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Untitled          Todd Jeffrey

Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA



At the end of last year, I'm kicked out of my apartment due to forces beyond my control and living in a rustic, homely catalogue on interior decor. Nana's house on Green Street. I look forward to spending time with her, but I also know that she is someone who likes things just so. 

     The rooms feel warm but sometimes sit placid. Look at the curtains, don't touch them. Each pleat mulled over. Use the plain white cups for coffee and not the more ornate ones, still, behind fresh glass cabinet doors with spectral, self-folding hinges, part of an upgrade from an upgrade. Those are for dusting.

     Soon, she's arranging carefully the pieces of a mint-condition nativity,  which in the off-season lives in the basement, the exact same way she's been doing it since 1971. 

     Her oldest daughter, who comes over once a month to cut and color her hair, reminds her that a house is a house, not a museum. She says this for Nana's sake, and I guess in part mine. But we both understand the deep-seated reasons for Nana's day-to-day drive to clean what's clean -- a self-perpetuating anxiety, hardened like macadam and buried under seven decades of a life beginning in the house of a wayward, abusive father.


     But whenever I think of a possible way in for Nana to overcome, I remember a morning immediately following the new year, days before I moved out. Around 9 a.m., the fire alarm on the basement stairs split open. Smoke seeped into the kitchen. 

     "Todd! Get out of the house NOW!" She fired up at me. 

     I bolted down the stairs and out to the front yard where I found her standing composed and, for the first time I'd seen her this way, seemingly indifferent towards anything she possessed back inside. We were safe, and that was enough. Simple. 

     Within minutes, the fire in the furnace contained itself.