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Keep Out

Ann Fisher

My father had his work bench, his tools, a room he called The Shop, that no one else ventured into. Later, he held a suite of rooms in the basement, the fireplace banked with his gilded spines of history and law. Soon after that, he built himself a cottage, a glorified hunting camp where each of us was given a room just big enough to sleep, except for my mother. Bestowed on her, one room amidst his basement lair, a cemented place holding the washer and dryer, her down domain, for when she was finished in the kitchen. The ironing board held a pile of clothes; all of the family’s torn pieces. Shirts without buttons, collars frayed, seams split open, a mountain of mending waiting for my mother’s attention. Later, when the anger between them rose to its silent crescendo, my father left his underwear there too, almost worn to dust, expecting some repair, some silver thread my mother should produce down there in the dark, to stitch away a hideous curse. She pretended not to see the pile, though it grew bigger than the ironing board, spilled itself across the floor, blocked the path to the washer. And so their war raged. Old clothes soldiers used by both, each targeting the other. He shut the door to her room. She pulled it open, as if proud of the pile, the disarray, letting it inch into the hall, the very things a housewife should keep hidden. On the door to her room, in her perfect practiced script, she wrote the very words she could not speak.

Ann Fisher lives in the foothills of the Green Mountains. She is co-fiction editor for the Mud Season Review based in Burlington, Vermont. Her work has appeared in ZigZagLitMag, MacQueen’s Quinterly, the South Shore Review, and About Place Journal, among others.