Erica Plouffe Lazure

There it was—just past the first-floor entryway, on the rug in that spot between the coffee table and the sofa, illuminated through the picture window by an angry beam: the stain. And next to the stain, a spray bottle of carpet cleaner, as though the tenant's last effort to take the baby puke or bourbon or whatever it was out of the carpet after four months of no rent would be enough to make it right. But their lack of rent is my lack of mortgage, which, six months later, lands me where I am now. The banks mean business. Don't let any of those ads with helpful looking people in suits fool you. They take and they take and they take. Then they auction whatever's left.

And it's not like I'd want a single thing from these apartments—I run my own daycare and know the cost of upkeep. The kitchens look like something out of 1978, with avocado-hued appliances and wallpaper bearing busts of graying presidents. At some point, this place was someone's good idea, just as my grandmother thought it a good idea to leave her home and family in Oslo at age 17 with an American midshipman, a future barber, on holiday. How tidy had she kept the corners of her particular, ordered life in these rooms? How perfected was her effort to wipe away any sign of my grandfather's drunken chaos? And how many hours would she spend on her knees polishing the sagging linoleum, or hand-cranking her clothes washer in the kitchen, letting cotton drip dry outside on the line before starching it stiff with a crackling iron? "Take care on yours, Shannon," she'd tell me, first in Norwegian, then in her hard-won English.

And as her broken words echo through these faded, aging rooms that will soon be empty and no longer ours, I grab the carpet cleaner on the coffee table, and get down on my knees, willing myself with each spray on that stain to do as she would: to make the best of the life she lost, the life she gained.

Erica Plouffe Lazure has stories in or coming from American Short Fiction, McSweeney's, SmokeLong Quarterly, Meridian and others. She lives in New Hampshire.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Roger Karlsson.

W i g l e a f               01-13-15                                [home]