[The auction for this object, with story by Stacey D’Erasmo, has ended. Original price: 69 cents. Final price: $19.50. Significant Objects will donate the proceeds from this auction to Girls Write Now.]
In the sugar house, near the celluloid sea, we tend to wake up early. You are — you design small, lovely, useful things in a room at the top of the sugar house. I am — I am doing research for a massive biography of three kings: the grandfather king (the First), the son king (the Second) and the last king (the Third). This research will take many years; it has already taken many years. We wake up early to put in a good day’s effort on our projects. I work at the big kitchen table, surrounded by paper. At lunch, we sit on a bench outside and lean against the white wall, eating sandwiches and looking at the sea, which seems marcelled. It is turquoise, deepening to a turtleback green in the troughs of the still waves.
You pick up a little pitchfork which is lying under the bench; our son, who is eight, must have dropped it there, it’s from his miniature farm, with its miniature fences, its miniature farmhouse, its tiny horses and cows and sheep, its petite silo filled with jelly beans. Look at this, you say, holding it out to me on your palm. Look how perfect it is, there is nothing extraneous in its design, it is exactly suited to its task. I take it from you and gently comb your hair with it. The first king was crazy, I tell you; the second king was a thief; the last king lost the kingdom altogether, because he was obsessed with conquering the neighboring kingdom. If only history were as sane as the tools we make. Kings waste the days, turn them to bad ends.
Even in the sugar house, you’re not quite listening. I put the little pitchfork between us on the bench, as if it, too, is our child. Or maybe it is a weapon that I am laying down. Or maybe I am giving it to you. Or maybe it is a tuning fork, finding the pitch of our silence. Even in the sugar house, I don’t know if that silence is companionable, or truculent, or prefatory to a much longer silence. Even in the sugar house, I take your hand instead of asking and hope that that warmth is enough. Even in the sugar house, I am surrounded by distracted kings.
The last time we had dinner together, we were in a Greek restaurant on 14th Street. You sat up straight, talking animatedly. Your hair was wet from showering at the gym. Before the food came, you were drawing invisible designs on the white tablecloth with your fork, punctuating each four-score line with a firm metallic tap. There, that’s done. I reached across the table, took your hand. I didn’t want you to finish the last line, sound the last note. I knew what you were going to say, probably over dessert. I preferred, just for the moment, to dwell in the infinite possibilities of that small silence.
“Even in the sugar house, you’re not quite listening.” This gets to me every time I read this story.
“…a tuning fork, finding the pitch of our silence.” I love this story.
There is so much history here. A lovely, heavily weighted story.
A perfect piece of writing. Wish I had seen this before the auction was over.