Isaac Pickell is a two-time college dropout and an MFA candidate at Miami University, where he is poetry editor of Oxford Magazine. Isaac’s work has recently appeared in Hobart and Rogue Agent Journal, and is forthcoming in The Missouri Review. He is originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and hopes someday to live in a bigger blue dot.
B Y I S A A C P I C K E L L
Susan went outside with her grandmother’s old mason jar, the one with the lid that didn’t quite seal and was rusted and bluing. Now you couldn’t quite call it a backyard, it was just a little green space and a bit of loose gravel behind her brownstone, but when the summer evenings were just right with a breeze coming in from the country, there would be a few fireflies – lightning bugs as her grandmother said – dipping in between the buildings and alighting on the grass or the gravel. Sometimes, the trash. Susan wandered over to the lightning bugs and captured them, slowly, into the Mason jar that didn’t quite seal, and was rusting a bit and bluing on the edges. Each time she carefully unscrewed the lid while lightly shaking her hand back and forth to keep those already caught from making a steady foothold, then slammed their window shut in a motion she’d perfected before she could remember.
She trapped one, and then two, and even found a third, closing the lid as far as it would go. She would smile, reminiscing, while watching them fight for oxygen and slowly die. And as they died, she watched them giving off alarm signals of phosphorescence that brightened her evening. When Susan woke up the next morning, she emptied out the Mason jar full of dead bugs into the toilet, and flushed them away. And she forgot, forgetting that any passing of life had occurred. She rinsed it off, put it back on her mantle, and she remembered her old, dead grandmother. The next morning, Susan went off to the clinic.
Her third patient of the day was describing how she felt stuck in her home. Her husband, no, he wasn’t abusive, but it felt like he was never going to let her leave, no matter. No matter how sad, how upset, how unfulfilled she was, the door would never open. In their relationship, their marriage, in their home life and with their children, she was closed off from escape by rusted nails in the door’s hinge that he just kept refusing to replace.
She felt like she was struggling to be herself, like she was struggling to breathe, that if things didn’t change she felt she would be there forever. Sometimes, she was just waiting in that house, signaling alarm, and slowly waiting to die.
There is a certain betrayal inherent in walking on to the porch of someone else’s memory and feeling nostalgic. The four steps up were decomposing, the strips of wood objecting to the strictures of the rusty nails that fought a losing battle to keep them straight. Worn past the point of threatening a splinter, Susan grazed a hand across the rotted beams, imagining the childhood that still was lodged under her grandmother’s shrunken hands.
The little once-blue house was stubbornly standing on a corner that seemed to have forgotten as much as she, its dusty concrete reminiscent of the way her grandmother’s recollections could be carried off by the wind.
H E R M E N E U T I C C H A O S J O U R N A L
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