Soot Covered – By Jenn Blair
Short Stories Of The Week / January 30, 2011

That blue house in Somerset has twenty five rooms. I counted them once. When I was young, I spent many afternoons playing with the little girl my age that lived there. Sometimes, we would go to the attic where her mother kept a trunk full of clothes. We’d put old dresses and shawls on, and parade about in hats with ostrich feathers.  I also loved how her mother kept lemon drops in a glass jar shaped like an egg. I don’t remember ever seeing my friend’s father. But his absence hung like a breath all over that house—on tabletops and overstuffed pillows, and on rugs, and in the portraits in the hall. Many of them were old sepia pictures of men in suits with collars that covered their necks—men wearing cold ambitious eyes, all the whiskey they drank condensed into cold stones of fierce amber rings wrung around their fingers. Childhood is a haze interrupted by nothing, save a few punctures of startling clarity. The first tear came when my father cut the grass for the first time one spring. As I walked on the lawn, I noticed the pieces lay like fallen soldiers all over the ground. So rich…