In the kitchen, we clear off the island, make it deserted. The candles and the thrift store Day of the Dead Madonna & Child statue and the dying wild flowers in a jar, they all get rescued. Flown out. Saved.
They end up over by the microwave or over on the table of plants and it doesn’t take them long to understand that where they were before/ isolated from the world, but by no means alone.
Now, something separates them.
Unseen forces have moved in and what once was together is now broken apart.
No one knows why. The candles have no idea. The flowers call the Madonna by name but she is being flown off in the opposite direction. The whole scene is majestic in its tragedy/ tragic in its own inimitable way.
Objects, we suppose, have no feelings.
The shit on the kitchen table is nothing but junk. No one but a fool would ever try to humanize it or whatever. Personifying wild flowers and Walmart candles is the recreation of a child’s mind. Imagination games. Kid stuff.
The house is a house and it bears no witness. It doesn’t write any books and it never testifies in court. No one considers its feelings and not a soul will ask it how the hell it has been. We will live in it, die in it; we move in then move on.
The silverware is inanimate.
The shower curtain is disposable and gross.
The books don’t speak. They don’t feel. And they have no opinion of me or you whatsoever.
The records are plastic.
The half-eaten lasagna in the fridge is nothingness.
The galaxy is vast/ endless/ and mysteries abound/ but one thing is for sure. The toys don’t wake up in the night and talk about the kids.
That’s Hollywood nonsense.
Life is defined by the ways we define it.
How arrogant we have become.
We are playing a board game. Tuesday night. Life. It’s all at Charlie’s insistence. It’s all Charlie Mingus’ idea. It’s all Charles Dickens’ fault. He’s been harping on me and Arle to play all week, ever since she played a game of Jumanji with him and Blake last week. The island is cleared off and we think nothing of it. I pour some wine into my little jelly jar and I pour the kids some Hawaiian Punch as Arle puts all the different colors of money in the ‘bank’.
We spin to see who goes first. Arle wins. She chooses the little white vehicle.
“It’s my mini van,” she announces.
“Oh yeah,” I say. “This game really IS like Life already.”
Everyone spins the spinner and moves around the board. At some spots we are missing certain props so we just don’t count that place when we are tapping our vehicle on the board and saying our moves out loud.
“One-two-three- four- PAYDAY FIVE- six-seven!”
Across the table from me I watch Charlie swiping his long hair out of his face with his fingertips. He is concentrated on the game/ his eyes shining/ as he takes sips of Hawaiian punch and hollers at Piper to spin and tells Arle that she can’t take free money from the bank just because she’s the banker.
The vibe is loose but shaky. The game is alive. We are watched, I imagine, by the money in front of us: the orange $100,000 bills and the blue $5000 ones. They lay there looking up at the five of us: Milla, Piper, me, Arle, and Charlie: and how do we seem? What’s the impression?
This world is so huge.
How do we fit into it if you ask the coffee pot? Or if you try to watch us through the so-called ‘eyes’ of the clock hanging up there on the wall above the cookbooks… What does it notice? Who does it watch the most?
The game goes on and we have fun. We laugh and shout. Piper wins a lot of money. His career is an artist so it starts to veer away from real life in that regard, but who knows? Maybe he’s like one of those guys who takes a piss on a sheet of paper and sells it for a million bucks, you know?
Maybe someday he draws an apple with his own nasty asparagus pee and ends up selling it for more money than you or me have ever seen in our lives.
Piper is 9 now. He’s skinny and red-headed just like his mama. His eyes are dark and when he shifts them flatly upon me at one point (when I find myself in debt to the bank) and silently drops a $10,000 bill onto the spot where my money would go if I had any.
We lock eyes and I smile, nod.
I want to tell him that I can’t take his money. I aim to tell him that this is very kind of him, but that I want him to win if he can. I start to move my lips and the windows are staring at me, waiting to hear how I run with this. It trips me up a bit. I can feel the heavy gaze of the glass I look through all of the time to see how out of control the lawn is getting. There is a sense of surveillance. There is this feeling I get of slow-blinking eyes, unseen, not far.
I look at the money laying there and I freeze. My lips can’t open. No words come to mind and so none come out.
The toaster behind me struggles to see.
“I make that kid’s waffles in the morning”, it whispers to the basket of old apples beside it. “Did you see that? Did you see what that kid did?!”
The apples all stare fixated on the scene/ on Piper staring at his money towers/ on me and my one bill.
“That’s Piper,” hisses the wok on the stovetop. “It’s not just some kid! His name is Piper! You oughta know that by now, T!”
The toaster considers this for a moment as Milla spins and moves her car.
“One-Two-Three-PAYDAY!-FOUR! Take a Life card!”, she sings.
“I know his name, fool!” the toaster blasts back. “I’ve been loving him long before you ever even noticed him.”
The tin ceiling yawns and considers us down here. It has seen many people. It has known both birth and death. Game Nights are a particular favorite though, and so even though it’s been another long day in the life of this kitchen, this Amish blue metal ceiling peers down upon us like a God.
“Piper is everything,” it sighs to no one in particular. But they all hear it. The kid art on the walls. The cereal boxes on top of the fridge. The Count Basie record laying still on the record player. The antique Hoosier from Arle’s grandma who died this past winter. Everything hears the ceiling when it says what it says.
Then I say it to no one in particular.
Maybe it’s osmosis.
Or maybe almost everything I say is because the idea was already floating across the room before I ever thought of it.