There was a nail still in the wall that held a picture I can’t remember real well, but I remember the frame and the thick dust that lived on its top edge, and I remember the day mom took it down, and I remember where she flung it and how hard, and I remember seeing it lay out in the road like an old dead skunk, crushed under the occasional car with the bits of glass melding over time into the asphalt sparkle.
I don’t remember what happened to it after that, if it got swept away by the rain or the wind or some neighbor sick of seeing our trash radiate further and further out into the street. and the nail is slick and bent and mom never put it to good use after she freed it up. From not having any new memories to frame, no new family to fill out the empty wall with smiles or poses or lovey-dovey eyes on a wedding day.
But that’s not true, there was plenty of new family, new friends. It’s just that mom never cared about any of them as much as she cared about Dad. and when Dad broke her heart, it was like she decided that that was that, caring about people was for chumps.
The house felt smaller, darker when we came in to clean it out. It shrunk with her in their mutual old age. she kept cutting out parts of the world that used to come in and live in the photographs and postcards and Christmas cakes and so the vacuum-like emptiness inside sucked the walls in close around her
Dad called the day we put the house up for sale, said he wanted to buy it, but just didn’t have the cash on hand. said he was sorting some stuff out, trying to sell the condo, had someone interested, all the stuff no one was surprised to hear him say. He asked if Mom had left anything behind of their old life together, anything sentimental I could set aside for him, and I said No, Nothing at all, prying out the nail and spackling over the hole, Nothing here you’d wanna see.
Zac Smith lives in Boston, MA, where he likes to walk his dogs. His stories have appeared in Hobart, X-R-A-Y Lit, Philosophical Idiot, Soft Cartel, and other very sweet online journals. His twitter is @ZacTheLinguist