At the auction I wear a bright pink tank top and walk around in my bare feet. I touch my face. I’m so hot that my teeth hurt.
People stand around a flatbed, where the auctioneer, who I’ve seen many times this week, stands in his jeans and plaid button-down, doing his thing into the microphone. One-dolla-dolla two-dolla-dolla, and another shorter fatter man looks down into the crowd, and when he sees a hand up, he says something resembling “Whump!”
I stand complicit, wondering what is selling. Maybe my grandma’s china? Maybe a farm tool? A younger boy probably in his teens holds each item up. He turns. Like The Price is Right. They’re selling books now. About dairy farms and some on natural healing.
I sit on a wooden chair that will be auctioned later. A chair I used to sit on when my grandparents hosted celebrations: card parties, where we’d all play games like smear and sheapshead, eating pretzels and Cheese Puffs left in bowls at every table. I played with my great-aunts-and-uncles (there were over twenty), their kids and then my second cousins, and also my closer family. Before I was old enough to play cards, us kids would shoot pool sticks in the basement, aiming for either stripes or solids, getting high on pop. We’d set up tables of our own, making fun of how our elders slammed their cards down.
Today the cousins who are left take tours of this house they used to know. My great-grandparents built this house. My grandmother grew up here. My uncle lived here his whole life. After his sudden death, I came from New York for the funeral. Since he was named my godfather, I carried his ashes, following the pastor in and out of the service. The box was heavy. My uncle wasn’t small. I did my best to get to know him.
Since then I’ve been back several times to help my mom and her two siblings clean. It’s an eight-bedroom house. An eighty-acre farm with cows (now sold), two garages, a machine shed and a barn. Every building filled with stuff. My grandma has been dead for sixteen years. My uncle has lived here his whole life. This house has never been so empty.
I move to a place under a mailbox, where I find some shade, and I wonder if my friend who I invited the night before is coming back. He is my ex-boyfriend. These days, my mind doesn’t focus on him like it used to. I called him last night after the sky got pregnant. It tantrumed into wind and hail. I was at the farm alone: the one to stay behind to watch the things that were set on crates outside for the next day’s auction. Other family members went to the auction site an hour away where most of the valuable items were sold. I tried to call my mom, my sister. My aunt and uncle. But nobody answered.
I muscled myself. I wanted company. I knew the ex would come—we’re experts, when it comes to reuniting.
He brought wine and pizza. We watched the wind curl, the mailbox almost caper. The Porta-Potty door blew open, then went horizontal. The hammock went more than diagonal. Items lassoed around the yard and we ran outside and did our best to catch them.
Later on, inside, I told him, “Thanks for helping.”
He toasted to me and called me a rose.
I laughed and said, “That’s the name of another of your exes.”
He was the first guy I had sex with, on his parents’ balcony, under a blanket. We share birthdays. We were sixteen then.
I walk over rocks on my bare feet like I used to. I walk past the people and the stuff, to the garden, where I used to help my grandma, where I used to mooch raw peas, cucumbers, strawberries and green beans. I imagine my grandma’s crooked walk. I hear her cackled laugh. She used to name her chickens.
There are only weeds left, save a few stalks of asparagus. I lean over and snap one from its stem.
Kim Chinquee is the author of the collections Oh Baby, Pretty, and Pistol. Her fiction collection Milk is forthcoming in 2017 with Ravenna Press. She has been published in hundreds of journals including NOON, Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, Story Quarterly, Ploughshares, Indiana Review, The Nation, Willow Springs and others. She is Chief Editor of ELJ (Elm Leaves Journal), Senior Editor of New World Writing, and an associate professor of English at SUNY-Buffalo State. Her webpage is www.kimchinquee.com.