I find myself in my childhood home. It must be summer because the sun is beaming into my bedroom, hot and bright. I'm standing in the hallway. I must be 12 years old because my hair is cut into a blunt bob, and I am supposed to be doing chores. Specifically, It is Saturday, and mom said I had better clean out that damned linen closet before going outside.
I can hear a radio in the distance. It's playing the song These Dreams by Heart. The air is fragrant with the skunky smell of weed, and mom says, "Hey, Carolyn! You gonna pass that or what?"
The doors to the closet are dusty, with peeling lemon-yellow paint. They squeak when I open them, and sludge pours onto my feet. How am I going to clean this?
The mud makes an ankle-deep puddle. I can't see the carpet anymore. I tell myself that kids shouldn't have to clean messes this big. I grab my tattered rag, and I try anyway.
I'm in the hall, frantically wiping at the grime with a discarded tee shirt. The more I scrub, the dirtier I get. If anyone sees this mess, my whole family will be mad at me. But this is bigger than me. I need help. I am scrubbing so hard that I can't catch my breath.
I am startled by the deafening rumble of what my parents call "air in the pipes." They are liars. It's a ghost, and I know it. Suddenly, the back door is slammed shut. My father's feet make heavy thuds across the kitchen and grow louder as they near the hallway. "Clean that fucking closet, Heather! That is family business, and we can't have anyone seeing it!"
I look up at my father silhouetted in the hall. He is young. Time hasn't marred his youthful face with lines and shadows of rage yet. I think, at this moment, I can spare him and myself the damage I know he will do. "But, Daddy," I whimper, "you made this mess. You did it!"