Finished Business – Benjamin Kessler

An unexpected inheritance—
on one condition. Just one
night, no big deal. Uncle Jim
was always such a joker. Easy
money though, flip the land after.
Someone’s always building condos.

Don’t be so sure, I’m told. Don’t
you know? Spooky house, that one.
Ghosts? Chock full.

Surely not this vinyl siding
build-a-home. They must’ve had
it confused with the abandoned
riverboat casino, home assuredly
to many a malevolent spirit
still shooting crap.

No breath of wind moans shut
the door behind me as I stoop
to gather up the mail piled
clumsy on the burgundy runner:
Audubon Society address stickers,
Cigar Aficionado’s holiday gift guide.

Toss his keys—now my keys—
into the ceramic dish with the coins,
to thine own self be true. Watch close
for moving eyes behind photos hanged
on the wall. Myself in a baseball uniform,
my kid sister blowing out birthday candles.
We were the closest he had to children.

Pick through the cupboards. Which box
of half-empty pasta triggers the secret passage?
None, of course, they only serve to hide
the half-empty bottle of brown liquor.
National Geographic’s in a stack. Haunted?
Hardly, simply water damaged. Uncle Jim, dead
from diabetes, sugar shock right there
at the gouged formica table only two weeks prior.

You’ll clean? my mother asks. You’ll wipe
it down if there’s anything left? Anything they
missed?

But there isn’t. There are services
for that kind of thing and they were
thoroughly vetted to leave no trace,
to suck up bedsheet ghosts in a backpack
vacuum and pour them into canning jars
for cold storage.

Thumb through Van Morrison long plays,
brush cobwebs off the turntable and queue up
Moondance, running it backward with my fingers
to listen for hidden messages, but it only summons
silverfish from the baseboard who make trails
through the hardwood dust.

What else to do but tuck in for the night?
Crouch down to check beneath the fold out
Sleeper sofa—nothing but crumpled
fun-size wrappers—and nod off beneath
the afghan to Seinfeld reruns three to a VHS tape.
See these, with the stars on the label? These are my favorites.
There’s nothing but stars.


Benjamin Kessler’s work has appeared, or is forthcoming in, Hobart, DIAGRAM, Jet Fuel Review, Entropy, The Oakland Review, Epigraph, Superstition Review, The Masters Review, The Gravity of the Thing, What are Birds?, and Portland Review. He is a former book serf at Powell’s City of Books. He lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.

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