ANN MARIE GAMBLE
All Baxter’s furniture had been left him by relatives. His bureau, fronted with burl maple polished to a satin even without varnish, had been brought to this continent by a great-grandmother. The secretary in the front room housed his grandmother’s address book, streets meticulously updated in pencil, new households added as children grew up. In a page at the back, she listed the next recipients for the goods: a sofa for the Connecticut Baxters. A free-standing wardrobe to a nephew about to retire from the Navy.
The Minnesota Baxters were currently parked in the driveway, a sedan and a DIY moving truck not quite missing a flower bed on the long drive. A two-day stay had extended to five when the closing on their new house was delayed. The little family joined him for dinner in a formal dining room. The French Restoration table had legs ending in brass paws that the child kicked—when he wasn’t hammering on the tabletop with one utensil or another. His cousin’s wife said “Robbie,” folded a dishtowel under his plate, but took no other action.
On day 4, Baxter sat at the secretary and sharpened his pencil. Robbie tugged his sleeve.
The boy handed Baxter a stack of old postcards, spidery handwriting that was unknown to him but addressed to his grandmother.
Baxter stood up. “Where did you find these?”
Robbie took his sleeve again and pulled. They went to the other guest bedroom, and the boy knelt down next to the wardrobe. The sides looked like pillars, and when the boy tugged at the base of one, it slid out.
Baxter knelt next to him to look at the hidden drawer. Robbie slid to the other pillar; this had a drawer as well.
Baxter took a ball—hard, dusty rubber—out of the drawer and gave it to Robbie. The child accepted it solemnly and ran outside. He’d be grubby at dinner, then, too—as some decades-ago child had been.
Baxter slid on his knees, as Robbie had done, to examine the other drawer.
Ann Marie Gamble is an editor at an advertising agency in the U.S. Midwest. She writes fiction, poetry, and screenplays and practices keeping it pithy on Twitter. This year she bought new furniture instead of repurposing family cast-offs.