Tomorrow This Will All Be Gone, If We’re Lucky

By Maris Finn

A petrified frog’s corpse floated down from a rafter in the garage, weightless because its bones had become powder.

Death by damp garage. We held a vigil in our kitchen trashcan, sprinkled coffee grounds over it one rushing morning. Edmund, we called him. Long live.

The day before we moved, we put all of our knickknacks in the middle of the floor, everything that wasn’t part of the frame of the house including furniture.

We were lucky; we’d gotten the open floor plan we’d always dreamed of. But we also weren’t lucky. The furniture wasn’t ours, left there by the previous tenants, still containing their smells and stains. But we were lucky because we didn’t have to pay extra. Some things just aren’t meant to be forever, and one of those things was us in this house.

Previously owned couches and tables and other large items only moved slightly away from their walls. They left pale rectangles against the wood floors that’d been stained, not by us. A shiny sheen surrounded the ghostmarks, the sheen of shoes and socks, the tread of existence. We wanted to be able to walk around the perimeter of our stuff, survey it anthropologically, dust up what we’d been living around, and what better way to look at our own things with fresh eyes than to disorient it?

We filled empty spaces with developed pictures of people we did and didn’t know and socks and old Halloween decorations…

We made a rule to not throw anything out before heaping it all together. The two of us wanted to see what we’d amassed over the years. Things we’d brought from elsewhere, elsetime, the whole of our material lives, unabridged.

Things became dusty. Things moved that hadn’t been moved from the uppermost shelf of the armoire that someone’s grandparents left them way back. Brittle and ornate China sets, impossibly intact souvenirs from actual China from a decade that reads nostalgia only if you’ve never lived it, a collection of decades’ old mini bottles of rum that someone’s Nana brought back from Hawaii, inexplicably shaped like Easter Island heads. It used to be a complete set of four Easter Island mini rum bottle heads, but one night we got curious and opened one. The fumes damn near melted our eyebrows clean off our faces. The others remained sealed shut.

Another rule: we had to put everything on the floor neatly, emanating out from the exact center of the room. We did the math, found the center. We took our own precision in stride, making tight tessellations of old greeting cards, fractals out of kitchen appliances. We made a double helix out of tangled up costume jewelry that weaved in and out of old tennis racquets. Neither of us had ever played tennis, but they’d been in the garage when we moved in. We’d cleaned out the cobwebs from the netting with sharp pointed blows, cheeks puffed out. And even though we made a point to do it outside so the dust wouldn’t get in the house, a wind kicked up and blew the dust back into our faces and it got caught in our eyelashes, our hair. We sneezed it all out and then played tennis against the neighbor’s teenage children in the court down the block.

It’s a good thing we don’t have a cat, one of us said, or else our perfect piles would be disrupted, all these patterns made for naught, swiped reckless with the whims of a tail. But all it took was one of us to nudge a waist-high tower of CD jewel cases, each with an intact insert, for the system to unravel. The cases fell like slim plastic tectonic plates towards the center of the pile. We’d spent too long alphabetizing them to do it again, and the shift caused other perfect piles to rupture, and so every item after that was gently tossed into the center, letting gravitational pull do its work.

Half-finished rolls of scotch tape ducked inside sneakers, hooked around antennae of old television sets, a handheld carnival game with tiny silver balls where the only prize is the thing itself. We filled empty spaces with developed pictures of people we did and didn’t know and socks and old Halloween decorations we’d forgotten to put up that year.

We unearthed a pamphlet from a concert venue that had closed ten years ago and had since been turned into a sports bar, and then a comedy club, and was now a chain burrito joint. Plates shifted, things emerged.

What about the trash, one of us said, referring to the grey plastic garbage bin that sat under our sink.

What about the trash, the other one of us echoed.

Once all the drawers had been emptied and all of the closets freed of their towels and linens and outerwear, the trash was all that was left.

It was against the rules to throw anything away, even the things that had already been thrown away, so we piled the trash into the middle of the room, too, keeping the bag in the bin, balancing the whole vessel on a downy platform of unread circulars.

There was no food left in the house – we’d eaten the rest of what was edible the week before and donated the condiments and other non-perishables to friends and family. The last thing the pile needed was more ketchup packets. But we were finally hungry and there was no rule against bringing any new things into the house, so we went out and got two pizzas, a dozen garlic knots and two side salads, and after we devoured them we placed the empty grease-laden cardboard and sauced up bunched up napkins onto the pile.

That night we pulled our mattress in the living room and slept there, balancing on soundless piles of clothing and upturned pots and pans.

Hey, one of us said poking in the next morning, Hey how are we up so high? When we woke, our noses mere millimeters away from the chalky stucco ceiling.

One of us reached a hand to the edge of the mattress. There were still pots and pans beneath us, clothing that felt like us. We shimmied off and climbed down. Our things were the same size as we’d left them the night before; they hadn’t grown overnight like a grow-a-dinosaur. But our walls were closer together, and while last night we were able to walk around the perimeter of our stuff, it was now all crunched together. The entire house had changed shape. Our mountain of stuff had been thrust upward.

What’s the meaning of all this, one of us asked.

We thought we heard the moving truck idling in front of the house. It was the right time for it and we were running late, too busy being puzzled by our morphed space. But it wasn’t the moving truck, and soon the walls kept squeezing in until the floor popped up and our skulls were pushing up against the ceiling. One of us found a chair leg among our things and poked a hole through the roof with an intentional thrust. Good thing no attic, the other said.

One of us climbed out first and helped the other up and out. It was sunny, and the dust from our things wafted out slowly from the gaping hole like a volcano whose top was cut off too soon, the lava half-baked and simmering.

Neighbors on each side and across the street and behind us were pushed up next to our house, within leaping distance, and while some of them escaped onto their roofs like us before being pancaked against thick glass windows, others were messily crushed by their belongings, forever fossilized in stuff.

Car alarms blared and silenced and fell deep in valleys between houses, swallowed by the roads that once kept them aloft. Trees crunched against houses and birds escaped before being folded together. Stop signs and street signs and traffic lights let out metallic screams.

A large set of hands dropped a city bus on our neighbor’s house, and one of us said, Hey what gives?

“We’re moving, putting all of our stuff in a pile.”

Were we an original pattern, I wondered, or had we just become another in a series of messes?

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About Maris Finn

Maris Finn is a writer from New York living in Austin, Texas. She has her MFA in Fiction from Columbia University and her BA from SUNY Geneseo. Her short fiction has appeared in The Molotov Cocktail flash fiction journal and Gandy Dancer literary magazine. She currently works at the Texas Book Festival and is at work on her first novel.

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