Volume 21, Number 3

Blind the Windows

The neighbors are moving—or moving toward moving. They didn’t open their pool last summer, though the collapsing side hadn’t worsened since they swam in it the summer before. They stopped mowing, and instead of their yearly chainsawing of maple saplings growing too close to the foundation, they let the trunks thicken and the branches leaf out and blind the windows. A dumpster arrived and a U-Haul, right before Thanksgiving. For three days, friends and family converged, their cars parked askew, half in the driveway, half in the road. Some stood at the dumpster cracking wooden kitchen chairs over their knees. The owner dragged out two ironing boards, bent them into embarrassing positions, and still he couldn’t get them to fit in. Others stuffed car trunks and back seats with record albums, stereo speakers and the snake-like philodendrons whose tendrils masked the walls. By Thanksgiving Day, all the nights they sat shirtless at a table in their bay window playing cards, snapping newspapers and sucking chicken wings were a memory. No more Metallica at full volume; no wayward sons seeking temporary shelter; no cat silhouettes in the small kitchen window. Everything abandoned but the basement, suddenly a refuge for endless activity. Day and night, they arrive with baskets overflowing, green garbage bags slung across their backs. They take long breaks on the cement stoop, smoking cigarettes with their collars upturned, watching the ice pull down what’s left of the pool. All this interest in clean clothes, in fluff and fold. Sometimes, one of them still takes a half-filled box to the dumpster or car, but mostly they lean against the iron railing between one load and the next and stare into the woods. A “For Sale” sign droops on the front lawn, half-covered in snow and beginning to rust, and one of them forgot to turn off the basement light again. It’s been on for days.

—Marybeth Rua-Larsen