Shiny things hung from the young man’s beltloops, most noticeably a silver tape measure, which he stretched between my doorways. I love these country homes, he said.
Walter laid the brick himself, I announced. Walter cared for the lawn all those years, too. Paid off the home just three months before he died. I said all of this to excuse the Christmas decorations bleached by the August sun, the peeling linoleum, the brown water spots in the ceiling, the stain-dappled carpet.
Keys jingled from his hips as the young man stomped through the house, the floors shaking beneath his boots. I tried to follow but couldn’t keep up while holding onto countertops and doorframes. I proceeded with my usual shuffle, only this time taking notice of the countertops, which seemed suddenly cluttered. So many cards with unfamiliar signatures, a jar of pickles, tiny papers, an earring. Who made this mess?
Lots of memories here, the young man yelled from the back of the house, apparently looking at a faded snapshot of a child now grown, or perhaps Walter’s dusty, yellowed fish, which he had mounted all those years ago. Oh yes, I said. My boys.
The man was handsome, more handsome than Walter, but with less integrity, less solid. I could hear the metal clang of equipment assembly.
I still had all of Walter’s equipment from those terrible last days, but they insisted I have my own. The works. Full electric everything. Scooters and recliners, automatic beds, elevated toilet seats, shower chairs and grab bars. Everything remote-controlled to help get me upright and around with ease.
The young man needed the papers in the truck. He returned smelling like heat and grass, damp with sweat from all his labor. He held the clipboard for me and directed my pen saying sign here, and here, and here. My hand wrote in child’s cursive, which is all it remembers. The young man said, Perfect—Beautiful—That’ll do—after each signature.
The boxes belong to my children, I said to the young man. The boys are storing their stuff here temporarily, I explained.
The man smiled and said something about how country homes are so lovely, but I couldn’t hear him over the sound of the broken back door, which snapped open after he struggled with it. A small piece of wood fell to the ground and he pretended not to notice. My boys are going to fix that door this weekend, I said. Thank you, I said.
Thank you, Mrs. Yancey! the young man yelled over his shoulder before he hopped into the truck. Thick air pushed me back inside and I shut the door to keep the cool air in. The window unit rattled itself and began blowing.
Back in the living room, my new equipment looked no different from what Walter left behind. Our remote-controlled recliners sat side by side now, mine brand new and his hardly used. I lowered myself into the chair and held the remote. I pressed the down arrow and the chair leaned back with a mechanical churning sound. From this reclined position, I saw the bottom of the windowsill, from which a piece of silver tinsel dangled. Christmas will be here before you know it, I said aloud.
J.D. Hosemann’s stories are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review Online and The Hong Kong Review. He’s from Vicksburg, MS.