by Maht Wells (or The Moon Topples)
The front door let out a creak and Tim nearly bolted, letting the exhilaration of coming close be enough. This was his dare, though, and he intended to prove himself. He felt his brother’s eyes on his back as he crossed the threshold.
They’d lain in the bushes and watched the old man push through the crooked screen door and pick his way to the truck. Tim had never heard the old man speak, had only seen him moving from house to truck and back again, and once in a great while sitting out front in an ancient metal deck chair.
He shut the door behind him and stood still as his eyes adjusted to the darkness inside. As the green wash faded, he was able to make out a pile of magazines stacked next to an easy chair, and an enormous, overflowing ashtray on the coffee table.
It was when he reached the kitchen that he thought about Rose, once the old man’s wife. Even Tim could feel her absence as he stared at the piling sink, the fallen curtain, the decay. This was his first real image of death, the effects of it and what life could become to those left behind. He would carry this kitchen with him.
“Tim!” His brother’s voice, from outside, probably halfway home already. The old man had returned.
Tim stood still for another moment, weighing his options before he turned on the water, squeezing soap from the bottle onto the dishes.