#83 Ages

by Emma McMorran Clark

There’s a lonesome whistle coming from upstairs, the wind’s freight train skimming crevices where the cedar siding fell away years ago.

Everyone fell away years ago.

The dust rag limp in my hand as I caress neglected banisters, polishing those loops and whorls of grease that remind me there was once more than this.

I drop the rag, press my fingertips into the lacquered wood. I can hear her breath in the insistent wind, weeping, echoing throughout the second level where the pine floor above my head is still stained with the blood of one bad birth.

Down the hall I touch the wainscot at the spot where the floor dips, as I have done since I was small. Drips in the paint, lumps beneath my fingers, knots holding memories of when the house was full of laughter, the harsh chemical stench of hair products almost covering the humid smell of woman.

The hall stretches, bent by perspective so that the morning light streaming through the front door seems impossibly far. Floor cobbled from years of feet pressing themselves into the memory of this house. I drop to my knees and press my cheek to the scratched and peeling linoleum checkerboard. Somewhere beneath layers of glue, there is heart of pine. Covered and made fussy like all those ladies’ faces.

Windows don’t always need dressing.

My little girl would have lived here. Oh, would that my little girl had lived.

I lie still, seeping into the pine.


Jonathan Riley said...

This is easily one of my favorites. With the very first line you capture that sense of nostalgia in both the frame of the setting and the character's frame of mind. The language is crisp as the story's atmosphere and the sense of lonely dread and remorse accompanied with a longing for growth are all extremely well executed. I love the how the layers in the floor parallel the layers of the story, and emotion. And then it's all wrapped up in a pretty little bow as she sinks into the heart of the house. Bravo!

Dino Parenti said...

Love the not-said in this. And that one-bad-birth line takes into pure southern gothic for me, and I can't say why. Now that's power. Truly lovely stuff.

Lauren S said...

So, so lovely Emma. Lovely and sad. Great work.

Inkwellmonster said...

Oh, very nice job, Emma! Makes my heart ache. Love all the longing in this.

Leah said...

Oh Emma. This one is so sad. Devastating really. Lovely, beautiful, sad.

Such a good job!

Jess said...

Oh, Emma. This is so sad and beautiful. It made my heart hurt a little reading this one!