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Searching for Paradise in Parker, PA

Chapter One

Addy hits the wall . . . Addy Lipton has been nurturing a wild desire for a good twenty-two months to drive her 1988 dark blue Toyota Corolla right through the closed garage door of the lovely two-story white brick and cedar home she shares with a man she vaguely remembers marrying a very long time ago.

The Toyota has not been inside of the garage since 1992, and the last time she opened the kitchen door leading into the garage and stepped inside of what she now calls The Kingdom of Krap was just days before her milestone fiftieth birthday and very close to two years ago. Addy had opened the door to set a bottle of wine in the cool garage so it would chill before her sister showed up to help her celebrate. She placed it next to the bag of dog food left over from Barney the black lab (who had passed without a doubt into doggie heaven in 2001), and then dared to look into the bowels of the garage where she had not bothered to gaze for a very long time.

“What the hell,” she said out loud as she raised her eyes and wondered if she had suddenly been transported to a used- appliance store.

The garage, totally her husband Lucky’s disgusting domain, was filled to high tide with partially dismantled refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, microwaves, and various other machines that must have been something workable at one time when they could actually be plugged in and turned on.

“Lucky, Lucky, Lucky,” she said through a jaw that was as tight as a rusted dishwasher bolt, scanning past the machines and having a moment. A moment of desperation, wonderment, tepid fury, and astonishment at what not only her assumed half of the garage but also her entire life in halves and quarters and eighths and sixteenths had become.

“A garage stuffed with crap that my husband will use with his goofyass friends, not to fix, but to spread across each other’s lawns like teenagers,” Addy told herself, turning slightly in the kitchen doorway to see two piles of old bowling balls, a stack of wire coat hangers, a lawnmower that she knew for a fact did not mow, and the back end of a 1951 Chevy that Lucky had been working on since he found its decaying hulk sticking out of his uncle’s old shed and dragged it home when their son was a baby. Nineteen years. The car had not moved, or turned over, or gravitated to the local antique car parade, in nineteen years.

Addy reached over and picked up the wine bottle. She told herself that she would not now wait for her sister, that she would open the bottle immediately and drink it warm. Warm like everything else in her life. Nothing hot or cold or spicy but every damn thing seeming to sit right in the middle as if waiting for something, someone, anything to push it off to one side.

Later, after that bottle was empty and her sister Helen—Hell, as she was aptly nicknamed—stole her away for a birthday dinner where Lucky managed to show up on time, after she was back home, Addy could not stop thinking about the damn garage, which as a birthday gift to herself she began calling The Kingdom of Krap.

And the garage drove her crazy with wondering.

Wondering what else might be stored behind ragged cardboard boxes and the assorted stacks of junk Lucky and his ridiculous friends scavenged from behind stores and each other’s garbage piles.

Wondering how a section of the house and her life had gotten so out of control.

Wondering what would happen if Lucky spent half as much time with her as he did with his obsessive collecting and make-believe restoration projects.

Wondering why she was somehow content to sit and simply observe as her marriage seemed to drift off to a place where she could barely see the outlines of what it used to be.

Wondering what happened to the sensitive, romantic, often wild and terribly lively man she had fallen in love with when he’d swept her off her feet and into his strong and stunningly passionate arms.

Wondering if she was really prepared to spend the next thirty years lurking at the edge of her garage, and her life, if the family genes held up and she made it that far.

And that’s when she started wondering what it might feel like to drive the car right through the door.

She imagined it first as an accident. Something that she did as she bent down to the back seat to grab the papers and books and piles of third-grade projects that she needed to examine for school the following day. Addy would close her eyes during recess duty or a staff meeting and see herself reaching backwards just as her foot slipped off the brake and hit the gas pedal while the car was in first gear.

The car would lurch forward like a large stone that had been pried loose after much pushing. It would jump just as she turned to see the front end of the little Toyota crash an inch below the handle in the middle of the garage door. And then she would see the old Chevy buckle, the dishwashers spread as if Moses were driving the car, and coat hangers fly like thin birds who have just spotted a large dog at the side of the house.

Sometimes this vision got her through a particularly tough day. One of those days when a sick third grader would vomit first on himself, then on the girl in front of him, and then, on the way out the door, on Addy. A day when the principal would drag a mother into the room who didn’t like a comment on a paper composed by one of Addy’s students, a paper that was obviously written by the mother, who had forgotten that third graders do not usually know how to spell words that she herself had to look up in the dictionary. A day when Addy’s son might call her from his college dorm room and whine about money, or the pressures of his measly part-time job, or the fact that his mother would not give him five hundred dollars to go on a spring break trip to Florida so he could drink cheap booze until his brain pickled.

