Safe as Houses by Barb Ristine

The morning after my husband announced he didn’t think he loved me, I woke to the squawking of gulls and terns, which was strange since we didn’t live at the shore.

When I slid out of bed, the floor tilted at an odd angle and I braced myself against the bed to keep from sliding backwards. Below our window the sea raged, hurling itself upon the jagged rocks. We had always talked of buying a house near the ocean and now here we were. I wondered if he had moved us in the night as an apology. 

When I tried to walk upright, the house heaved and its slant grew steeper, so I crawled to the kitchen.

 My husband sat at the table, reading the Times. 

I made coffee, he said. Mind the angle

I poured myself a cup and leaned to add some to his mug, but that made the house pitch more to one side. 

I moved slowly, delicately, around him, careful not to come close, not to be in the same space lest the house tumble over the cliff and crash upon the rocks below. 

I thought I’d go into town. We’ll need new things now that we are at the shore.

He nodded, still reading, and I reached for his hand but the house dipped even more and I pulled away.

It’s all right, you know, I don’t mind. If we’re careful, we can make things right. 

The weight of my words caused the furniture to slide, dishes to fall, glasses to shatter.

The house shifted again and the table tilted more precariously. He gripped his mug firmly, still reading.

Through the kitchen window, I watched as the granite beneath the neighbor’s house crumbled, and rocks and house plunged to the surf below. I shuddered and the house shuddered with me.

Barbara Buckley Ristine escaped from the law years ago and hasn’t stopped running. She would love to live by the sea. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming in FlashBack Fiction, Milk Candy Review, and the 2020 NFFD Anthology, among others. She lives with her family in northern Nevada.