Father was a traveling salesman. When he held his fork at Sunday dinner the muscles of his arms would bunch up beneath his sleeves. It was the fault of the cases, he said. They were heavy and brown, filled with samples, lined with vinyl, naugehyde. Weighted with the anticipation of checks signed, bills folded into sweaty palms.
After mother died, it was him and me. He sold the house but kept the car. We stayed in motels, scattered like loose change over the state of Ohio. I didn't go to school. Instead there were coloring books. There was the radio and undulating hills of green outside the window. There was waiting.
At night, he would stop the car and pop the trunk and I would climb into an empty sample case. Father would latch me in, pick me up, carry me to the motel office. "Room for one," he would say. It was easier this way, he'd told me. Better for them not to know.
The case smelled like rubber and motor oil. I fit inside perfectly. I loved being hoisted into the air, the slight swaying of the case as my father carried me. Left behind in the room while Father trawled the stoops of helpless housewives, I would climb into the case and close the lid, dreaming in the darkness of our concatenate futures.
A year passed and my knees began to scrape against the inside of the case. Rivets from the handle hurt my skull. I emerged one night crying. "I'm growing," I said. "What will happen now?"
Father smiled and held me tight around the waist. "I'll get a bigger case," he said. Like a fool I believed him.