The future, through a gap in the world

There are folders and old newspapers in every corner and more than forty bags of mildewed clothes in the foyer, in the spare room— nobody now knows what is in them. Aunty has finally agreed to let the cleaning women take them to the gate for the next trash pickup. There may have been silks ties serge suits a yellow sheath with a ribbon on one shoulder. Dark sable slippers with holes in the arch. Trousers in a small houndstooth check sweater sets of mohair navy skirts of plain cotton. White slips with small rosettes and lace trim a tan leather coat with brass buttons and two breast pockets once borrowed by nephew S. without asking the summer he came into town. Sixteen but eager to get his driver’s license early he begged uncle to use some of his influence at the city hall. Maybe in one of them is the fleecy bathrobe with two pockets— one for holding a folded novena to St. Jude and the other a pair of nailclippers. And the yellow shirt with rust colored dots that uncle liked to wear each new year’s eve the one with a dark stain on the cuff from forgetting at the last minute to toss a firecracker into the yard. Sometimes we are seized with fear like that or a sudden pall of misunderstanding. Perhaps that’s when the world kind of stands still. Then part of the future comes through the haze like a warning. And it is so strange and frightening it roots us to the spot. We don’t even feel the small flames beginning to eat at the outlines of our hands.

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