“CALLE DEL SNACK” by ASHTON POLITANOFF

He parked his car just outside the hillside community and then entered on foot. The neighborhood had big family homes with trimmed lawns, long driveways, and streets with Spanish names. Here and there a few windows were lit, but for the most part, everything was dark, asleep. He tried to appear casual, like he was on an insomniac’s stroll. Over his shoulder, if it were day, he would be able to see a peel of ocean. Instead, he felt only the breeze.

The fourth doormat he lifted, he found a key. The house was ranch style with a stone path leading to the front. He tried the key and the Dutch door released. He pushed it open a few inches and waited for the alarm. Then he went inside.

In the open foyer, he took off his shoes. He took off his socks. He rooted his bare feet for a moment on the oak floors and let his eyes adjust to the dark. Ahead was a living room with a vaulted ceiling. Through the big picture windows, he saw the outlines of trees and hills.

He stepped onto the limestone of the kitchen. He placed his hand on the cool marble island. He looked around. He kept the lights off. Everything was orderly in the white cabinet kitchen. The drying rack was empty. The countertop was bare except for the usual appliances. The plant on the windowsill near the sink was well maintained. Outside, just beyond, the pool lay still.

In the refrigerator, he opened the lids of various square and circular glass containers—these weren’t the cheap plastic kind that stained. He settled on the beef bourguignon leftovers. He ate the cubes of meat cold. He removed the five-inch silicone stopper from the Bordeaux and drank from the bottle. In the freezer he found pints of ice cream. They were all dairy free. He had some anyway. He put the used spoon back in the bamboo utensil tray.

In the office he pulled a heavy leather-bound volume from the stacks. He spread it open across the desk and he played with its gutter. He sniffed it, fingered it, put his face in its crack. The book was nice and clean.

He walked down hallways with baseboard and beadboard until he found the bedroom wing of the house. The kids were asleep and tucked in—he made sure.

In the master bedroom, a fire was still going, the flames at the edges of the marble fireplace. The husband slept with orange earplugs inserted and the wife wore a sleeping mask. They faced away from each other.

He felt suddenly hot. He removed his t-shirt and pants and sat on the edge of the bed. His stomach made a noise.

Then he found a bathroom and when he closed its door and flicked on the light, he was met with black floral wallpaper. It was eye catching, but not in a good way. It was upsetting. He scratched at it with a fingernail, hoping he could find what was underneath. He unbuckled and took a piss into the sink. Some of it splashed onto the quartz. Then, he sat down on the toilet and took a shit, the explosive kind. He did not flush. He dropped the spare key into the bowl on his way out.