“How much?” Anna asked, opening the passenger door of the Jeep. She stuck a leg up, stopped, then swiped bagel crumbs off the seat onto the ground and climbed in.
“Not as much as I thought,” I said.
She squinted at me with her soft brown eyes. Like when I said I’d be going out with the guys for a few beers last Saturday night and rolled in after three a.m., tripping up the stairs and waking up Haley, who spent the rest of the night wedged between us until Anna got up and slept on the couch.
“Can’t go crazy,” I said, “ this isn’t Holmes on Holmes where we replace the hinges on the cabinets and next thing you know the entire house is redone.”
“Getting kind of close.”
Needs too many updates became our realtor’s mantra every time we had a showing with no offers the first six months. So we pulled the house off the market, waited a year, and tried again. Now Haley’s in first grade.
“Well, you’re the one who bought new tires for your car when we’re trying to get a house on the market,” she said, looking out at the neighborhood that had been planned forty years ago, back when neighbors liked to live so close to each other that they could pass a bag of sugar or half-gallon of milk without leaving their front door.
“The tires were bald. You remember last winter when I slid off the road and did a doughnut in that yard?”
My heart started pounding thinking about the asshole who tried to do a center-lane pull-out in a snowstorm. Missed two trees and a house by feet. Then pulled out of a front yard as I were leaving church.
We took the back roads to Home Depot, and the tires stuck to the pavement like cleats in mud. Something about new tires that made me rev the rpms at the next stop sign.
“Cut it out,” Anna said.
“Just testing,” I said. I felt the tires slip, so I engaged the four-wheel drive and cruised for a couple hundred feet before dropping back to two.
“What’s wrong now?” she asked.
“Nothing, Sometimes the four-wheel gets stuck after service.”
She sighed and held onto the door handle as I took the next turn too fast and crossed the center line because I was fiddling with the controls.
“Hope you didn’t break it.”
“I didn’t–break it.” I gripped the wheel, clenched my jaw.
“What’s your problem?”
“That we’re wasting our time going to the store for the hundredth time when we could have hired someone to do it.”
“I can do it.”
What started as new hinges turned into re-finishing doors, which led to replacing cabinets, a new countertop, then new tiles, and because I didn’t have the tools or materials, I spent the last eight weeks every Sunday morning driving to Home Depot, searching aisles for contraptions that I’d seen Holmes use.
“Okay. I screwed up. But next time, I’ll get it right now that I know how to do it.”
“Next time, I’m hiring a contractor.”
I spun the wheels again at the next stop sign. Pushed fifty in the thirty-five, then almost caught air over the two=lane bridge so our insides felt weightlessness for a split-second. A car up ahead in our lane came faster than I thought. Like it was driving backwards. I checked to make sure there wasn’t anyone coming, then jerked the wheel into the opposite lane for a quick pass.
I heard a knock below my feet, then again, and the front left side dipped and the weight of the Jeep dropped. Anna screamed. I slammed the brakes, swerving, holding the wheel to one side with all my strength to allow the other car to keep going. Then I pulled the Jeep back into our lane and onto the shoulder.
When we stopped, I pressed the clutch, shifted into neutral, and yanked the emergency brake. Anna was staring out the window as tiny flakes of snow began to fall and settle into the grass.