“How to Heal a Family in Three Easy Steps”

Step One

Gather in the room no one goes into anymore. Yes, that one. The one you try not to look at when you walk down the hallway. The one that emanates heat even though it is winter.

Example: The three of them gather in the bedroom. The father stands in the middle of the room. The ceiling fan cord glides against his hair, though he does not notice. The daughter presses her face against the wall. I think it’s vibrating, she says. The son does not believe her, so he shuffles over, presses his warm cheek against the wall, too, just to be sure. I can feel it, he says. He is looking down when he says this. The father is not sure what to do, so he joins them. He presses his cheek to the wall with a pressure that surprises even the children. The three of them spend the afternoon doing this. The three of them are pressing their cheeks to the walls, to the folded fabrics on the floor, then to the floor, to the windows, to the plastic bins with needles and scissors.


Step Two

Take turns throwing everything out of the window. All of it. If there is larger furniture (which there will be), use the scissors. This will come in handy for items like the dresser and bookcases. It will take a long time to get everything out the window. Take breaks. If you are unsure of where to start, first find something to pity.

Example: The father starts with the quilted blanket with cigarette burns. Her initials are still in the bottom right corner. Only he knows the parts of the quilt that are uneven because she showed him. When he throws the blanket from the window, it puffs up before it flutters down. The daughter is drawn to the stack of dolls still in their boxes in the closet. She throws them from the window as far as they will go. Some even make it to the driveway. The son rips the thrift store necklaces from a wire coat hanger and the beads roll nearly forever. Everything, the daughter asks. Even this, the son asks. He is holding the striped ironing board. The father hands the son the scissors. Everything, he says. Soon, they are all whispering this word as they move to each new item. The stained rocking chair. The spray-painted jewelry box the children made that had once been an old shoe-box.  At times, they grow tired. At times, they take breaks. Some breaks will last for years. But the three of them continue on until it is all gone. The white lace curtains with hair clips clasped along the bottom. The notepad with the monthly budget always written in blue ink. The last to go are the used up chapsticks in the top drawer of the nightstand and then, of course, the nightstand.


Step Three

Wait until everyone has forgotten what the room looked like before. This could take awhile. When you are sure you have all forgotten, bring everything in from outside. The weather has not been easy on furniture. Some things have been picked up by the city. Some things have flowed into the gutter. Retrieve them. Try to remember what the room looked like before it happened. Take turns gluing the pieces back together. Then, let dry for at least forty-eight hours, especially if this is the first time.

Example: The sister finds the stacks of picture frames in the flower beds. The photographs have faded. The father collects the tattered clothes along the curb, hanging from the tree, buried under leaves. The brother brings in the jewelry he finds under the parked cars on the street. They take turns bringing everything inside. They take turns putting the room back together. They use glue. The son lines the shoes up in the closet by color. This isn’t how it was, the daughter says when they are done. So they start over. They buy more glue. They rearrange the furniture. They put the bed on the other side of the room. They reorder the books on the shelf. Then, it is done. Each believes the room is glued together just right. Each is sure that this is the way it was. Now we are done, the father says. When they leave, the son asks, But what will we do now? The daughter makes sure to close the door. The three of them sit down on the braided rug in the living room. The father slides the coffee table over so there is enough space. They are tired. They sit cross-legged and very close. They make sure their knees touch. They are too afraid to lose another.

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About Mercedes Lucero

Mercedes Lucero is the author of the chapbook, In the Garden of Broken Things (Flutter Press 2016). Her writing has appeared in The Pinch, Heavy Feather Review, and Curbside Splendor among others. A recent Glimmer Train "Short Fiction Award" Finalist and Pushcart Prize nominee, you can find her at www.mercedeslucero.com.