I moved into my inherited bungalow a month ago. Curb appeal? None whatsoever, but still a winner compared to one more night of crashing on Morgan’s sex-soaked futon. The house’s mud-colored shingle siding is made from either fake wood or genuine asbestos, so look but don’t touch. Time and gravity pushed down on the structure until it melted. The wrought iron front porch railing rusted in half. I’m losing weight; the perpetual abandoned-slaughterhouse bouquet blunts my appetite. I believe the reek made my Aunt Frankie stronger.
“Mr. Rousseau, as an attorney I abhor gossip, but your late aunt was constantly at odds with her neighbors. I searched public records and discovered dozens of complaints filed against her.”
Home ownership has its positives and negatives. Possession of the legal standing to shoot burglars and trespassers is a definite plus, but you have to deduct the buttpain of maintenance and repair. For example, the kitchen faucet’s water pressure dropped to a trickle. After a week of not being able to rinse my coffee cup, I decide to take action.
“Aunt Frankie spoiled me when I was a kid. She knew it pissed off my dad. After those two declared war on each other, I never saw her again. She was just as mean and stubborn as he was. What kind of complaints did she get?”
A crawlspace is an unfriendly destination for those who detest spiders, centipedes, silverfish, and other slithery critters. Better yet, how about shuffling around on your hands and knees, wading through wet gravel, while inquisitive bugs skitter up your pants legs and down your boots? Dirty-cotton-candy cobwebs cling between floor joists. Breathe through your mouth and taste air that pleads for release from its misery.
“It appears Frances retaliated against whomever she considered her tormentor, which in turn caused confrontations to escalate. She was a rather formidable woman.”
Geysers spray from fractures in the galvanized pipe. My flashlight’s beam transforms the flood into a fountain of jewels. I crawl through random trash left by who the fuck, find the main water line shutoff valve, and smear plumbers’ epoxy onto the leak. Why fix something properly when you can half-ass it? My mom went into the hospital because of an ovarian cyst and left through the back door due to sepsis. This is what happens when you try your best.
“At thirteen I found out my dad had been opening the birthday cards Aunt Frankie continued to send me. He would pocket the cash and throw away the rest.”
Even a strong-smelling sealant can’t compete with the crawlspace’s putrescent stench. Jaw locked, I barely prevent my lunch’s escape. I grab a pile of musty rags to wipe the excess goo from my hands. Human fingerbones are entangled with the fabric, along with answers to questions I didn’t know I had.
Michael Grant Smith wears sleeveless T-shirts, weather permitting. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Airgonaut, Ghost Parachute, The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, Spelk, Bending Genres, MoonPark Review, and elsewhere. Michael resides in Ohio. He has traveled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cincinnati.