• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 10

Clearing Out

It looks like a scrapyard out front, only there’s not much anyone could salvage from this wreckage. Outgrown bicycles, play equipment, Sam’s old wooden highchair, bags of boots and shoes intermingled with Mitch’s hunting and fishing paraphernalia. Sam’s old cot mattress, splotched with a pattern of green mould, is tumbled on top of a pile of trash ready to be burned. Neither of us has the energy to recycle.

Sam stacks toy cars on the fence posts that border our property. He places them carefully, like balancing rocks by the creek, until they get too high and topple into the long grass. Then he starts over, again and again, stacking and humming to himself while his father and I argue over the furniture, the cutlery, the saucepans and all the other things we accumulated during our marriage.

Mitch claims the five-piece cast iron pan set, a wedding gift from his mother. I can barely lift them and never used them, but I make a show of acting disappointed so he thinks he’s got something over on me. I smile to myself as he loads them into his truck, picturing Sheryl’s face as he unboxes them at her place, asking where she’s supposed to put them.

I split the dinner plates into two equal piles. Four for him, four for me. I guess I’ll have to wash up more often now. The dessert bowls are an odd number. I put the spare one in his pile, can’t have him accusing me of trying to con him out of his rightful share. Funny how he always imagined I was hiding things when he was the one with secrets. Pretty big ones too. Not that he’s admitted Sheryl’s boy is his, but he has that same dead-eyed look, that way of staring just longer than is comfortable. I used to think Mitch was so attentive. Turns out that’s just his manner.


Clearing Out

I sort through a kitchen drawer, sifting through old batteries, boxes of screws and tacks, takeout menus and expired coupons. I filter it all into one of the many black garbage sacks that are slowly filling the room like giant hunched crows. None of it has any meaning any more.

The last thing I find is a toy car missing one back wheel, a miniature version of one of those big old Chevy’s we used to see downtown back in the day. Mitch drove something long and low like that when we were dating, the leather seats all worn and patched with duct tape. Dad would tell him not to drive too fast when he came to pick me up. He never did, I’ll say that much for him.

The car looks like it will stack as good as any other, so I take it outside to Sam. He perches it on top of his tallest pile, then grins, clapping.

‘Can we go to Gramma’s now?’ he says.

‘Sure,’ I nod. ‘Let’s go. There’s nothing more I need.’