Statement Balance: $1,858.14

You could say the first temptation is to run.

Xine and Josh sit in a parking lot between an off-road vehicle store, a “Freedom Church,” a Waffle house, Applebee’s, and an Advanced Auto. Which is to say, with windows down, they smoke cheap cigarettes and let the cool winter air into the car. Exhaust, grease, and prayers waft into the car as Xine says aloud with near certainty, “We could probably get $150,000 for our home, and not have to do anything. If we sell it now.”

Numbers shift and slide about Xine’s mental chalkboard. After paying off their mortgage, she guesstimates they would come out with nearly 100,000. $100,000. She isn’t sure how paying off a mortgage works. Is it just the balance? Skip the interest? Do they have to pay for lawyers?

“Really?” Josh says, sucking on a Winston, the healthiest cigarette priced at almost $7. “Where would we live?”

“We could move back into your mom’s apartment.”

“We’d have to ask her.”


“And we’d have to build an outside entrance.”


“And you’d be okay with that?”

“I’d be okay with making money.”

“You wouldn’t miss the house?”

Xine shrugs, sucking on a $4 brand of cigarettes, LDs. She knows the minutes of work to afford the inhalation of those precious toxic chemicals. Presently, she is fixated on the dirt bikes in the window of the off-road vehicle store. The ones that remind her of her father. He was the kind of man who bought dirt bikes too tall for him and too fast for anyone with a foot in the future. The kind of bikes that took him down, sprained his joints, and broke his ribs. The kind of breaks that gave him a pep in his step because look what he survived. The kind of broken ribs that Xine assumes she was formed from.

Xine speaks, “I might but, I didn’t buy that place to be a home. I bought it to be a wedding venue. That didn’t go so well, so why not make some money? We can sit on it or invest it and look for something we really want?”

Josh stares past the off-road vehicle store, through the shopping center to someplace distant. Xine rambles on about being smart with money. About reserving a little bit of the profit and maybe taking a year off. Maybe traveling. Xine tells Josh they could just spend a year not worrying about bills. See what opportunities it brought.

Josh has logistical questions. Where would he put his things? Where would they park the cars? Would Xine get along with his mom? (They didn’t have the best track record, in fact, they’ve been down this road before with much poorer bank statements.) He is thinking of his wall of guitars, and his 7 pianos in the garage. He is wondering about the miter saw and the band saw that he gifted Xine for Christmas last year. Where will she have her wood workshop he promised her? Where will he set up his micro studio?

Xine folds like a house of cards under all the questions. She doesn’t know. Doesn’t have the energy to figure logistics and minutia. She sees only the one temptation: to run from the place that only holds failed dreams, failed friendships, and memories of her failed father. Besides, her prized rosemary bush finally died. The brutal winter of 2021 & 2022 finally killed it. That is a sign to move on if she ever needed one.

Thinking of her father’s ribs, Xine can’t help but consider what paradise she may give up. What state of perfection and heaven has been blinded to her. What serpentine salesman has sold her snake oil, and promised that if she leaves this micro farm in the country she’ll have it all? And for what? A fat, juicy fruit tattooed with digital numerals that will make her feel as though she made one good decision in her life?

Slipping into the role of Eve, Xine plots the temptation of her husband.


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