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HE'S GONE
by Deb Caletti

Genre: General Mainstream Fiction, Mainstream

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I used to imagine it sometimes, what would happen if one day I just didn’t come home. Not that I ever considered running off— I could never actually do that, even if I occasionally had that fantasy about driving south and checking in to some hotel. Someplace with bathrobes, for sure. I love those. But, no, the thought was less about escape and more about some cruel intervention of fate. What if, say, the clichéd bus hit me as I crossed the clichéd street? The Mack truck. Whatever it was, something terrible would happen and my family would have to return home to find all the daily pieces of my interrupted life. My husband would see my cup of coffee, half finished, a curve of my lipstick on the brim. My mother would see my flannel pajamas with the Eiffel Towers on them in the laundry basket and the ChapStick on my nightstand. My book would be on the bed, open to the place I’d left off, and my hair would still be entwined in my brush. There would be my really expensive wrinkle minimizer, which honestly didn’t minimize much of anything, and my phone charger still plugged into the wall. This is how it would look, I would think. This stuff here.

Whenever I had to get on a plane, I played that game in my head, too. I worried about what people might find afterward, at my house. You know, if we went down in a fiery ball, wearing our yellow flotation devices with the helpful little whistles attached. Does anyone else do this? Fixate on impossible and pointless mental puzzles? I don’t know. Flying used to be fun, but after 9/11 I did this stupid thing where I would wonder if I should have hidden certain stuff before I left home. Not that there would be much to hide — I’m not guilty of too many things. But I’d worry about those few old love letters, the ones I’d kept from the early days with my first husband, which Ian would have hated to discover. And that half bottle of Vicodin from that root canal, which I’d kept in case I was hit with some emotional crisis I couldn’t handle. Oh, and that red lace thong-thing that Ian gave me one Valentine’s Day. I don’t know what he was thinking. If I never came home, my daughter might see it and think I actually wore it. That particular mental image might scar the poor girl for the rest of her life.

That’s pretty much been the extent of my secrets.