HOW TO CLEAR A ROOM • by Ellen Graham

Pour the whiskey and pour it carefully. Two fingers are fine but three fingers will hurt. Do not add ice. Remember that you are in Sandy, Utah, a suburb so like its name. It is beastly hot and the ice will melt and ruin your drink. Open the sliding door to the closet and take out the short sleeved shirts. There are only five. They are soft and they are faded. Aqua, lime, lemon, aqua again, and brown. Stack them.

Go to the three-drawer dresser and remove the old fashioned pedal pusher pants with the elastic waist. They are in Easter egg colors that match the shirts. Stack them. Throw the socks in the plastic garbage. It’s like basketball. One, thud. Two, thud. Three, thud. And four. Throw the silk underwear up in the air and let them parachute down into the garbage. Take the one pair of shorts, that have been washed and worn and washed and worn and washed and worn. They have faded to the color of bone. Put those on the pile. You will find three sweaters, all worn, all lilac. Pet them, and leave them in the drawer. You will find four pairs of long Levi pants. Those can be put on the stack. Fold them first.

Go back to the closet. There is a camel-hair coat, not really made of camel hair. Take it off the hanger and throw over the stack. Take the white parka off the hanger. Yank out the thread where she has basted the sleeves. Keep the white parka for yourself.

You will see three left shoes. You will only see left shoes. They will have a Velcro strap.

They will look like they belong to a child. They do not.

Put them in the garbage.

Open the window. Place the jade tree, the bleeding heart, and the philodendron outside. Pick up the Siamese cat Meowy, and the orange tabby Monster, and set them outside. Close the window.

Take what you have always wanted. The watercolor of the lupine, the glass owl, the turquoise and gold bracelet from Egypt.

Go back to the dresser. Tell yourself there are no such things as ghosts. Line up her Vapo Rub and her Vaseline and her valium. Take one more thing, the photograph of your cat she had taped to the mirror.

Tell your brother, who is crying on the diving board over the pool in the back yard, to stop. Tell him you are taking the clothes to Deseret Industries, the Mormon thrift store, the D.I. as the locals say, in the land of Deseret, where Industry is our Motto and people wait too long to die. Drive down those wide streets in the desert air choking with the bloom of Russian olives, the stacks of clothes bouncing in the back like kids. Never look back.


Ellen Graham has been an actor and director in the Seattle area and she recently returned to her first love, writing. Her story “Livingston” won third place in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers and her story “Car Hike” won honorable mention in their Very Short Fiction Contest. She has had writing classes from Rick Bass, Antonya Nelson and most recently Priscilla Long. Her work takes place west of the Mississippi and often at the intersection of Mormons and Gentiles. Thanks for reading.


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