A vignette is a short impressionistic scene that focuses on one moment or gives a trenchant impression about a character, an idea, or a setting and sometimes an object. -Wikipedia
Our house was empty at the time. It is only my father, my brother, and me, curled together on an air mattress on the blue ocean carpet in the middle of four crumbling, moldy walls. I can see through the shadows of the night the outline of the fox skin my father has hung on one of the crumbling, moldy walls. He found the fox dead on the side of the road and thought it was too beautiful to leave there. He brought it back in his large blue truck, skinned the dead carcass, and it has hung in its place upon the crumbling, moldy walls ever since.
They weren’t always crumbling and moldy, the walls. Though the walls have always been white, they were never bland. My mother saw to that with her knickknacks and her decorating, but now my mother is gone from this place, taking the Prince Street dwelling’s possessions with her. She deserves them anyway and soon my brother and I will leave this place too. Leave it forever, leave it for good.
But the walls weren’t always crumbling and moldy and they once were the bedroom of my parents when they were both still my parents and I could call them that. Now, I can only call them my mother, my father. Separate. These crumbling, moldy walls once surrounded a loving couple’s bedroom. Their bedroom had a bed they shared and closet where they both kept their clothes and a dresser with a television they both used to watch. My parents used to watch this television together as the fox skin hung above it. They were once together. There was once these items here. Now it’s just the air mattress, my father, my brother, the dead carcass on the wall, and me.
Down the hall, my bedroom has nothing in it, though these walls are not so crumbling and moldy. It used to have all my books, stacked in shelves along the wall, piled under my bed, in columns along my desk so that I would have to do my kindergarten homework on my bed. All these are gone and I’m not quite sure where they went. The blue ocean carpet has a burn in it right next to the doorway, where the carpet melted to the hardwood floor beneath from the one time my lamp fell off a pile of books and it didn’t have a lampshade on. I was already in bed, afraid to get out because I thought a ghost had pushed the lamp over, and I called for my parents until they came to pick it up and blow out the smoking ocean carpet. It wasn’t the first time I had watched something burn so easily. It wouldn’t be the last.
The other rooms are empty as well and my father will feel guilty about this as we squat in a house that used to be our family’s but is now owned by a bank. I’m not sure what bank it was but I thought at the time it was called ‘Foreclosure.’ He will feel so guilty about the emptiness that he will buy my brother and me a whole pack of toilet paper and we will be able to run and fling it all throughout the inside of our house because at least the toilet paper seems to fill it up. We didn’t even have to worry about cleaning it because it will be the last time we will ever be there.
Between those crumbling and moldy walls, the three of us lie on the air mattress. It is summer and sticky and the sliding glass door that leads to our deck is open. Past the deck, I can see the broken trees that hold broken swings that used to hold a not broken me. Once, I sat on the swings in the rain while eating stolen salad vegetables. I kept stealing carrots as my parents peeled them in the kitchen my parents once cooked in together because I didn’t want my eyesight to go bad and carrots were supposed to save your eyesight. Also a lie. I can see the deck and the broken trees and the broken swings in the light of the stars from the air mattress on the ocean carpet because where I am is not a city yet and there are not so many people that you cannot see the stars.
The kitchen has always looked crumbling because one whole wall is brick and cement middles and cement spills. My parents would cook meals in here but all I can smell when I wander through is the dust from the brick wall and my parents’ footprints. I know they used to be here. At one time or another, we had a coffee maker on our dining room table. I would climb up on a chair and turn the switch on and off, on and off and watch the see-saw switch light up a fluorescent orange when I pressed it down to turn it on. Then, for no reasons my four-year-old self could later explain as my parents bandaged my blistering fingers, I stuck my hand on the heating pad and watched as my skin burned until the smell alerted my parents and they came running in to save me. All I knew was that it was easy. The kitchen is empty now too and when I wake in the morning I know there will be no breakfast. There are no salad vegetables left to steal tonight.
Alanis echoes from the white, paint splattered boombox in the bathroom and this is what I remember most of that sticky summer night curled up on an air mattress with my father, my brother and only myself staring at the fox skin, a dead carcass pinned to the crumbling, moldy wall above a dead family. It wasn’t my mother who left us all like this. If it was in her power, she would never have let us come back, but it will be a few years from the sticky summer night on the air mattress between the four crumbling and moldy walls until she will have that power. And then my father will relinquish my brother and me forever, for good.
When no one breathes inside a house, you can’t expect the walls not to become crumbling and moldy. There’s no life. A house, as fallen as its family, stands in darkness on Prince Street on a sticky summer night. Ghosts sleep inside on an air mattress between four crumbling, moldy walls that once surrounded a loving couple’s bedroom. It can’t keep everything. It can’t keep its fox skin on the wall. It can’t keep its music. It can’t keep its echoes. It can’t keep its books. It can’t keep its ocean carpet. It can’t keep its walls. It can’t keep its rooms. It can’t keep its trees. It can’t keep its swings. It can’t keep the people inside. It can’t keep the people inside happy. It can’t keep the people inside safe. It can’t keep the family inside whole.
When its walls are crumbling and moldy, the fallen house can’t keep everything.