Holiday party. I am a houseguest at an estate. I learn that my room had been occupied by a recently deceased grandmother, a descendant of Russian aristocracy, and wonder what she would make of this former Trotskyist sleeping in her bed. I may no longer worship the Russian revolution, but I'll never get behind the concept of royalty.
The room had not been completely cleared of her personal effects and I poked around, creating still lifes out of her things. I placed an envelope of a garden society (its address in raised green ink) against a lace-edged linen runner and next to a slip of torn notebook paper that contained a list of "memories" written with a flourish that, despite the shakey lines, betrayed a hand well-trained in the art of penmanship. I moved a leather jewelry box carefully to a window hoping that its only content — a thick lock of blond hair tied with a thin purple ribbon — would glisten golden with the help of natural light but it didn't. These size six Ferragamos, on a shoddy plastic rack in the corner of the room, were positioned on the rug next to the bed. I lay on my belly and, leaning over the edge of the mattress, shot from above. I remember when I visited the Museo Ferragamo in Florence and fell in love with Salvatore's handiwork (those bejeweled platform sandals... insert many exclamation points). There has to be lots of poems about the things left behind and the ghosts of their owners. Shoe souls. As I write this I am reminded of something Rose, some feeling (closing myself in my dead mother's closet to take in her essence one last time before the house is dismantled) and some words touching on this bittersweet theme flit in and out of view of my mind's eye. At first I think it is a poem by Tony Hoagland, and go in search of his books, but as I am flipping through one of his collections, I remember that it is a short story by George Saunders from his collection Tenth of December. The story is "Sticks" and you can read it here.