The house itself was a cavern. Inside it was always dark, damp. When I walked into the front door, right in front of me was the large wooden staircase that goes straight up. To the left was the dining room, with a big rectangular oak table over a red patterned rug. Here is where my father kept large cabinets full of my mother’s china. These cabinets were lined up along the walls, like watchful sentries guarding the dining room table. Through the dining room led to the kitchen in the back, with black and white tile and standard counters that ran the length of the wall. Off the kitchen and directly below the staircase upward were the stairs that led to the basement. This is where Ira had made his dwelling. Next to the stairs down was the bathroom, long and skinny, it made up the rest of the middle of the house with the staircases. Through the side of the kitchen was the den that was converted into my father’s bedroom when he got sickly. The carpet was thick and a dirty brown, and bookcases lined most of the walls, though most of the books were gone. Dad had regarded himself a scholar and a collector of old books, but he had started selling them on the Internet one by one so mom wouldn’t have to work and could devote her time to taking care of Dad. In the middle of the room was my old twin bed from when I was younger. Ira and I used to share the entire basement as one bedroom, and the master bedroom was upstairs. Through the den was the living room, complete with television and couch, which currently held Ira hunched over a TV tray and Dad’s easy chair where he had a napkin tucked into his shirt collar. The living room completes the walkthrough, because it connects back to the front hall.
“Get yours and Dad’s food from the kitchen,” Ira said hunched over his tray and a bowl. “It’s all on the counter. I made red beans and rice, ‘cause we need more groceries.”
I nodded and walked back through Dad’s bedroom, the den, to the kitchen, but my curiosity got the best of me. As a kid, I was mesmerized by Dad’s book collection. Large leather and cloth bound volumes, green and red and orderly standing tall on the bookshelves. It was these books that made me decide that I needed to be a writer when I grew up. I would pull them down from the bookshelves and lay them in my lap, flipping the thick pages one by one as I sat in the reading chair in the den. I wasn’t able to read them, and even if I was, I wouldn’t be able to understand them. Crime and Punishment, Moby Dick – these are books I’ve never read but pored over day by day. I became obsessed with the words, not what they said or what they meant, but just the look of them. Tracing my chubby index finger across them line by line. And now they were gone. All that was left was a ratty copy of The Great Gatsby and a few nameless volumes that speckled the shelves – original pressings of his own works. I shook my head as I turned on my heel towards the kitchen, where I saw a pot of the stove and two bowls with spoons on the counter next to them.