The Space Between Us

Kodi had always known the distance between himself and the nearest pie.

It seemed the thing to care about, in a world full of long shifts and dark roads. For example, leaning on the steering wheel, he knew that a peach pie was .0023 miles away, in one shop called Pies and Thank You, and it was warm and crisp. It didn’t help that he saw it in the delivery window as he passed.

He also knew he didn’t have time to stop. He had to get the load of paper towels to Houston by 8am Eastern, and to do that he had to beat the morning traffic rush. Because of course, his ability wasn’t limited to pies. He knew the distance to Houston, to his loading dock. He knew the distance from his loading dock back to his little one bedroom, where his little one-year-old Grace waited. And his wife, Olive, with that smile that curved like a dream, with those lips that quirked when he told a stupid joke. Course, he hadn’t told many jokes lately, stupid or not.

He rolled down the road, craving peaches. Peach pie was the best pie, hands down. It had a more subtle flavor than apple and cherry, so it didn’t beat out the flaky sweetness of the pastry. His stomach rumbled. He hadn’t baked in forever. He missed rolling the dough to that perfect thickness of 0.7 inches, like his Mom had taught him so long ago. Would Grace like to learn how to do that, someday? The wind flared up, pushing on his trailer, and he had to fight the wheel.

He passed a guy in a Santa suit holding up a sign. It read, “Dazzle her with something bright!” It displayed a set of pearl earrings nesting in a jewelry box.

What could he get his girls for Christmas? Each mile added to his counter and made him more money. He could afford something like that, something dazzling. But would Olive even like earrings? She hadn’t worn her ring lately.

The mental space between them stretched the farther he went, like the tension in a taut wire. He’d measured it in the shortness of his wife’s smile (63.8 millimeters instead of her normal 76.4), or when Grace stopped and stared at him when he walked through the door instead of running to him to close the distance like she used to. But there was something more, something else he hadn’t measured that was bothering him –

Ah! Frickin’ wind! He gripped the wheel, keeping an eye on the trailer. He needed to focus. A mile to Houston. 5,280 feet. Actually, the mile marker was a little off, it was 5280.8. His breathing shortened with annoyance.

The wind shoved his trailer so the end of it whipped too close to the middle, two and a half inches too close, and he turned the wheel to the right. The truck ground along on the ribbed shoulder. This might be too dangerous—

And then –

The distance back to home was so taut, it seemed about to snap – what the hell, oh, God –

He stopped his truck on the roadside. Turned his hazards on. Rubbed his eyes, slapped himself. His breathing, so quick and shallow, he couldn’t get a full breath. Was he tired? Well, he was 416 miles, 36 feet, and 17 inches away from his bed. And 14 millimeters –

No, that wasn’t it. Well, yeah, he was tired, but that wasn’t it. Frick. It wasn’t really pie he was missing. Olive was pulling away, like a kite about to rip away from him, like she’d run out of string and he didn’t want her to snap and float off into the sky. She was 890.32 away, whatever measurement that was that felt like death and wedding rings hidden in a drawer, that’s how far away she was. He knew it, like he knew about the measurement for pie, but for what? What should he do about it? He didn’t know – he didn’t frickin’ know, it wasn’t like he could call up his best friend Jerry and be like, “Hey, what do you do when you can gauge the distance between two things, physical and also, like, an anger-sadness mixture, what do you do with that?” – and Grace. She’d just started to learn how to undo the latch on the baby gate, Olive had said. He’d never seen it, not yet. And he’d found Olive’s ring the other day under a pile of socks. And he couldn’t get his breath.

He called Olive.

“Hello,” she said, as if the wind weren’t trying to rip her from his hands.

“I miss you,” he said.

The wind stilled for a moment, stopped roaring over the miles between. “I miss you too,” she said. “I – I was just thinking about you.”

The space between them shuddered, threatening to snap.

Kodi swallowed, breathed again. “I was thinking. I want a new job. Something that lets me see you both more. Something closer to home. Maybe at a bakery.”

The tension relaxed, went a tad slack. The distance of whatever he’d measured, that anger, or sadness, or just mental space, decreased.

“Sounds good.” She let out a little choked laugh. “Gracie’s been asking for pie. Seems like you’ve trained her to want it every few days.”

“I’ll bring some back with me, then. I could teach her how to make some, for Christmas.”

“I think she’d love that. I’d love that.”

The distance between them lessened, and he breathed in full like he hadn’t in a while, as if for some reason, something had filled his lungs before, taking up a certain measurement of space.


Behind the Story of “The Space Between Us”

Everyone has something they are weirdly good at.

For me, it’s my hearing. I can hear someone speaking at a low volume from a few rooms away. Whispers sound like a lowered voice, and lowered voices sound normal. I’ll wake up from little noises like the air conditioner or a branch scraping against the house outside. I didn’t realize this was odd until later in life when people commented on it. When they did, it made me feel special, strong, and unique…

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