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

JASON SCHWARTZ is the author of A German Picturesque (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998) and, most recently, the novel John the Posthumous (OR Books, 2013). His work has appeared in Conjunctions, New York Tyrant, The Quarterly, StoryQuarterly, Unsaid, and elsewhere.

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