Walker and me make offers whenever the banks foreclose on a place. We come it low, and usually somebody else will win it. Fine by us, since we’ll get it sooner or later. City people see a farmhouse for a song and buy it, not realizing that the value will only go down.Nobody makes it out here since the town went under. After a year or five or ten, they’ll move on, sell it to us for what they can get. We go in and strip it of everything worth a dime, then burn what’s left to the ground.
The men in the house are speaking Spanish as they move from room to room.
We’re hiding in the bedroom closet. I can hear Jeff in my head. You should have listened to me. You should have been prepared. I’d laughed at him. A panic room. That sort of idea was why we couldn’t stay married. Jeff, always suspicious, even paranoid. His “go bag,” his guns, his three days of emergency food. Ready for anything. I couldn’t take it.
The men are coming upstairs. Janey starts squirming on my lap, this game no longer fun.
I wish Jeff was here.
The burning building had excited him.
He felt the burn of it begin to consume him, insatiable.
He closed his eyes and lay on the floor, the map spread beneath him, his arms wide.
He was a bat, soaring over the city, random in his flight.
He could see it in his mind’s eye.
He would cut up his pillowcase for wicks.
Many wicks from a single garment, their origin joining them forever in his mind.
He would set the fires, he would wait, he would watch.
There were all the houses, all the city, all the world.
Jae came smiling out of Bloomingdale’s, skipped across Michigan Avenue against the light.
Jae always got like this when she shoplifted.
Jae said it was a better high than glass, even.
She reached down into her jacket and pulled out a long silk scarf embroidered with green and white birds.
“Those dumb fucks never knew what hit them!” she laughed. “I’m like a goddamned cat.”
“Hermes, baby. Look at the tag.”
“Holy shit. Five hundred bucks? You gotta be kidding.”
“Snagged it off a mannequin. I know what to look for.”
Jae spit towards the store. “Dumb fucks.”
“So many things you have acquired,” said the Master. “You must tell me their stories. What is that there, on the shelf?”
“That is a wedding vase, Master. It belonged to my grandmother.”
“My father’s astrolabe. He bought it from a Chinese seaman in San Francisco.”
The Master nodded. “So many things you have acquired and arranged around you. A story for each of your objects.”
He paused. “It is you who gives them context. When you die, they will lose their meaning. They will be a pearl necklace in a bag with no rope to connect them.”