It’s the holiday, but the bird is gone. Breadcrumb stuffing goes on to explore new stomach linings. After the table is cleared, plates scraped, plates stacked, I take the stairs, walk down to the basement floor.
Down there: photographs, webbed and mature, glass shards giving grotesque smiles to hands, knees, proud new car owners, pets in portraits, domesticated in frames—a world of squared wood living familiar with silver garland, heelless shoes, generations of rodent shit. I recognize the license plate my sister removed from her Dodge Daytona, the car that hit that doe the year I turned twelve, the summer my sister promised to take me camping with five of my friends. Intact but still wedged against the Wisconsin aluminum: a photo of silhouettes my sister took of me, those friends, the immense lake in the background. In the scene, mist lingers around lake rocks and tween limbs, the six of us balance-beaming tree logs in water.
We were masts and sails. We dreamt of sailing.
To get to that lake, we had to pile into one car instead of splitting in two (my sister’s car had already split that deer in two). Six friends and our chaperones (my two sisters) in the family Ford Escort, where I sat in back with our bags and played tic-tac-toe with Stacey.
Stacey, who would pile into another car, five years & five teenagers later. Stacey, who would sail through the windshield of that car with those teens that night that fall a mile from my house and weeks from Thanksgiving.
This November I sit in a basement room in the center of a kept world. Rest my chin on my knees. So full and digesting all of it: the boxes of decorations, the stacks of National Geographics my mother collected when she was alive, the jars of sea glass from Lake Superior, the snapshots, the silhouettes. Everything stored in a 12 x 14 cinderblock scrapbook. Like chambers of a clogged heart: all segues sealed at the seams, it seems, and in silence, bursting.
Michelle Menting’s creative nonfiction has appeared in New South, Bellingham Review, Ocean State Review, Thread, Superstition Review, and Quarter After Eight, among other places. Her most recent collection of poems is Leaves Surface Like Skin (Terrapin Books). She lives in Maine and teaches at the University of Southern Maine.