The Machine in My Mind
by James Maxey
"Daddy, did you ever live with Mommy?"
I fix my eyes on the road and ponder what brought on the question. Kayla's in first grade and
noticing that many of her classmates have mothers and fathers that live together.
"No," I say. "We worked together, but never lived together."
"Mommy was a fireman?"
"No. She worked at the university. I was a teaching assistant back then."
"Oh," she says. "Did you ever live with Daniel's mommy?"
"Yes." Daniel's her older brother. I've already dropped him off at Beth's house after taking both
my kid's trick or treating. Daniel's eleven; he announced as he left the car in his Superman
costume that he thought he'd be too old to trick or treat next year. I hope he's wrong. On almost
every other big holiday, my ex-wives' trips out of town conspire to keep me from spending time
with both my kids at once. Luckily, it's always worked out that I can take both of them trick or
"When did you stop living with Daniel's mommy?" Kayla asks, wadding up the edge of her
"A while ago," I say. Six years ago is the precise answer, and maybe the answer she's digging
"Before I was born?"
"Before you were born."
"Why didn't you ever live with Mommy?"
"We . . . weren't compatible."
She frowns, unsatisfied by the answer. Coward that I am, as much as I cherish each second I
spend with my kids, I'm relieved as I pull into Sabrina's driveway. There's a flickering light from
the living room, but her porch light is off. Sabrina's not really into Halloween. Handing out
candy isn't part of her ritual for the night.
I hold Kayla's hand as we walk onto her porch. In her other hand she clutches her plastic
pumpkin full of sugary swag.