We stuffed Father and placed him on the mantle, apologiesapologies. In bad taste probably. But how wonderfully the shredded paper from tax liens and mismanaged finances propped him right up! The posture had an air of confidence that the man never enjoyed while alive. We would spend nights ‘round the fireplace drinking sunlight and remembering old times like when Brother would come down with fevers thinking he was possessed by the ghosts of John Ford and Sergio Leone simultaneously. He would carry on arguing with himself in rapid­fire glossolalia about how superior his films were to the oh­so­meta pastawestern bullshit of the 1960s and 70s while at the same time offering savage repartee in perfect Italian.

For hours Brother would thrash his skinny white body all over Mother’s bootleg Persian rug (the blue one, not the red one with the CIA tag on the bottom that we buried her in). During one of these fits of exorcistic stupor he by chance revealed a secret compartment in the hardwood floor where someone (Father?) had stashed dirty photographs that were dusty and faded with age. Mother’s luminous specter might have rattled off an incantation about how scandalously porous a model’s négligée ​was ​and that its soft golden color didn’t work well with the photo lady’s complexion but we told mother to shut the fuck up and also that her use of the word “porous”, while technically correct grammatically, should be relegated to signifying that physical characteristic of sedimentary rock.

That got us to thinking about earth sciences and more specifically earth science textbooks and the pleasant illustrations inside like a picture of the water cycle starting with a big ocean and then evaporation up into voluminous clouds and then falling in condensation like snow on top of big mountains and then the snow melts and flows as a river down the mountain and back into the ocean and it starts all over again forever [sic] and maybe it would be nice to live in that illustration or actually be water because most of the time we don’t like our bodies and being water is maybe happier than corporeality. Father might have said that this way of thinking was romantic or impossible or that being water could be sad like how Brother feels sad and sleeps all day and wants to be dead like Father up there as our mantlepiece.

When there was only one soul left in his body we would hold Brother in our arms until he dozed off, thinking all the while that Father was wrong, wrong, wrong. Frustration with the necrotic past is so exhausting! Just fill it with cotton and put it on display.

We would stay awake long enough to siphon a bit of the dawn into Mother’s prized crystal vase and join brother in bed. The light would spill through the facets and drown the whole house in every color plus a few more that no one else but us could see. Pulling the blankets around us tight, it was always comforting to know that when we woke in the nighttime we would never be thirsty.