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June, 2022 1st place winner: the plastic barrier by ed friedman

Nothing had changed. It was like going into a historic house museum with the palpable sense that no activity had taken place here for an awfully long time. But this room, this apartment, had only been unoccupied for three months. The time it took my stepmother to become ill, go into the hospital, and die there. In fairness, the room always had this feel. My sister and I always joked about it being the “Museum of Edith” and there should be velvet ropes at the entryway because it was so rarely used. All the furniture was covered in plastic all the time. Even when my father died and friends and relatives came by to pay their respects, the plastic stayed on. Of course, given the situation, no one wanted to tell Edith that this might be the time to take off the plastic. So, it remained. The barrier to the pleasure of what ironically was called the “living room” was not unlike the barrier she paced between my father and his children.

As my sister Renee and I stood there looking at this last room we needed to go through, I couldn’t help but think that the plastic had finally served some useful purpose-keeping the accumulated dust off the furniture. This furniture would soon be sold, given away, or hauled off. Finally, Renee turned to me and said, “You know what I want to do?” I did know, and without a verbal reply, we headed for the furniture and proceeded to furiously unzip all the plastic, throw the pieces on the floor, and bounce up and down on the furniture, laying across it like pre-teens watching TV on a couch in the family room.

It felt good.


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