by Kirsten Ferguson

Abandoned House, 1983 by Toby Alter. Creative Commons: Wikimedia Commons.


She stands on the dusty road, heels digging into the dirt, and looks up at the crumbling farmhouse. The once green shutters and painted boards are now bleached and worn, like bones left too long in the sun. The windows are broken, shards of glass grinning back at her. She approaches the house, slowly pushing through the overgrown lawn, before she comes to a stop at the front door. But even as she lifts a hand to the cool doorknob her muscles refuse to grasp the handle.

Turning, she can see the barn where she and her brother used to play. Often they would trap one of the half wild cats stalking the yard and carry them, hissing and scratching, to the loft. They would take turns holding the squirming animals up by their paws and dropping them off the ledge, testing to see if cats really do land on their feet. Once, her brother tossed a kitten too high and it fell to the ground, landing in a heap. She can still remember the sick feeling as she looked down at the still form, neck twisted and paws splayed. “I think it’s dead,” her brother whispered, as if by not saying it too loud he could make it not true.

Stepping to the side she tries to look in the kitchen window. Through a crack in the glass she can see a light spot on the otherwise yellowed wallpaper. The night her baby sister died her father sat below the clock that once hung there, listening to minute after minute tick away. It had been oddly warm outside, without a hint of wind, as if the farm was holding its breath along with her father. She could clearly recall the empty bottle of scotch in his hand, the glass long forgotten.

Finally, she walks to the front door and turns the key in the resistant lock. Stepping inside the smell hits her first: dust and moldering, nothing like the warm bread she recalled. The blue striped wallpaper is peeling and instinctively she steps over the third board in the floor, knowing it will squeak. Above her, she sees her father at the top of the stairs, hands outstretched, just as he had stood all those years ago. Her eyes travel to the base of the stairs, where her pregnant mother was once sprawled. Her ears echo with the memory of her father screaming, “You didn’t see nothing! Nothing!”

At the funeral her family stood around the tiny casket. It was still too warm, but the world had started to breathe again. The wind teased at her mother’s hair, her father’s jacket. She remembered how they each took turns tossing handfuls of dirt into the small hole, but the wind snatched the dirt from her father’s hands.

It became her father’s habit to sit under the old clock, watching the hands tick with a whiskey in hand. She used to think that he was still waiting to hear that first cry from Baby Girl. She knows better now.

Starting her car, she listens to the quiet purr of the engine. Finally, she throws the car into gear and drives away. She doesn’t look back, because she didn’t see nothing. Nothing.



Kirsten Ferguson is a Technical Writer for a small software development company in Idaho. She posts some of her work to a WordPress blog:

“Inheritance” is her first published work of fiction.


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