The gun room has two doors, or three–compare the first, if you please, with the father’s body–and a table painted gray. The parlor wallpaper, from afar, through the garden window, or as it appears in a photograph, torn out one morning from this book or that, or from the family album, and then marked in various places–with X’s, unless these are crosses–seems to display a row of green lions and black hatchets, or perhaps a formation of brown towers around a blue lake.

The conduct book describes a wooden house on a creek, all the doors and windows nailed shut. The household almanac describes a stone house, a cottage, the blind son in bed. The marriage manual describes a Colonial house, where the maid prepares a room for Mrs. Hand, a friend from town.

The bedrooms–four small disappointments, according to the father–display photographs in chrome frames, or silver ones, and arrangements of broken objects. The dining room has a drop-leaf table–a spoon clicks against the man’s tooth; the woman chokes to death on a pheasant bone–and a sideboard with a false drawer. The powder room takes its name from an eighteenth-century chamber–but here the wig is covered with blood, and falls to the floor. The hidden room–off the front hallway, or beyond the back staircase, or behind the pantry wall–has a trapdoor, from which hangs a ladder to the cellar.


Jason Schwartz
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