After the funeral, after the lowering of the casket and the gloomy tea and cookies

attended by near-strangers in black, Cynthia settles into the now-empty house, the dishes done

and put away by her niece and nephew, a tuna casserole sitting in the freezer.  She found it

strange seeing all those faces she had only known through wedding and baby announcements,

even an invitation to a divorce party, her own correspondence a steady streak of checks through

the mail.


Cynthia walks from the kitchen to the living room and pauses.  She realizes that this will

be her life now: endless shuffling from one empty room to the next.  Inside the living room, she

notices a pile of blankets someone had removed from the hall closet and abandoned on the

ottoman.  Perhaps they had forgotten that she wasn’t dead yet, that they would have to wait

before they could paw through her things like at an antique shop, hunting for treasure.


She picks up the first blanket, a green and white lambswool that smells of cedar and

gathered dust.  She drapes it over the couch and picks up the next, a flowered afghan with a large

hole their black lab Bailey had chewed in anxiety when they first moved into the house.  When

she told her husband she didn’t want children, he said that was fine: they would just have a lot of

dogs.  Their last dog, Bartleby, an Airedale Terrier with a bark that sounded like an old man

clearing his throat, had died a week before her husband.


She walks to the hall closet where she finds a needle and thread.  These she uses to

loosely stitch together the blankets into a kind of tapestry.  She pulls three wooden chairs from

the dining room and drapes the tapestry over them.  After she finishes, she climbs inside.  The

light from her lamp glows round against the fabric, lighting her small space in red and white and



When she and her husband were newly married and moved into their first apartment

together, she had walked into the small, dirty space and seen the scuffed gray walls, the water

stains on the ceiling, the peeling linoleum floors, and she had sat on the floor and cried.  Her

husband had pulled their powder blue sheets from the box marked Bedroom, taken them into the

 main room, and draped them over a couple of chairs the previous tenants had left behind.  He

then took her hand and gently led her inside the makeshift fort.  The space was small and

suffused with the heat from their bodies, and she could not see beyond the surface of the fabric. 

They slept there that first night, surrounded by blue.


Now, she sits underneath her own makeshift fort, watching the heavy blankets dip low,

waiting to see how long they can withstand their own collapsing.


Melissa Reddish graduated with an MFA from American University in 2008. Her work has
appeared in Wazee and Flywheel Magazine. She is also the co-faculty editor of Echoes and
Visions, a student literary publication of Wor-Wic Community College.

One of my favorite things about writing is getting into the head of a character and hearing his or her voice, especially if it informs a perspective different from my own. For this piece, I started with the image of a fort in the middle of a living room, but it wasn’t until I heard the voice of the narrator that I realized that the woman making this fort had gone through an irreparable loss. The rest of the story proceeded from there.

Sometimes I think the most dangerous advice you can give an author is “write what you know.” That would imply that I could only write about taking my Black Lab for walks down by the water and teaching freshman composition. Better advice would probably be “research the details of your story” and “write with emotional integrity.”



Copyright 2009