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"Heirloom" (standard:Psychological fiction, 3592 words)
Author: StraybulletAdded: May 11 2007Views/Reads: 2351/1409Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
This is for all the packrats who've missed a few spring cleanings. Maybe you should quit procrastinating and get to cleaning...then again maybe you shouldn't.


By straybullet 


Peggy Householder managed the few remaining steps to the attic without a
heart attack. After setting the plastic yellow bucket of warm soap 
water next to her chair, she plopped herself into it. 

"Out of breath from two trips to the attic. I guess that's what I get
for being sixty and overweight," she gasped out loud. 

She sat there for some time, resting herself and taking in the stuffy
attic air that burned in her nostrils. In a minute she'd open up the 
window, after she caught her breath. Peggy picked up the glass of 
raspberry iced tea and gulped at it. The ice cubes churned as they 
melted, clinking against the inside of the glass. 

“The dust's an inch thick up here.” 

Her breathing had slowed enough so that her latest statement hadn't
sounded choked. She took another swig of drink feeling the coolness 
sink into her. The cup's wetness had drawn a neat circle in the dust. 

How long had it been since she'd been up here? She couldn't say, only
that it had been a long time. There were more things up here than she'd 
realized and, surveying the place, she had to agree with her daughter 
Sarah, that indeed, she is a packrat. There were boxes stacked on top 
of boxes, odd broken appliances long past their usefulness, and yard 
ornaments that might disintegrate upon seeing the light of day. A 
cracked mirror sat propped against one corner of the attic, and a 
grandfather clock, its insides having been removed, sat patiently mute 
in another. Ladies dresses in colorful reds and greens sleeved in clear 
plastic hung like criminals from a bent copper pipe fashioned into a 
makeshift clothes rack. Other bits of decades lay scattered throughout 
the attic. A white ceramic nativity set lay off to the right, with one 
of the wise men's heads peering out as if considering going AWOL. There 
were sets of cookware with wooden handles, and a Styrofoam cooler that 
had survived longer than anyone would have guessed, its only battle 
scar being a bite sized chunk missing in the upper right corner. Toward 
the back of the attic it looked as if there had been an earthquake. 
Something had given way, allowing boxes of what looked like old 
magazines to tip over and fall, spilling their contents over the wooden 
floor. The place, a crypt for all things cardboard, plastic, or maple 
wood held to it a musty smell that, to Peggy, smelled like memories. 

After a time she pried open the window which screeched in protest from
long neglect. Immediately the situation improved. A cool May breeze 
reached in, touching the remnants, rippling the plastic covering on a 
lampshade, and gently stirring an old yellowed bed sheet that covered 
an even older table. It tickled the brightly stained pheasant feathers 
that jutted ornamentally out of a row of lady's hats. It set dust motes 
to flight, swirling through the sun baked air in a show of graceful 
acrobatics riding a current only they were allowed to glide on until, 
at last, coming to rest in other corners of the room. 

Finally, Peggy decided not so much on a place to begin but to begin
period. She grabbed the edge of a cardboard box with the word “EGGS” 
stamped in bold blue and pulled it over to her chair. The first thing 
she took out was a pair of white roller skates. Her youngest daughter, 
Sarah had worn these as a little girl. Lovingly, she went over the 
shoes with a dampened wash rag over the seams of the hot pink stripes 
then across the once white laces over and over again each time dipping 
the rag into the water, wringing it out. Each time the rag was a little 
less black until, satisfied she nudged the skates into the corner that 
she had designated as a "keep" area for those things she absolutely, 
positively would not throw out or sell come time for the yard sale. 
These roller skates Sarah might want to keep. 

"I'll ask her when she comes over later." 

If she comes over, her thoughts amended. Sarah had talked to her over
the phone Wednesday saying that she might be there, stressing the word 
"might". Peggy dearly missed both her daughters. It was cliché that 

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