You walk to the house. The door blocks you from going farther.
You open the wooden gate.
You enter the backyard. There are two chairs here. There is a firepit dug into the ground. It is night.
You can’t get the firepit.
The firepit contains:
a quantity of ash
a scrap of photograph
a charred letter
Which letter do you mean, the charred letter or the sealed letter?
>examine charred letter
>examine photograph scrap
Most of the photograph has burned away. What remains is a pale arm and half a face, in shadow.
>sift through ashes
In the ashes you find a ring. The gold plate is charred and flaking.
You put on the ring. It only fits your pinky finger.
It has white vinyl siding. There is a small wooden back porch, inexpertly built, lined with potted herbs. There is a window here.
>look through window
You see the kitchen. Midmorning light frosts a vase of freesia in the center of the table. There’s a bowl that recently held cereal sitting in the sink, not rinsed out, which she knows drives you crazy. You can hear crying coming from somewhere.
(through wooden gate)
You are standing in a front yard west of a white house.
Which way do you want to go? North, south, east into the house, west away from the house.
The way is blocked.
The way is blocked.
Your key doesn’t unlock this door anymore.
On the south side of the front yard is a skinny dogwood tree. It’s still only mid-spring, but the blossoms are already blown and ratty. A woman in jean shorts is standing under the tree looking at her phone; she is small and rounded, with very short hair and a dozen tiny gold earrings that wink against her skin. For a second she looks around, as if worried someone will see her, but she does not notice you. She smiles in a way you’ve never seen before.
Jess Zimmerman is the author of Women and Other Monsters and an editor at Quirk Books. Her essays and opinion writing have appeared in the Guardian, the New Republic, Slate, Hazlitt, Catapult, and others.