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24 October 2018 @ 01:16 am
LJ Idol Prize Fight: "Family Secrets"  
Family Secrets
LJ Idol Prize Fight |Week 3 | 1055 words
Tsundoku (Acquiring books with the intention of reading them, but letting them pile up unread)

x-x-x-x-x

Once, not so many years ago, a man named Edward Pribbert encountered some questionable-looking cheese. Being an overly trusting sort of person, Edward ate it anyway. He soon slipped out the proverbial back door of life, leaving one hell of a mess behind.

His two sisters, burdened with settling his estate, were the first to cross the threshold of his home since a refrigerator repairman had run shrieking over the hills and into a monastery decades ago.

"I told you he was a hoarder," Lucille said.

"You said you suspected." Eunice poked a pile of rotting magazines with her cane. "That isn't the same as actual evidence."

Lucille, who lived two doors down, merely sniffed. "You didn't hear the screams."

Eunice walked through pillars of books and stepped across streams of discarded clothing. "Well, this is horrifying." The edge of a sofa was barely visible under heaps of mismatched blankets. "Absolutely horrifying."

"It wasn't anything like this the last time I was here," Lucille said. "But there was an awful lot of junk lying around, and whenever I asked Edward about it, he insisted he had a use for it."

Eunice peered at a motley assortment of thermometers. "As what, kindling?" Thermometers, for crying out loud! There were at least eight of them. "How long ago was this, anyway?"

"About fifteen years, give or take. After that, he always wanted to meet up at a restaurant or go for a drive."

"And here I thought he just wasn't much of a cook." Eunice peeked around the doorway leading into the kitchen. "Oh, for heaven's sake! What is all of this cookware for, if he never ate at home? And how many toasters does a person need?"

"You know how he was about saving things as a boy," Lucille said. "Do you remember those shoeboxes full of bones he kept under his bed?"

"Yes," Eunice said, "but he was ten."

"Still, perhaps that's when it started," Lucille said, wandering off down the back hallway.

"When you were ten, you spent hours thinking up names for ponies. And we didn't have a pony." Eunice opened cupboards and sighed, looking at the cookbooks, coffee mugs, and spices stored every which way across multiple shelves. "I haven't the foggiest idea what to do with all this."

"Oh!" Lucille gasped. "Oh dear. I don't recommend looking in the garage."

"Why, was our brother some sort of closet Bluebeard?" Eunice asked.

"No." Lucille leaned against the wall as Eunice came to see what all the fuss was about.

"Oh, my."

Engines—probably. Motors. Widgets. Gears, wrenches, and all other manner of metal mechanical things lay on and under every surface, with more wedged into shelves and a few in buckets.

"Good lord, what are we going to do with all of this? No wonder he always left his car in the driveway!" Eunice pressed a tissue to her face and forehead, wishing she dared sit down—if only there were a chair not being used as a makeshift storage container.

"Burn it," said Lucille, who couldn't help boggling at the sheer quantity of stuff spreading across the garage.

"No, no…" Eunice tottered off toward the living room. "We’ll think of something. My grandson Billy is strong enough to move all of this if we need him to."

Lucille shut the garage door and followed her. "There could be any number of nasty creatures living in this mess. How would we know?"

"Mm, yes," Eunice said. "I'll tell Billy to wear coveralls and gloves..."

They went through each of the bedrooms, noting the collection of curtains rods and movie posters in one, and the haphazard jumble of shoes and topographic maps in the other.

"Look at all of these boots and sneakers!" Lucille said. "You know, I believe Edward only ever wore a size nine. Who are all the rest of these for?"

"At least they'll be easy to donate. And his clothes seem pretty clean, too. But I don't see the point of all the birds' nests in the hamper."

Lucille shuddered. "Well, that settles it. I refuse to look under the bed."

The two sisters locked up the house shortly afterward and made their way to Lucille's. The warmth and sunshine were a welcome change from the closed-in feeling of Edward's house.

"Well, that was something," Eunice said.

Lucille shuddered at the memory all over again. "It certainly was."

They went through Lucille's front door and into the bright kitchen. Lucille made a pot of coffee and Eunice scrawled things down on a notepad.

"Garage sales, I think," Eunice said. "Bunches and bunches of them, a few groups of stuff at a time until it's gone. Or most of it. And dumpsters."

"Oh yes, lots of dumpsters… Poor Edward. This could take years."

"What was he doing with all of the equipment in the garage, do you suppose?"

"He said he'd taken an interest in repairing things," Lucille said. "He might even have discovered a talent for it, but I don't suppose we'll ever know."

Eunice remembered the Edward of sixty years earlier, a boy who studied the bones of birds and took apart radios to see how they worked. "No," she sighed. "I don't suppose we will. If only he'd been more careful about what he ate."

"You saw the kitchen and that bathroom," Lucille said. "'Careful' must have up and left a long time ago."

"Oh, speaking of bathrooms, I need to use one myself." Eunice rose carefully and took hold of her cane. "This way, isn't it?"

"No, the other door. We remodeled a few years back."

Eunice stumped around the corner and down the hallway. "This skylight in the living room is lovely. I hadn't noticed it before."

The bathroom would be the second door to the right, if she remembered correctly. Eunice turned the knob and—

"Oh!"

She leaned back as a fuzzy, rainbow-colored avalanche tumbled toward her. That couldn't be the bathroom. "Lucille! What in heaven's name is this?"

Lucille joined her. "Oh, that," she said. "Those are just my knitting projects."

"All of this is knitting?"

"Well, it will be, someday. Most of it's just yarn right now, obviously. But not for long.

"I have scads of knitting patterns and projects saved up, for all sorts of things I'm just dying to make!"


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