Dawn Raffel

We bought our house from a man who'd been living there with both his lover and his mother. When his mother died, he was getting ready to fix up the place to put it on the market; we offered to buy it as-is. This meant that nothing had been repaired or repainted (the ghost of a dust- buster haunted the kitchen wall; he had apparently painted around the device). Various items remained in the house. Some, such as the old stuffed chair in the sitting room where I sat and nursed my babies in the night, were deliberate leave-behinds, furnishings he told us he no longer needed. Others took a while to find, including the silver medals of saints stuck on odd spots on the walls.

Both of the apartments where my husband and I had lived before moving to our house had been refurbished and delivered as if new. But here, it is impossible not to notice that others have lived within these walls. The former owner's mother, for all we know, died here; if not, then she was certainly dying, surrounded by emblems of faith.

The house has been expanded—to the back and to the side and now up. But its core is more than 100 years old. Its walls have yielded layers and layers of paint. We found floors under floors.

Some people believe that the souls of the dead hover near the house that is the body, until the body's burial. What about the house of that house? The bodies have certainly left their marks—made scratches and dents, left scuffs and prints. And what of the disturbance that is breath?

Dawn Raffel's most recent book is Further Adventures in a Restless Universe, a collection of stories. Her fiction appears in Conjunctions, Fence, Unsaid, NOON, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories and others.

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Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Dani Sarda i Liziran.

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