FOR HIS SUMMER JOB, Jerry Raskoff restocked seed racks. Pumpkin, watermelon, radish, turnip, beet. He crisscrossed Nebraska in a Ford van you started with a flathead screwdriver and stopped by yanking up on the emergency brake.
For the last week in August, before he returned to teach fifth grade math to a bunch of eighth graders, Jerry took a vacation. For this vacation, he laid on an air mattress underneath his dining room table and drank Don Rico rum straight from the bottle.
One evening, the young woman who was renting the farmhouse across the cornfield knocked on his door. The woman was wearing on orange sundress over a pair of jeans. When Jerry didn’t answer so she knocked again, harder. When he didn’t answer again, she took a landscaping brick from his patio and threw it through his window.
“Hello?” she yelled out as she climbed inside. “Anyone home?”
There was a tablecloth stretched across the dining room table which hid Jerry from view. The woman walked into the kitchen, opened up his fridge.
“Jesus Christ,” she said as she looked inside. “Really?”
Jerry knew there was nothing in there except a bottle of ketchup and a month old loaf of bread. The woman tromped upstairs. He heard his toilet flush and then she was talking on her phone.
“Just like we thought,” he heard her say. “He’s on vacation.”
Jerry did not own, he rented. His ex-wife had gotten everything good in the divorce, all the plates and cups he might’ve used for the food and drink his fridge didn’t hold.
Soon a man called out from Jerry’s doorway. “Where you at?”
“Upstairs,” the woman said. “Lying naked in his bed.”
The man went to find her and Jerry slid out from under the table. He walked across his lawn and into the corn field. The corn was shoulder high. Jerry walked down a row, putting some distance between him and the couple. Soon he was close enough to their farmhouse to see their back door was propped open.
Anyone home?” Jerry called out from the doorway.
He found a cellphone sitting on the kitchen table, a mattress laid nearby. The house smelled overwhelmingly of pot and he found out why when he walked into the living room. There were a bunch of 6 foot plants reaching toward grow lights mounted to the ceiling.
The fridge was empty except for a bottle of soy sauce and two mustard packets, but in one of the bedrooms, he found $320 and a bag of weed big enough to get him through schoolyear.
He took the cellphone from the table and laid down on the mattress and dialed his ex-wife’s Leona’s number. She’d stopped responding to his texts and every time he’d called it always rolled to voicemail.
“Hello,” Leona said. “Who’s this? Is that you again, William?
Jerry hung up before she could say another name that wasn’t his. He threw the phone into the tall grass near the barn and then walked through the field back to his house. He hid in the corn until the couple left. When he went back inside he laid down on his air mattress. He didn’t know what, if anything, the couple had stolen from him but at the very least they hadn’t found his bottle of rum so he took a long swallow from it as a warm breeze blew in though his broken window, ruffling the tablecloth.
John Jodzio's work has been featured in a variety of places including This American Life, McSweeney's, and One Story. He's the author of the short story collections, Knockout, Get In If You Want To Live, and If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home. He lives in Minneapolis.