing like a downed wire
in a windstorm; and his father, a high school coach
on and off the court, directing us
from the U-Haul ramp. A cloud of bemusement
at the way they adhere to gender roles
condenses over my own sundered
but willfully genial parents, but under
the coach’s strict supervision
his old family sofa makes it
up the stairs without injury.

The sofa, midcentury and hip as hell,
soon becomes the nexus
of our coastal nest. We are drawn to it
as if it has its own gravity field. His family is
a land where ‘til death do us part
is real, and the sofa is a floating island
where natives have sunned themselves
for more than fifty years. Sitting there, I imagine
I am learning their language, working my way
towards citizenship by osmosis. It’s where
we eat meals from TV trays
while perched at the edge of the cushion,
the post-war steel coils holding us up
together. It’s where, under cover of darkness,
we fold in together to watch through the picture window
as the tourists spill out of the downstairs pub
and stumble drunk on the street below. It’s where
our bodies are always entangled; dozing puppies
at rest while watching television and wrestling
as the stereo blares when our roommate
isn’t home. It’s where he curls on his side, crying,
while I am a sparking wick of wounded desperation
compulsively peppering him with questions
though the asking and the answers
flay us both. So now
its time to move again.

We are short on cash. From the passenger seat
I watch the rear-view mirror of the borrowed
pick-up, where the sofa shifts in the bed
along with the dips in the road. Brilliant teal
in the late summer sun, and still here
after half a century. The possession
we were most proud to show off, a trophy
that said everything about who
we thought we were; who
we wanted to be.

We drive through the gates, pausing
on a rectangle of metal. They wave us on
and we park to get out and drop
the tailgate. The sofa is heavy, but we carry it
alone, stopping beside a shipping container
set into the ground. We don’t know
where we’ll go next, but
we do know it won’t be together
so we must travel light.
Lining ourselves up,
we swing, heave,
and then let go.

A dusty-teal cloud rises
as the sofa lands. Though still
structurally sound, the synthetic fabric
was doomed to disintegrate
the moment it first bathed in light.
We had been laughing off
that its skin was growing thinner,
seeing this as part of its charm; the illustrious
badge of age. This dirty seawater haze
hangs, invading our lungs. We squint down through it
at the sofa lying in its grave. Legs broken by the fall
and splayed, sad as Bambi
on the frozen pond, waiting
to be buried under the next
unbearable burden.

There’s nothing left
to say. We climb back into the truck,
idle over the scale once more,
then drive to the window
to pay by the pound
for what we no longer possess.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Sofa similar to our midcentury treasure found at pintrest.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: R. H. Slansky, a six-time 3-Day Novel Contest entrant, two-time short-lister, and 2013 winner, has been featured in the Silver Birch Press ME, IN FICTION SAME NAME, MY MANE MEMORIES, LEARNING TO RIDE, and BEACH & POOL MEMORIES Series, Geist literary magazine, theotherpress.ca, and the Literary Press Group of Canada’s website All Lit Up. Vancouver-based Anvil Press released her novella, Moss-Haired Girl, the Confessions of a Circus Performer in 2015. Raised in Oregon, she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.