The house had a smell: cigarette smoke, but our rooms smelled of vodka and stale potato chips. My mom was always coming in to open the windows and turn on my fan. Everyone smoked but my brother. Everybody drank. Now, the house smells of smoke only near the front window when my mom allows herself a cigarette. Though it’s mostly scented candles and there is a rhythm, the oxygen tank in the corner near my mother’s plant collection, sort of breathing itself announcing presence at all hours of the day. It’s not a beep or a hum or a whirr but a steady electronic heave and fall that I hear as I lay in my brother’s room staring up at the psychedelic spinner that he got from Spencer’s Gifts years ago: black with white checker boxes and if I plugged it in, it would spin. I never plug it in. I watch it though, every time I’m here. I remember when he got it. I remember when he painted his room black, I painted mine dark purple.
It’s hard for me to sit still so I get up suddenly, abruptly and constantly. I walk into my mother’s room. I need to walk, pace. I did this as a child: walked up and down the hallway, walked into the den, danced, hopped, twirled around and then back into my room with the music loud, door shut, hopping up and down. Do people change? I really can’t tell. I am looking at myself in my mother’s giant mirror above her bureau, another reason I hang out in her room when she isn’t here and I hear something. I turn to the direction and also notice my mother’s trolls on the floor. She collects them. Not the little cartoon trolls with the diamonds in their belly button, although she has those too, but these big scary mannequin trolls that would have freaked me out as a child. They look like trolls from The Labyrinth; real trolls, happy but you know they have a nefarious world somewhere too. And they are all a brown hue. I liked the colored trolls. “General Hair” my dad called him: a troll we took out every time we played Risk.
He was beloved, our mascot.
“General Hair! General Hair!” my dad would repeat, sipping Wild Irish Rose prepared to lose again, every time.
“You’re kind of the worst at this, Dad.”
My brother and I were ruthless in Risk. It’s hard to stay one place. How do you not let grief destroy you? I can’t answer or cry or sit still or come to any meaning. I’m in my mother’s room noticing two of the larger trolls are on the floor previously having been on the bench next to her other dresser. They would not have fallen by themselves. I squint. That’s what I do when I’m fathoming concepts, squint. Then I see it’s black body slither towards the bureau.
“Oh fuck. Dad!!! Dad!!!!! There’s a snake in mom’s room! Dad!”
I didn’t scream though. It was, I’d say, two feet long in actuality but I described it as three feet to animal control, and only a foot away from me. I had walked right by it and it laid low for a minute. That is what I mean: the surprise. It laid low for a minute then took off knocking the trolls off the bench. That meant, it was on TOP of furniture. That meant, it was slithering over her stuff. It was the middle of the day in August, sunny, cool in the house. I didn’t scream. I wanted Alex to know that. I don’t scream anymore but I still called Dad. I didn’t leave the room either. I watched it. I didn’t run away when the snake got in the house and I didn’t plan to leave it.