It was a tatty piece of paper stuck to the fridge with a magnet, the kind you use for shopping lists or ‘to-do’ reminders, something you could easily add to if a new thought occurred.
At the top she’d scrawled;
‘Things I missed when the internet was down.’
I smiled at that. It was a familiar complaint. Her internet was spotty, something broken somewhere. The engineer had come out, the phone company had been called, an electrician had looked at the wiring. But nothing seemed to make a difference. Ghosts in the machine her husband had said. Though, as per typical, he’d said it in Latin. More than once. And smirked because he was at work most of the day and watched sports in the evening and didn’t really care about an intermittent internet connection at home.
1. Final three minutes of an eBay auction for my own birthday gift
2. Holiday deal for that place we didn’t make it to for our honeymoon
3. Sign up window for the ‘flakey’ volunteer post
4. Out of state job offer
5. Submission deadline for that short story I was working on for six months
I looked around the kitchen. There were dirty plates in the sink and a pile of take-out cartons stacked beside the trashcan. There were no clean pans and it looked like he might have been eating cereal straight from the box.
“Was it like this when you got home?” I asked.
He looked a bit embarrassed.
“She wasn’t here Friday. I thought I must have forgotten some event she was going to. A convention. Or some fair. She likes those things. She usually texts. Or leaves a note on the table. You know, something.”
His voice went up a little at the end, with a hint of a whine. It wasn’t him I felt the pang of sympathy for. His wife had been away for the whole week with no note and he was only now getting worried?
“Did you read this?”
“The shopping thing? Should I?”
Her husband stepped closer to the fridge and read the list.
“I don’t get it.”
He shrugged and stepped away again. I doubted he’d read to the end.
“The last bit.”
He paused and leaned back in, and followed my finger to the final point.
“I don’t know. I don’t tend to check my email when I’m home. You know…”
“It’s spotty.” I said.
“Yeah.” He said. “It’s always going down.”
We looked back at the final item on the list.
6. Email to you – that didn’t send
He looked at me. Baffled.
“I’ll have to check at work. I’ve got her log-in. Somewhere.” He trailed off.
I glanced back at the list.
“Yeah. You do that.” I said.
I thought of the un-mown lawn. The guttering that dripped.
All these things that had been spotty for a while.
E. E. Rhodes is an archaeologist, she lives in Cardiff in Wales in the U.K. with her partner, 4500 books and probably a few mice. She was one of the the winners in the first poetry and short story anthology celebrating urban trees – see the Urban Tree Festival “Canopy” anthology. Follow @UrbanTreeFest and @museumofwalking for more details.