More times than she cared to remember, Addy had actually edged the car inch by inch up the driveway until she felt the front bumper touch the garage door. She’d put the car in neutral and then imagine the whole scene all over again—flying pieces of the wooden door diving past her window, rocketing wedges of metal, years of precious scavenging being pummeled by the foreign car Lucky sold parts for as part of his job but hated to recognize as a superior model.

But she never did it.

She never did more than nudge the door. Never bothered to tell Lucky she had harbored an overwhelming desire to flatten his hobbies, his haven, his krappy land of fun and freedom. Never told her sister, never mentioned it during the after-work pizza-and-beer gatherings, never told her friends at the YWCA, never asked her son Mitchell what he thought of the garage, never did more than think—just think—about ramming her car from the edge of her world right into the center of her husband’s.

Until today.

It is April 1 in Parker, Pennsylvania, and everywhere else on Addy’s side of the international date line, and Addy thinks that if she did it today she would have an excuse. She would plow through the door in second gear, which she has also imagined during the past twenty-two months, and try hard to make it through the krap and straight through into the backyard. She could blame it on the date. “I was just going to dent it a little and say April Fool’s,” she’d tell Lucky. Lucky, she imagined, would either laugh or rush to check on the fate of his favorite bowling ball.

There is also the menopause excuse, which would be a lie because she is dancing lightly on the brim of menopause—that joints-aching, two-periods-in-one-month, fifteen-extra-pounds-last-year, occasionally-crying-when-she-looks-at-Mitchell’s-baby-photos place—but not in real menopause, which of course, would be all of the above times one thousand. She is thinking of saying it had been a hot flash or a fast-beating heart or the ridiculous urge to shift with her elbow instead of her hand. Lucky, she knew, was terrified of the word “menopause” and so to simply say it out loud might just be enough to throw him into an instant state of forgiveness.

It is 6:48 p.m. and Addy has plunged into the place of wanting so badly that she has her hand on the gearshift and her mind set on ramming through the door. Addy is exhausted from the pre–spring break tests, from her college son’s absent but seemingly ever-present presence, from a marriage that has not so suddenly turned into something that feels and looks and tastes more like a business partnership than a union of two people in love and lust forever and ever.

Sitting in the car, with the tires hovering over the long cracks in the asphalt driveway, Addy this very moment wants lots of things.

She wants to ride a pony and to sleep in.

She wants to do tequila shots with her sister. In Mexico.

She wants to spend the rest of Mitchell’s college money on a total house makeover.

She wants to make people laugh—really, really hard and for a very long time.

She wants to go to Italy before she needs to wear trifocals, which is one focal away.

She wants Lucky to initiate a conversation that has nothing to do with “stuff” and everything to do with “them.”

She wants to come home, swing open the garage door, and be able to pull her car inside.

She wants to lie in bed naked with all the magazines and books and television clickers on the floor and talk, just talk, with Lucky, only Lucky, for hours and hours and hours.

Addy has one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the gearshift and the car is in first gear. She is trying to decide if she should back up so she can start the garage-door-bashing procedure from the back side of the curb or from where she is right this moment. Her mind is as light as a third-grade song. She pauses to place her right hand over her heart because she is surprised she is so calm, so ready, so eager, and when she feels her heart beating softly, true, regular, and as it always has, she decides that she would like to back up about twenty-five feet, shift into second, and then hit the door with a fresh burst of speed.

She turns her head to make certain some unseen object has not bounced into the driveway while she has been idling at the lip of her decision. As Addy turns, she feels the smooth seat next to her under her right hand, notices the last glow of an early spring sunset between the two houses at the end of the cul-de-sac, thinks that her training class at the Y is paying off because her neck no longer aches when she turns sideways, and then as she is backing down she stops at the back end of the basketball hoop, which is halfway down the driveway.

Excerpted from Searching for Paradise in Parker, PA © Copyright 2012 by Kris Radish. Reprinted with permission by Bantam. All rights reserved.

Searching for Paradise in Parker, PA
by by Kris Radish

  • hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553805304
  • ISBN-13: 9780553805307