There’s an unnatural quiet transfixing the house.
The two kids, fourteen and eleven, sit on the edges of their beds, one facing the back of the other, both staring beyond the door leading out, both seeing nothing but their own separate thoughts.
The air in the room is lit with a million motes illuminated by the sun falling towards the horizon, half-blocked by palmettos and live oaks, by a wisteria vine that has sunk its predatory tendrils into the earth a hundred times, always grasping for more, more, always rising again with indisputably beautiful flowers to distract from the business it has with the earth’s nutrients, it’s vendetta against neighboring trees. The motes float as they glimmer, absorbing and diffusing light, making the silence fill with dread.
Bedclothes bunched at the bottom of each bed, kicked out of the way during restless sleep, damp with anxiety. A pillow lies off the side of one bed at an angle, its case parted like a scream stifled by the kapok stuffing and the crumpled tag. Another pillow jammed against a headboard, bent double at its center, its breath knocked out, unable to gasp, staying silent in solidarity with the worn wooden floors and chests of drawers, the bookshelves, their clothes hanging like ghosts in their shared closet, the door jamb with their names and growth marks fading away, their book bags collapsed and askew on throw rugs lying out of place too near the door, their escape and their confinement.
If a bomb had gone off the walls would be down, the floors scattered with drywall dust and framing shrapnel from the home that once had been. They would have been mangled and sore with splinters, battered with gypsum chunks, with novels impelled by that instantaneous force into their foreheads and torsos, with fractured doors and airborne door knobs, with candelabra from the dining room, with silverware clanging away from its drawer, with armrests and ladder backs from the chairs set around the table waiting for a dinner that would no longer arrive in their bombed house. They would be hidden by an explosion of clothes, their stockinged feet peering out from a shirt cuff or a pair of worn dungarees, their faces hidden by a molehill of balled up socks, the air choking with new motes swimming away from the epicenter of the catastrophe.
But that is not what happened. So they sat. Waiting for that last argument to settle into the seams of the house and join its companions among the joists and conduit, among the pipes and insulation, among the spider webs and silverfish in the damp and dusty crawl space beneath their thoughts.