I haven’t posted one of these in a while. Twice a month, I get together with some other writers. We pull a prompt from an envelope and write for 30 minutes, then read to each other and chat. Sometimes I have to cogitate before coming up with something to write. Not this time. I plunged right in, not even sure who the characters were at first. That sort of writing is fun and very different from the discipline of a novel or short story, when you have the luxury of planning. This is the deep end, sink or swim. Of course, I realize now that this is somewhat illogical in the timeline. But eh, that’s for revision.
The table sat in the corner of the garage buried under piles of moldy books, broken small appliances—a toaster, a microwave, doors broken off, rusty and dented—and surrounded by chairs and a couch and dressers and, well, you name it. If something ever belonged in a house well-loved, it was now out here, abandoned and forgotten.
By the time she had found it, after pushing aside the kitchen chairs with the ripped vinyl seats and the overstuffed ottoman that was now understuffed, and boxes of books and magazines, she was coughing and sneezing from the dust and years of accumulated pollen and mold.
“You could die in there.”
“Don’t be dramatic.”
“Why do you want this stuff anyway?”
“I don’t. I want the table.”
“Tell me again why? It’s not an antique, is it?”
“Actually, it probably is. Almost a hundred years old.”
She swept the layer of dust and grime from the surface, inspecting her hand after, realizing the mistake. The grime might never come off. “Doubtful.”
She could barely make out the grain of the maple surface, chipped, dented, its polish long gone. She ran a hand down the turned legs. Solid, if scuffed. One leg wobbled, but otherwise it was sturdy.
“So why are we here?”
She put her hands on her hips and surveyed the carnage. She looked down to see an old, black Bakelite telephone, the kind with a rotary dial. “Bet you don’t even know how to use one of these.”
“What is it?”
She turned and looked out the garage door toward the house. It would be demolished tomorrow. This was her last chance to claim anything she wanted. If she’d only known.
“Who lived here?”
“Your great uncle Oscar. I told you that.”
“Never met him.”
“You still can. He isn’t dead. We’ll go tomorrow.”
A sigh only a teenager can make. “I have plans.”
“Really. Like what? And can you look up from that phone for a half-second, please?”
A quick glance up, then back to drubbing the glass surface with thumbs evolved to create tools, build fire, but reduced to the rapid-fire Morse Code of texting.
She aimed her key fob at her minivan. A beep and the back hatch slowly rose open.
“Help me get this out of here. I hope it fits.”
The teen managed to free up a couple thumbs to grip the edge and pull it from the pile. “God, it weighs a ton.”
“It’s solid. Uncle Oscar made this.”
“For real? It’s not from Ikea?”
She let out a snort. “As if.”
“Would be easier if it came from Ikea. Those come apart, you know.”
“Lift, don’t drag. I don’t want to damage the legs.”
“You’re joking, right?”
But together they lifted and inched their way out of the garage and over to the car.
The teen went to sit under the shade of a tree, all physical ability apparently drained by that short lift and haul. It was a hot day. And cooler under the leaves of the maple. She glanced around the yard.
“It came from here somewhere.”
“The wood for the table. Uncle Oscar salvaged the wood from an old maple that had finally outlived its days. I used to climb it when we came here for visits. He made this table right in that garage.”
She leaned against the tree, the rough bark scratching her back, relieving an itch she hadn’t been aware of.
“I’m pretty sure this is the one he planted to replace it.”
“Huh. I’m thirsty.”
“There’s a thermos in the car.”