Tuesday, July 07, 2009


The weekend after the burial the relatives came with a van and carted off what they wanted, the things that still had some use in them. They took the china and the silverware, the chairs that didn't wobble or need caning, the dining room table they had to disassemble to get through the door, but left the sagging bed, the ironing board, and the leaking refrigerator, the plastic gas-station tumblers and the scant dust-rimmed books. They shut off the water, took the phones out of the jacks, and flung the electric fuses into the woods for sport.

Later that summer vandals jimmied the door-latch and broke or stole what little of value they found, stripped the pipes and shattered the windows with stones, leaving nothing but a few mildewed magazines, broken bottles, and shotgun casings. They lit a fire but it wouldn't catch and they gave up. Rain blew in and soaked the floors, and before long the faded wallpaper began to peel down in ruined curls. Mice nested in the insulation and swallows built under the porch eaves, and the house soon stank of their urine and droppings.

Within a few years a thicket of young maples grew up around the foundation, and a dark green stain of algae spread up the white clapboard walls. Shingles slid from the roof to the ground and were buried in the next fall's leaves. Finally not even the ghosts remained.

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