The House on Wayward St.

The grandfather clock chimed in the living room when I entered the house. The TV light still glowed, and he’d pegged the heat to seventy-two degrees. The family photos rested on the China cabinet—him, his wife, mom and me.

The other rooms of the house shared this living vitality. In the kitchen, meats and produce filled the frig. The hallway displayed tempera paintings he had chosen, and oils donated to him by local artists. The humidity in the garage weathered the pages of old books. In the bedroom, his clothes hung on the back of chairs, fresh with dandruff and loose hair.

It was almost unanimous. The next morning my aunt and uncle arrived with masking tape and permanent markers. The prices were arbitrary, they explained. Just ask one of us. Ask one of us? I put down the marker and took a walk. When I returned, the house looked like the Holocaust Museum, but instead of a title, each object had a price. I glanced around, trying to salvage the memories. I picked up his favorite cinnamon candle and inhaled. I opened the armoire and smothered my face inside the dying leather. I picked out a jacket and put it on. His comb still lay inside the pocket and I ran it through my curly hair. I touched everything. The ashtrays, the straw hat, the stiff towels. When nobody was looking, I carved my initials into the table where I had eaten breakfast for twenty-five years. I went to the phone where I had received the good news about college and the bad news about him. I picked it up. Dial tone. I hung up.

The grandfather clock chimed in the living room. I couldn’t stand the sound of it so I walked over and stilled the pendulum. I turned off the heater, and when the gauge clicked, I suddenly felt hungry. I hurried to the frig and ate a banana. Then the tomatoes and cold cuts. When nobody was looking, I stuffed the canned food into my backpack. The crackers and hot chocolate mix. I removed the flowers from the vases and the photos from the frames.

And when people started to arrive, I pulled up a chair at the front door and sat there passing out numbers. Somebody asked if this was my grandfather's old house, but I shook my head. This is an auction house, I said. You must have the wrong address.