The phone rings again and he reaches out to answer it but changes his mind. He will not answer it. No, no, no! It’s probably Obix calling to see why he hasn’t shown up for work, and he’s finished with Obix. Hitting his head has cleared his mind. He wants to forget his time at Obix as if it was a stay in a detention camp like those he has seen in movies about World War II where the prisoners are dirty and wear rags and wait for the American soldiers to come and free them.
After he has eaten his fill (four eggs, four slices of toast and nearly a pound of bacon), he takes a long, hot shower and gets dressed. It isn’t until then that he realizes that something is wrong. Pinky’s clothes aren’t in the closet and where they were hung are his own clothes, spread out. All of Pinky’s cosmetics and little bottles of nail polish are gone from the dresser. Opening the drawers one after the other, he sees that her panties and slips and stockings and dainty little things are all gone. He gets down on his knees to look under the bed, where she always kept her shoes and other clutter, and sees that it is perfectly clean under there, not even any dust balls. It’s not so much as if she left but more as if she had never been there in the first place.
He goes to the door of Muffin’s room and opens it. Boxes of junk, a discarded lamp, a broken chair, and other clutter occupy the space where the baby bed was. All the dolls and baby toys are gone, as is the rocking chair and the chest of drawers that Pinky painted and decorated with decals. Every vestige of Muffin is gone.
He feels elation for a moment that he is alone and free, but soon the elation fades and in its place is guilt. He believes he has done something terrible but he isn’t sure what it is. Did he really wish Pinky and Muffin out of existence, or it is something more sinister than that? He needs to sort everything out but he’s not sure how to do it.
Not knowing what else to do, he picks up the phone and calls the police. “I want to report someone missing,” he says.
“Missing how long?” the voice on the other end asks.
“I’m not sure. I was sleeping and when I woke up they were gone.”
“Who was gone?”
“My wife and child.”
“So your wife and child are both missing?”
“That’s right but not quite accurate. My wife is going to have a baby, so it’s my wife and two children who are missing.”
“Do you have reason to believe your wife left on her own, or do you suspect foul play?”
“Could your wife have left of her own free will, or do you suspect that someone else was involved who might have kidnapped or abducted her?”
“I don’t know. All I know is they were here and now they’re gone.”
“How do you know they won’t be back right away?”
“Because all of their belongings are gone! Clothing and everything!”
“Doesn’t that tell you that your wife left while you were asleep because she didn’t want you to know she was leaving?”
“She was here when I came home from work. She was lying on the couch watching a game show on television. Muffin, my daughter, was taking her afternoon nap. I went to bed because I fell on my head at work and wasn’t feeling well. When I woke up they were gone. Everything was gone.”
“If you don’t suspect foul play, then it’s not a matter for the police. Your wife will probably notify you when she gets to where she’s going. That’s what they usually do. I wouldn’t worry if I were you.”
“Then there’s nothing you can do to help me?”
“Everything will work itself out. You’ll see.”
After he hangs up the phone, he sits down on the couch and holds his head in his hands and sobs. He has never sobbed before in his life, except when he was a child and wasn’t allowed to go to the movies with the other kids because he hadn’t done his chores. With his little family gone—they were his reason for being—he feels absolutely alone. What is he going to have to do to get them back? Fall on his head again? Would that reverse the spell or whatever it is? He begins pacing the floor, wondering what to do next, when the phone rings again. He lunges for it as though it is a lifeline.
“Pinky?” he says.
“Hello, sir!” a perky female voice says. “We’re conducting a survey in your neighborhood to ask you which brand of orange juice you prefer.”
This is too much for him. “Have you ever heard of a brand called Go to Hell?” He throws the phone across the room against the wall, grabs his jacket and leaves without even bothering to lock up.
He gets into his old Ford and begins driving—through town and outside of town on the old highway that goes out into the country. He is about five miles out when he sees a blue neon sign with a cowgirl roping a steer. Over the cowgirl’s head are the words: Nellie’s Roadhouse. He mashes down on the brake, squealing the tires, and pulls onto the parking lot.
The place is smoky and noisy. Jukebox music can barely be heard over the din of talking and laughter. He takes a seat at the bar and orders a scotch and soda. He hates the taste of scotch but it seems the logical drink in such a place.
After his second drink, the seat next to him is vacated, allowing him to see the woman sitting in the next seat over. She is in her forties, with bottle-blond hair. Her face is puffy and sags in places, but she has tried to disguise its flaws with lots of makeup, so much makeup in fact that she looks in the dim light something like a circus clown.
Seeing she is alone, he moves over next to her. “Could I buy you a drink?” he asks.
When she turns toward him, her expressionless face brightens into a smile. “I wouldn’t mind,” she says shyly.
After their drinks arrive, he says, “You’ll never guess what I did today.”
“What?” she says with an anticipatory smile.
“I wished my wife and daughter out of existence.”
“They were here and, after I wished they weren’t here, they were no longer here.”
“That’s terrible!” she says.
“No, really! It’s the perfect way to get rid of somebody, and the best thing about it is it’s not a crime.”
“I must try it sometime,” she says.
“And that’s not all,” he says. “I quit my job. You see, since I no longer have a wife and child to take care of, I can pursue my own interests. I can be my own man. It’s the dream of every man.”
“Is it?” she asks. “I think some men believe their dream is finding the right woman.”
“Well, I’m not some men,” he says.
“You’re awfully young,” she says.
He finishes his drink and another one appears in its place. “Would you like to go someplace where we can have a real conversation?” he asks.
“I have to go powder,” she says.
He watches her mincing, jiggling walk in her tight dress as she goes to the ladies’ room, and when she comes back he gives her a big smile and they go out and get into his car.
“It’s a lovely night for a drive,” she says. She moves over next to him and nuzzles her cheek against his shoulder. He can smell her stale perfume and the faint smell of her sweat. He disengages his right arm and encircles her with it.
“You remind me a little bit of my late wife,” he says, when in truth he has just been thinking how unlike Pinky she is.
“Is that good or bad?”
“The bad cancels out the good, I guess.”
“Well, I don’t know what that means but I’ll try not to be offended by it.”
“Where are we going?” he asks as if realizing for the first time that they are in a moving car and he is behind the wheel.
“I don’t know,” she says. “Where do you want to go?”
“With you I want to go to the moon,” he says. “To the moon and I don’t care if we never come back.”
He swerves the car to avoid hitting a small animal in the road and, after he has righted the car and averted disaster, they both laugh uproariously at how much fun they are having and how good it is to be alive.