Apr/May 2010 Nonfiction

Up in the Attic

by Stanley Jenkins

I was cleaning out the attic in the haunted house. We were going to move. I was half-choked by the dust and animal dung.

The past in the attic of the haunted house lived in boxes that had been opened and disturbed like asbestos-wrapped steam pipes. That's what happens when the present goes on too long. You loot the past.

I was sorting through the keepsakes of more than one generation that was going to fade away. I was feeling ruthless. But the particularity of moments kept announcing itself in the randomness of the keepsakes.

I found an Amtrak ticket stub from New York to Albany stashed in a self-help book all about how you always marry your mother or your father.

I found cocktail napkins from the early seventies with bawdy cartoons. I found whole treasure troves of S and H Green Stamp books just waiting to be redeemed.

I found 45 rpm singles with "The Shady Lady of Shady Lane" on one side and Carl Perkins singing "Blue Suede Shoes" on the other.

I found Tonka Trucks and Hotwheels. I found mint condition copies of both "The Sensuous Man" and "The Sensuous Woman."

I found a ticket stub from a Who concert in Detroit after all those kids had been trampled in Cincinnati. I found My Dad's Harry Belafonte album on which Bob Dylan played harmonica. I found a dried rose petal that had fallen from heaven when some folks saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in Flushing, Queens.

I found the blackjack my Great-grandfather used when he was Chief of Police in Talapoosa, GA, and took no shit from hard-boiled sharecroppers and uppity nigras. He was a bad man. Like Stack-a-lee. Should have been tarred and feathered for what he did to my Big Mama and my Great Aunt Hazel. Let alone, the community.

I found GI Joes with life-like hair and a Kung-Fu Grip. I found a postcard from a girl who really seemed to miss me. And a leather peace sign on a leather thong.

I found the Derby that I had impossibly found in the closet of my father's childhood bedroom in Grangeville, Idaho; the very hat that upon discovering, I had immediately donned and then, as if possessed, inexplicably and expertly channeled the comic Chaplin-walk up and down the bedroom, to the amazement of my loving grandparents.

Man, I had missed that hat.

I found county fair prizes and milk crates. I found ancient plastic squeeze bottles of Mennen Antiperspirant. I found photographs from my parent's honeymoon in Salt Lake City.

I found photos of me in a "Cub Power" T-shirt. And my sister in that pixie cut when old guys would come up to her and deliberately pretend that she was a boy.

I found Nat King Cole albums. I found Ann Arbor Art work. Menstrual Prints. They just sat down on paper, bled and called it Art.

I found postcards of Tristan Tzara and the young homo-erotic Elvis. Jimmy Dean and Jack Kerouac.

I found evidence of the presence of Santa Teresa and a Crucifix blessed by JP II. There were apocalyptic tracts and empty condom boxes. There were books about Bonnie and Clyde. And a skate key.

It was all up in the attic. And the house was haunted.

I kept hearing snatches of Gershwin tunes.


Previous Piece Next Piece