I wake up, surprised to find myself on the floor at the entrance to my grandma’s house. Excited to be home, though, I dust myself off and follow the parquet floors up three steps to the kitchen.
She isn’t in her chair by the window, coloring with her favorite set of colored pencils, or doing word searches while listening to the Beatles. The chair is empty. The room is quiet.
I follow the floor back down to the landing, my body feels unusually worn. The walls, which are normally yellow and bright, now look faded by time, tar, and nicotine. “Mom, are you down the basement?” I run down to see her, thinking she’s probably doing laundry or hanging up sweaters on the clothesline. But she isn’t there. The clothesline is barren.
I walk towards the finished side and see there’s only one board game resting on our game shelf. Where are all the other games? Where’s Huggermugger? Where’s Rubik’s Race? I grab Life and look at its cover–an image of a mom, dad, and two kids playing, smiling. It’s a cheesy picture, my sister and I always joke about it. But the picture of the family is covered with too much dust, their faces and clothes drained of too much color.
I turn on the light to the liveable side of the basement. Finished with the frayed, mint-green carpet from our living room and wooden paneling that my brother nailed to the cement walls. I expect to see a centipede scamper across the wall looking for a dark, damp shelter. But he’s not there to greet me. Where is everything? There’s no gold chair, bed, or bookshelf. There’s nothing stashed in my brother’s handmade closet, or piled up in the corner next to the broken fireplace, or even hidden under my mom’s train table. The only thing that remains is my brother’s red guitar, the same one that still echoes songs like Fly By Night and Over the Hills and Far Away.
I exit the finished side. For some reason, my bones, my body ache like the yellow walls. I pass my grandma’s silver table that looks like something straight out of Johnny Rockets. Sitting on top is a VHS storage drawer with tapes of Funny Farm, Ishtar, Fletch Lives, and a 1987 Browns-Broncos game. I recorded them straight from the TV, pausing during the commercials. But there are no old boxes stacked on the table; there are no old totes stored underneath.
Did Mom finally do some Spring cleaning?
I glance over at our utility sink, where I wash my hair, and where my friends piss during my parties. Off in the corner is our laundry chute–where clothes disappear dirty and reappear clean in my closet and dresser. Like magic. But there are no dirty clothes underneath. The hamper is gone.
My thoughts begin to race. I know something isn’t right.
On the opposite side of the basement, next to the furnace, is our giant 1950’s freezer. Large enough to fit four people inside. Like everything back then, it was made by steel workers and built to last forever. I open the door, but there’s nothing inside but stale-smelling ice crystals. I glance over at our pantry shelf, which now only holds a can of French cut green beans and a can of disgusting cream of mushroom soup. Normally, the shelves are filled with boxes of cereal and pasta, cans of Maxwell House and Busch beer, and rolls of paper towels and toilet paper.
I open the thin, wooden door to our closet under the stairs, hoping to see our Christmas tree and holiday decorations, praying to see the clutter of glassware, antique bowls, coffee mugs, and my grandma’s plastic exercise bike–the same bike we used for hyperspace travel in our homemade movies. But the closet under the stairs is empty. The shelves are vacant, the floor barren!
“Mom!” I try to run up the stairs, but my legs don’t move quickly enough and I stumble and fall, hurting my knee. I walk through the kitchen towards the dining room, grimacing in pain.
“Mom? Grandma? Are you home?”
My grandma isn’t in her recliner watching Matlock or Murder She Wrote. Her chair and TV are gone–even the blue clock hanging on the wall has vanished.
I run into the bathroom and splash water on my face. I look in the mirror, frightened to see a man staring back at me. His hair is thin, gray. He’s an old man with a dying face, covered with wrinkled skin that droops from his neck and chin like a chicken’s.
“Dear God!” I cry. “Mom, are you home? Please tell me you’re home!”