"We're Leaving Tonight" by Teresa Griffiths

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We’re Leaving Tonight

I woke up on the couch. The television was still on, but I didn’t hear anyone around me. I sat up and took a moment to clear my head. As the fuzziness of sleep began to wear off, I remembered why I had laid down on the couch to begin with. Our bed was already packed and loaded onto the moving van.
We were finally leaving Pennsylvania. It had been a long eight years here, and we were ready for a new start in a new place. We moved here because his mother was close by and for the job my husband found but ended up hating. He was deployed twice while we were here. Between deployments, we watched his mother fight for a year and then lose her battle to cancer. Our time here culminated in his medical retirement from the Army, after being sent home injured from his last deployment.
We spent a year looking for a new place to live. We closed on our new home in Missouri five months ago. After numerous trips by each of us to the new place, we were finally moving tomorrow morning. As I began to get up from the couch, I heard an engine revving and tires spinning. What the hell is that? I made my way to the back door.
The sun was gone now, and there was a bite in the air. The misty rain was still falling but was now bitterly cold. The air felt like a sponge that would not hold any more water.
“Son of a bitch!” I heard my husband yell as he got out of the cab of the moving van in our yard. “Good. You’re up,” he said, as he approached the driveway. “I need your help.” I could hear the agitation in his voice.
“Okay,” I said, heading for the gate to the sidewalk.
“I need you to get in the van and get ready to hit the gas.”
I closed my coat against the wind. When I left the porch, the cold mist began settling on me. I shoved my bare hands in my coat pockets to protect them from the harsh elements. I think I packed my gloves.
I shivered once and felt my way down the steps to the yard. I hit the ground and sank a little. The ground was soaked and squishy. My hands instantly appeared from my pockets to help me balance, as I slid from unsure footing. I felt like I was walking on a newly waxed floor in socks.
There were muddy, mushy ruts in the yard from the moving van. They were slippery as hell, and some were deeper than others. I almost fell in a rut that was deeper than I could see. I finally understood the situation. The moving van had gotten stuck in the rain-soaked yard. We hadn’t thought about the weight of the van after it had been loaded. Now it was this large, silver-and-orange-striped monster, stuck in the yard, mocking my husband.
Skating across the mud, I made it to the cab. The vinyl seat behind the steering wheel was still warm, and the warmth of the cab helped me stop shivering. I felt for the gas and brake pedals, and my foot slid off both. I opened the door and scraped the caked-on mud from the bottom of my shoes. I closed the door and rolled down the window as my husband approached.
“Boards aren’t working. I’m going to hook chains to my truck and use it to pull the van backwards. When you feel the van being pulled, let off the brake and try to get the truck to turn left.”
“Okay,” I said. “How long have you been at this?”
“I dunno. What time is it?”
“Seven.”
“About two hours.”
“Two hours! Hun, I think the temps are supposed to drop overnight. Wouldn’t it be easier to just wait ‘til morning when the ground has frozen? We aren’t leaving until tomorrow anyways.”
“We’re leaving tonight!” he grumbled. He continued talking as he walked back to his pick-up truck. I couldn’t make out what he was saying and was pretty sure I didn’t want to know. I rolled the window back up to fend off the arctic air.
We had been waiting for him to be discharged from his last PTSD group before we moved. That finally happened a few days ago, and he was obviously ready to leave.
I heard his truck roar like a lion as he started it up. It was an impressively loud truck. The engine revved, and the van jerked when he took up the slack in the chain. He hit the gas in the truck.
The van started to move backwards. I tried to maneuver the van to the left, but it started to slide sideways. The tires on his truck were spinning, and mud was hitting the back of the van. It started to shake and slightly bounce. In the sideview mirror, I saw his truck. The tires were spinning, and it was jumping from side to side while the van sat in the same spot. The truck engine died down, and then it cut off. Ding, ding, ding. He had exited the truck and left the door open.
I exited the van and headed towards him.
“I don’t think this is going to work. We may just have to wait.”
“We’re leaving tonight!” he stated emphatically.
There would be no changing his mind. He was in one of those moods.
“Then how about we go to Lowe’s and get some gravel or something?”
He paused for a moment. “That’s a good idea,” he muttered, turning back to look at me.
Forty-five minutes later, we were back in the yard in the misty rain. I heard him spreading the gravel in front of the truck. I held the flashlight to illuminate the back tires and heard him hefting the paving stones from the truck bed and dropping them in front of the rear tires. He got in the moving van and started the engine.
Soaked and shivering, I think I crossed my frozen fingers as I waited in the war-torn, mud-pit yard. He hit the gas in the van, and the tires started to spin. I hung my head, ready to cry. Suddenly the back tires hit the paving stones and started moving forward. It sounded like fireworks as the concrete pavers cracked under the weight of the van. It had finally broken the grip the mud had on its tires. A few minutes later, it was in the street.
My husband rolled down the window.
“Put the dogs in your van. We’re leaving tonight.”

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Teresa Griffiths

Teresa Griffiths is a previously unpublished writer. She is currently pursuing her BA in Religion and will be pursuing her MFA immediately after. She resides in Montreal, Missouri, with her husband and their 13 dogs.

Photo Credit: Weichun Chen

Greg Houle