A cooler kicked her out by Jhaki M.S. Landgrebe

It’s difficult, now, to decide whether it was petty, worth eight years of running with herself, without her family. An oak desk seems petty. She could have bought a new desk, filled new journals, lured more love, loved more notes.

And she did. But, it was several desks later and she had already run.

Before several desks later there were several desks before. She was accustomed to moving. She didn’t run; she just happened to move. And when she moved, she lived. And when she lived, she filled desks.

These desks were nice and necessary. But when she came home, to her parents’ home, her childhood home, she came home to the only desk that mattered. A large Midwestern family with large Midwestern hoarding complexes kept this childhood home full of stuff. But the stuff was only stuff to everyone else. Her desk, no matter how it reeked of cat piss, in a room of flowing and rotating crap, was everything. And everything that mattered was in it.

This particular visit home she lost it. She’d lost her desk. And as she searched and as she screamed and as she sifted through everything that mattered in nowhere it belonged, she lost herself.

She had fluttered down the furry stairs, aged and matted into something like deflated popcorn, and automatically reached out for the brass ring of the longest and flattest of the four drawers. It wasn’t there and neither was the desk, in its prime real estate just outside the dressing room. Instead, only dead carpet and a hastily tossed, gawking, picnic cooler remained. Its flipped lid was as sloppy as the crime, leaving the cooler’s dopey mouth half ajar, flashing a glimpse of its idiotic tongue, an old t-shirt. It was no place for a shirt and no place for a cooler.

It was a place for her desk.

They’d saved ‘everything that mattered’. The terrified contents ripped from their soiled oak nooks and piled, insulted, into a sterile plastic tub, the desk tossed out. And in a final act, her desk’s guts, in their new plastic prison, were tucked away. In the deep basement britches of the awkwardly long house, surrounded by tubs of similar fates, lived her everythings. Outside of the dressing room, lived a cooler.

Back in the stack of nothings and everythings, all walled in plastic, she stayed. Not in the landfill, with her precious desk in one of its four precious drawers in any of their four precious nooks. Not in the desk’s barren plot outside the dressing room. But in the basement, with tubs and journals and lids, she stayed. No matter where she ran, no matter where she moved. She stayed. No matter where she stayed, she filled desks.

And so, several desks later, tired, full and forgetful, her body limped home and tiptoed down the same lumpy stairs perhaps towards tubs and journals and lids. She did not know. And as she stepped over a rectangle of freshly sprouted carpet, she clipped an absurd cooler, knocking its mouth clear off. She peered inside and waved.

She was in it all along.


About the Author:

Jhaki is an accidental teacher by trade and an artist and writer by otherwise. Her birthplace in the Midwest was a conservative start to a life of wander. She’s recently settled down and commutes between Sweden and South Dakota. Her artwork and stories appear in Metazen, Bartleby Snopes, Weave Magazine, Number Eleven, and elsewhere. Her artwork and a complete list of publications can be found at http://www.jhakijhaki.com.