ARDOR Literary Magazine

ARDOR Literary Magazine - Issue Three, September 2013

Issue One, Published January 2013

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Page 53 of 109

FICTION VACANCY ANGELA PALM I tried to explain to her my fascination with empty structures that had once held people, businesses, animals, cargo. "You mean like old barns and stuff?" Rachelle asked. "Yeah," I said. "Silos, houses, warehouses, Cabrini Green. Stuff like that." I told her I liked to imagine the stories that happened inside—the chain of events that culminated in each structure's specific emptiness, the people involved. We were in Illinois for the weekend visiting my hometown, just south of Chicago. I'd been planning to ask her to marry me over dinner, waiting for the right moment. The peas were cold, the pork grisly. Rachelle looked disappointed. Then my father blew up at my mother for forgetting to buy him new shaving cream and they bickered through dessert. I decided to wait until breakfast. My parents went to bed early. They always had. Rachelle and I sat in front of the TV, not watching it. The Weather Channel forecasted a storm, but we didn't listen to the details. Instead, I told her about the time I went to North Carolina to volunteer with a disaster relief program after Hurricane Floyd. Feeling futile, I'd mostly walked around, taking it all in. I'd stood inside of a small house stripped bare of all evidence that humans had recently lived there except for a 2pac poster on the living room wall. "It was the only thing completely unaffected by the flooding, just pinned up in ARDOR | 50 PALM the middle of all that destruction—hopeful, somehow," I said. "And it was 1999, so you understand the irony." But she didn't. She didn't know anything about 2pac or the conspiracy theories claiming that he'd staged his own death, so how could she? Rachelle loved country music. Everything else was noise. I worried about the things we had in common, the things we didn't have in common. I didn't tell her that seeing the poster had made me cry. She still didn't get my meaning about the empty structures, but said she wanted to understand. I told her I'd show her. We got into my car and drove two towns over from where I'd grown up. She was serene, looking out the window at the trees. "Poplars," she said. "Cottonwood. Pin Oak." She always named the trees when we drove. I nodded. I pulled the car into the gravel parking lot in front of the Blue Heron Motel. It was a seedy place built as a long line of square rooms with thin walls, each with a separate entrance and a single, cheap window framed in faded gray trim. "This place has been empty since I was a kid," I said. Rachelle gave me an uneasy smile. "It closed down for good in the late 70s. I'd always wanted to stay there for a night. I thought if I could sleep there, spend some time there alone, I'd learn its stories." I recalled my mother's face when I'd asked her if she'd rent me a room. My ideas had always seemed to worry her. "No, my god, no," she'd said and looked at my father as if to say, "See what I mean about this one?" We got out of the car and peered into one of the lodge's windows. The room inside held a decaying bed, a rotting nightstand tipped onto its side. A dingy, floral sheet lay diagonally across the pink mattress. A Bible jutted out from under the side of the bed. "This is the room," I said.

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