My 83-year-old grandmother is having a recurring dream. In my grandmother’s dream, her grandchildren are toddlers again, and they’re running away from her. Every night, she hears one of her grandchildren running through her house, but she can’t find them, and she can’t catch them. Myself, my brother, my eldest cousin. I’m curious how long it will continue. Will she dream about all eight of her adult grandchildren, and then her five great grandchildren, as well? My grandmother’s house is almost empty. There’s no more kids or grandkids living with her, living off of her. It’s just her, my grandfather dead for ten years. She talks a lot about what’s going to happen to her house when she’s gone, how much it might sell for, and what her kids might do with the money. She worries that my mother will squander her share. One of her oldest neighbors died last year, and his house was gutted and put up for sale. I couldn’t resist the curiosity of seeing what the inside of his house looked like, being years since I last stepped inside, so my partner Katie and I hopped on Zillow and scrolled through the slideshow of his empty ranch. His youngest son was one of my closest childhood friends, but I haven’t seen or talked to him in nearly twenty years. I heard he married a woman from the Philippines and broke his back in a snowboarding accident. There were years when he and I were inseparable, or perhaps it was more that I had clung to his side. He was two years older than me, but only one grade ahead, because he was held back in kindergarten. I still have a scar above my lip, on the left side of my mouth, from when he accidentally hit me with a snow shovel. He was the person who introduced me to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and he suggested that I read Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. He was from a family of hunters and fishers, we all were where I grew up in Wisconsin, but his family did little else but hunt and fish. Their deep freeze was stocked with venison, their house was decorated with antlers and pelts and taxidermied bass, and their backyard was often littered with the carcasses of snapping turtles. My friend sold furs to the local trading company, and he applied for his commercial fishing license as soon as he was old enough to legally do so. He occasionally invited me to help check his lines or bait his hooks, and I dutifully obliged. My friend left buckets of blood on his deck. He bought blood from the butcher, or he harvested it from the animals he hunted, and he allowed the blood to congeal in the sun, where it turned to stinking, rotting jelly, and we used it to bait his lines. I enjoyed the process of baiting his lines with homemade blood bait, plunging my hand into the bucket, my knife easily slicing off gelatinous pieces of congealed blood, ignoring the white maggots writhing on the deep red meniscus. One afternoon, after returning from the lake, he made us lunch, a frozen pepperoni pizza. We were the only two in his house, so he popped a video in the living room VCR—Gazongas 2—the first pornographic movie I ever saw, and we watched it while eating our pizza. I remembered all of this, and more, while Katie and I perused my friend’s dad’s house on Zillow. We both agreed that it was overpriced. I couldn’t help thinking it might not be long before pictures of my grandmother’s empty house would be on Zillow, and people will probably think it’s overpriced too.
Josh Olsen is a librarian and the co-founder of Gimmick Press.
image: “Above the Line:” Amanda Rabaduex is a poet and writer based out of Knoxville, TN. When she has writer’s block, she plays with watercolors and a Canon EOS 90D. Find her on Twitter @ARabaduex or on her website amandarabaduex.com.