I add the plastic bag carrying a half-clean lunch container to the growing cityscape on the dining room table. I use a broken UHF antenna to practice showing the others how to make it through alleyways of dusty dinner plates, the carefulness of looking around the corners of the shot out tenements of wine glasses stained with week-old Barefoot Merlot. Only then, I would say, only then would they capture this last parcel. My father thought furniture as the solution. A new living room table to keep the rug from escaping. A bed with no memory. Pictures of drawings of places worth traveling to, worth staring at. Two TVs doubling as murder weapons from the right height. A DVD player with no remote. "Make the effort," he said.

Today's mail falls onto torn envelopes, the accordions-in-progress of bank statements, Express ads quietly shaming me into an eating disorder and a straight shave. My cat rubs herself against my legs, chases after a bug, a ghost. She climbs on top of the refrigerator, talks to the cat upstairs.

Natalie didn't say anything as she followed me across the trail of dirty laundry, spent candy wrappers, flecks of faded receipts, leading into my bedroom, the black curtains hiding the detergent stains on the carpet. My father said they would keep the sunlight out when he put them up. I used them to hide the gap toothed grimaces of the blinds.

Every June 15, I come over to my father's place, drink boilermakers. We drag a mattress he bought from Goodwill, pour the remainder of the plastic bottle whiskey onto it, tuck a book of matches in. I always offer to bring whiskey that comes in a glass bottle but he says it's the only way the next morning feels like my mother.

The UHF antenna wobbles as I trace my route, rolling out from the corner of the empty Amazon box, past the dirty wine glass sentries, into the tower of dusty plates. I imagine a page pointing behind him, the door ajar. He'll warn me I'll only find bandages if I keep looking.

Leigh didn't care about the Petri dish of my living room. Tom didn't care that the last time my sheets touched water was three months ago on Valentine's Day. Gina didn't care about the evolving ruins of my kitchen, clearing out thickets of pots and pans from the sink. My father keeps telling me "Make the effort." I'm waiting for someone other than him to tell me the same.


About the Author: J. Bradley is the author of Bodies Made of Smoke (HOUSEFIRE, 2012). He lives at

Story Song: "Baby We'll Be Fine" by The National