Fort Wayne, Indiana

My widowed mother and I woke at 8 in the morning and descended the stairs to the ground floor of her brother-in-law's country house. He and his wife were up already, talking. They made us a breakfast with the fruits and vegetables they'd grown that year.

We left our hosts at 10 in the morning. My mother's brother and sister, living together, had died in quick succession. We pulled up to what had been their house of forty years with a cargo van we'd rented a day earlier and loaded the furniture that my sisters didn't want to see auctioned off.

The house was all old, porous wood and carpeting. It had soaked up the smell of cigarette smoke, too many cats, mothballs, and advanced cancer. My mother had been coming here every week in the two months or so since they'd died. This was my first time seeing the house empty, and the last before it would be sold.

My mother asked me to put some old ski poles with their matching skis- upstairs. I had only been upstairs in that house once, nineteen years ago. I was five years old. I had been told never to go upstairs, but I had to go to the bathroom very badly. I snuck up and went in the bathroom I found up there. My uncle found me and yelled and yelled.

I took the ski poles upstairs and went down the hall. I saw the bathroom. It looked exactly the same. I went into my uncle's room with the ski poles.

I never really knew my uncle. I knew that he distrusted the government and most forms of authority. He taught me about how he made his modest living off the stock market rather than work for anyone else. He would cook a pot of sausages on his gas oven when we kids would visit while our aunt played cards, told jokes, and smoked. And smoked.

I found the skis. I found some model railroading supplies and magazines. I found a violin missing its tuning pegs, bridge, and strings. I found two meat grinders. I found books about home repair and boxes and boxes of electrical cords. I found a copy of The Communist Manifesto in a box with an unopened package for a lock de-icing kit.

We closed the van and left town at 11 in the morning. We had a bookcase, two chests of drawers, an antiqued brass crucifix, a black rotary-dial telephone, and a violin missing its tuning pegs, bridge, and strings.