The meter, beside the window, was all wrong. Completely mistaken. No way we've used that much electricity. Uncle Fred, stop complaining, it's the same as every month. Well, you think what you want to think. Uncle Fred, do you keep records? Do you keep records of the readings? I don't need records, I have a, uh, a memory. A brain..Uncle Fred was a yam of a man, rotund and starchy. He wore his hat indoors. He was brutal to all of us, at times, but always with a half-smile. It was very unsettling.His wife, Aunt Katherine, was bafflingly devoted to him. And he to her. Their marriage was bafflement. But, it had lasted. And it seemed...suitable? Sufficient? I suppose outward appearance is never an adequate indicator of anything at all, but in this case, there was little evidence of anything beneath. They were what they were.
Fred?Fred?Katherine?Theresa?Fred?Three toddlers, always being lost, until finally they had been gone just long enough to warrant serious concern; at which point they would reveal themselves - hidden just out of mind. It was one of the few manifestations of creativity in the children. Having not lived amongst the places and objects in their home for very long, they were not encumbered with notions of proper hiding spots. Their choice retreats were revolutionary uses of the domestic landscape, every one.Theresa led the trio, but many of the most nefarious schemes originated in Fred's unstill mind. The future Aunt Katherine was difficult to inspire; too easily contented. But easily persuaded, too.
There’s no accounting for how the wrong woman ended up in my car. She opened the door and I became a man between two sisters. I am an ass, with notions about myself, so I will say that I was the crux. Over the years, they’ve been many things to me. But I will say that there was a time when I was an upstanding man, with a wife, with a good name. I will say that the day it all changed was the day I took a drive, not knowing where to, and somehow ended up at her front door. I honked the horn twice, I will say, as if that were already our lovers’ code. There’s no accounting for how she knew it was me, or how she knew to emerge from the door in that way I will say now was unforgettable. Regrettable, maybe. But unforgettable.Moments after she opened the door, letting in a harsh Autumn gust, she crashed the door shut behind her in one sweep. I don’t know how it happened that the wrong woman came to be in my car. Sure, I’ve since thought of reasons that are more excuses than anything. In another, more indulgent world, I would, for example, plead that I was dead at the time. Or I would feign demonic possession. The car made me do it, I would say in that world. But in this world, where I am a man of few words—inexpressive, others will say—the only thing I can communicate with is a shrug. I won't say if the situation deserved more than that. I was a fresh driver then, only 6 months on the road. A newlywed, too, fittingly. But there in that car, when after a while neither of us said a thing, it felt like the moon was staring down the sun. I am an ass, so I will say that. The wrong woman looked the same as always, achingly. She puffed warm breath and rubbed her hands together, not asking why I was there in my hand-me-down car, or where I or we were going. I couldn’t look at her, but then I did. I caught that her skirt was caught between the seat and her rear, so it wrinkled high up her thigh. And then I saw the run in her stockings. The run that looked like too much for me. There’s no accounting for that flash of leg, the single upward drip of the run in her stockings, like fleshly candle wax on an otherwise fabric gam. Was it on purpose, or just the way she got in my car, that caused the scene? I remember wondering. Regardless, I saw it and she saw me see it. The wrong woman and I sat in my car, and there’s no accounting for what happened next, except to say history. I am an ass, so I will say that it was history that happened next.
The photograph was the only thing, living or inanimate, to escape the minor but thorough fire. Presumably, it had been blown to safety by the collapse of a burning roof beam. All other items, including all known photographs of the siblings, were consumed by the flames or charred beyond recognition. It was a nightly ritual for Margaret to stare blankly at the photograph before going to bed. She had long ago dismissed the notion that it was an emotional act. She stared into the same three faces every single night, hoping to mirror the emptiness of their eyes, the lack of presence. Only when she had succeeded in returning the gaze, staring back at her Mother and Aunt Katherine and Uncle Fred as equals, having become an image herself, could she escape her thoughts and fall peacefully asleep.Her dreams were often rearranged memories. Correct scenes, but mismatched characters, or the wrong dialogue. Nearly every dream sparked the kindling of her nostalgia. And she would wake up angry. In her dreams, her memories felt like soft honey flowing warmly down her throat. This infuriated her. She craved all things physical. She wanted to feel that warmth radiating out from within her. She wanted her memories to rush into her arteries, to be pumped by her heart to her toes and fingertips and the top of her head. To saturate her body. For this reason, her memories, no matter how warmly they coated her mind, always left her brooding and unhappy.
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