Her problem with cleaning up clutter was always not knowing how to start. Should she clean up the junk-laden backyard first? Clean up the living room? The kitchen? Maybe the kitchen. It was always full of stacked and dirty dishes, and whenever she wanted to fix a meal she would wash whatever she needed and re-stack them dirty in the sink or wherever. For many years she’d had a job as a sales clerk in the basement of the Army & Navy, and what the hell, a girl got tired after a day’s work. She’d earned the right to put up her feet and have a beer.
Each pile of rubble, each abandoned project, was a monument to failed love. Whatever smells lingered from the mildewed recesses of the heaps, they were intertwined with the memories of this or that lowlife, this or that con artist husband, this or that reclamation project gone wrong. Peg’s record player, later her stereo, later her boombox,, moaned, as did the house itself, with the laments of lost love.
Some of her men left gifts behind, a collection of china unicorns, a shelf full of dolls, a large array of fancy candles that never saw a match, dozens of midway prizes in plastic bags in the living room, the basement, the corners of rooms. The stacks of junk grew so high that Peg and her bewildered boy Jerry had to navigate around them on pathways shovelled out between heaps of discarded things.
Everywhere throughout the house lingered the sad stench of cigarettes, uncertain plumbing, discarded food, cabbage and boiled coffee, soured milk, damp newspapers and rotting wood. As fast as Peg abandoned the gifts left behind by the brief husbands and boyfriends, young Jerry abandoned the toys they had brought for him. A set of drums found a special place for several weeks in the living room amid islands of junk and when Jerry lost interest in them, waves of abandoned refuse gathered around them, forming a new atoll.
David Carpenter has worked as a translator and critic and is the former Fiction Editor of GRAIN Magazine. He is the author of several novels, a collection of poetry, and the award-winning Welcome to Canada (Porcupine’s Quill, 2010). Other non-fiction books include Courting Saskatchewan and A Hunter’s Confession… and a collaboration with an old Cree trapper and hunter: The Education of Augie Merasty (University of Regina Press, 2015), one of the few books that recounts first hand experience of a residential school. Carpenter recently won the Kloppenburg Award for Literary Excellence. He lives in Saskatoon.