Nebraska Center for Writers

by Erin Flanagan

NED AND I SPEND WEEKENDS rearranging wall-hangings, trying to fill the empty space. For the past decade we'd both lived in apartments and now don't know what to do in a home with five closets, much less a basement. Shortly after we moved in I read an article in the Star Tribune variety section about Feng Shui consultants, how they come into your house to distribute the energy flow, warn you to keep the toilet seat down for fear something useful will float away. Ned and I've been together for over four years, and I know he will scoff at this idea.
Mr Jensen, the previous owner, a thick old man dressed always in white t-shirts and a camouflage hat, keeps driving past our house. We recognize him from pictures left on the walls during our first walk-through, the old Plymouth from being parked in the garage. He stops occasionally and stares at the house. Ned and I stay in the kitchen, hovering by the window, trying to figure out what he could possibly want. "He can't let go" is Ned's theory. Mr Arbuck, our Realtor, told us that Mrs. Jensen died eight months before the house was foreclosed by the bank. With a hankie tucked to his angled nose he whispered in our direction, "An accident."
We meet Mr Jensen one Saturday afternoon when he catches us doing yard work in the garden. He parks the car across the street and continues to watch, making us uncomfortable, like we've been apprehended playing dress up, smoking our parents' cigarettes. Ned looks at me and shrugs before crossing the street with a glass of iced tea. "I lived here," is all he says, taking the tea from Ned. Something in the way he pronounces it, with an air of finality, it's almost as if he still does.
"Would you like to come in?" I hear Ned ask.
He looks back at Ned from under the hat. "No," he says, and puts the car in gear. He drives off with our glass, missing Ned's foot by inches.

Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 2002
by Erin Flanagan

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The Rock

Nebraska Center for Writers