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There was no fiction in this staging. This was the way it really was, just look at it. Here is a couch, where people sit, sleep, and die; this is the kitchen table where food is handled and prayed over. Pull out the extra leafs and lay a linen runner and you’ve got an event. Turn on the TV and you’ve got Jeopardy — 5pm, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Where was the fiction in her work? Only in the ordering of characters, which did, she admitted, give the fake semblance of a family. But what family didn’t end, in some way or another, by coming apart?
From her angle the kitchen seemed to be calling for company. Well, she had brought a bottle of wine in case the deal went through. At the table she set four glasses, which she borrowed from her duffle bag, and poured two mouthfuls in each. All of which she drank herself, though sitting in each respective seat to do so.
The still life created by the bottle and the four glasses pleased her. She switched on the TV and laid a child’s sock over one armrest. The soother would be too much, since she didn’t have a booster seat, but she could still use the Fisher Price xylophone. Ages 2-6 — what does that even mean? Nobody was too old for these things. She went to the cutlery drawer to prove it, bringing back two butter knives in lieu of sticks. She banged out a quick improvisation before all the noise she was creating concerned her that she might not hear the clients’ car outside.
A framed portrait of somebody’s daughter skated across the antique dresser in the larger of the two bedrooms upstairs and shattered against the wall, forming a small chip in the paint that wouldn’t be filled until new owners took over. “I’m right! I. Am. Right. All right?” She removed each of the drawers from the dresser onto the bed and opened the window which overlooked a modest yard with two plum trees representing an orchard. On the other side of the trees two teenage girls carrying knapsacks were walking along the shoulder of the road. The taller one who walked in front was asking what would happen if a person didn’t know the word “I.”
“What if a person didn’t know the word “I?”
“What if a somebody didn’t know a word for person?”
After a pause the girl walking in the back kicked a stone that skimmed far ahead of both of them. “I thought you said all guys were jerks.”
When she heard gravel crunching out in the driveway she went to the closet where the enamel cameo pendant lady thumped against the door like a drunk locked out of her own apartment — but who would she be expecting to answer? She slipped the chain over her head, entering the centre of the halo like a reverse birth. “Golden girls,” she whispered, and winked at the mirror, imagining her own face swung around the enamel lady’s neck and thinking, for a second, that was what she really saw in the mirror’s reflection.
At the stairs both hands gripped the banister as if she was ready to leap when something soft brushed up against her leg.
“Laura?” A man’s voice entered, briefly filling the house. “You weren’t answering. You’re mad but this was the only way I could get to you.”
She decided she would wait for him to move out of the doorway. For the door to shut. The cat could still escape through the window open in the bedroom.
“Are you selling the house Laura? Laura,” he called. “Jesus, Laura. Where are you?” The door clapped shut and the sun-fringed silhouette became a man as he stepped towards the stairs.
“Come in!” she called down from the banister to him. “Come in and welcome home. At last!”