“Yard Sale” is a mix of hoarding and a haunted house. What inspired this story?
I’m happy to put things out on the street, give them away, whatever, because they’re only things. My mother came from a large family that lived in a great big house, and no matter where we lived, she always spoke of that as “home.” She and her sisters fought bitterly for possession of certain treasured objects. We lived in a modest bungalow in Florida when she scored her ultimate triumph: a mahogany dining room set that filled our tiny dining room, a two-sided chair, an Eastlake loveseat and a gigantic marble-topped pier table with a huge mirror which, thank God, went away somewhere before we had to move her into an apartment.
A year before the move, we got rid of as much junk as we could, some in the garbage, the rest via a yard sale, with Praying Hands or somebody to take away anything we couldn’t sell. It was a nightmare, but man, we cleared a lot! Found buyers even for the carved bedroom set with the rosebud motif.
Now, about getting rid of the junk: This very small house had a great big bedroom closet with shelves up to the ceiling—it was big enough to hold a chest of drawers, that closet.
She wouldn’t let us throw out a thing from that closet. Carefully (remember, she had a year), we arranged the objects around all the walls of the biggest bedroom in the house with these sacred objects (sleeve-pressing mini-ironing board, for instance) and told her to find people who wanted them and/or get rid of them.
We flew down for the move. The movers came and the furniture went while she lounged at a friend’s house, far from the fray.
Then we found out that everything we’d taken out of the closet, she’d put back in the closet.
We ended the day with shin splints.
Mare seems to be much more under their father’s influence than Sally. Why the difference? Why is it that only Sally seems to be able to consistently hear their dead parents?
It’s Sally’s story, really. She realizes how pernicious he is, and how obsessed. She’s a hyper-empath, and she just knows these things.
Is there any significance to the particular objects their father collected? Why did you choose to give him a large variety of things, rather than focusing on one or two overwhelming obsessions?
Well, the Phi Beta Kappa key was my Uncle Forrest’s, he was my mother’s cherished big brother; he was an anti-Semite and not a nice man. Some of the stuff comes from her personal Tara—not mine. She kept a very neat house; not cluttered, but in every cabinet and every closet, and in the loft in the garage . . .
There’s a clear parallel between being trapped by an obligation to things and being physically trapped inside the house. Was their father’s revenge always your intended ending? How did this story develop?
What can we expect from you in the future?
And the next thing? Too soon to talk about.
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