The Vanishing

Jared Beloff


The house went without a sound during Mrs. Thompson’s daily trip to the mailbox last fall, her back turned from the crater where the front porch had been. When she looked up from a fistful of circulars and credit offers, the absence announced itself in a plume of smoke, the crumpled paper edge of the lawn, a faint hiss of the gas main, plumbing emptying out into what would later seem like a gaping mouth in the middle of her lot. Helen shuffled up to the rim quietly before tossing each piece of mail one at a time into the maw as if it was the small table from her foyer, the one she had inherited from Great Aunt Ella, an heirloom, now lost, where she could showcase every card from the holidays long past their use, their intended joy.


Experts gave their autopsies like the cawing of crows, a murder of experts. The house was still gone. Helen was relieved, happy to move rather than beginning the process of replacing the memories she’d locked into its seams: the damp smells and oils of use; the love that filled gaps in the hall, the spaces of her body. She kept thinking of the flawed bubble trapped in the old glass in the front window. She liked to tap with her pinky as if one day it would dislodge, float out like a spider’s line on the breeze where she could watch it go until the sun pushed down past the elm trees.


One morning, Helen found herself drifting toward a field by the roadside outside of town. The field was edged by goldenrod, otherwise brown and waiting for winter, a line of trees stoic like a neighboring fence. She stood in the center listening to the white noise of morning fog lifted by light. Later, when she saw the foursquare of her front window shadowed in dust, there was no surprise, just the warmth of annoyance filtered by the stained-glass butterfly she had hung just above the crossbar. Dot had given it to her. Why now? Later she wondered if the butterfly had winked its wings.


She kept coming to the field. A shallow puddle hung there like a mirage on a hot road. Underneath, the radiator’s patient tick sounded just under the wind chime, then only the rustle of tall grass, the click of a katydid. The trees, shadowed and still, said nothing.


Driving home, she saw stairs ascending through the tunneled green. Her search was harried and frantic, uncertain if she wanted to find them or not, troubled at what would happen if she did, if she climbed them. At the base of a tree, the notch on the middle of the second step.


It stood in the field. A solid door. She could not say why, but she knew that it was open. Her hand upon the knob looked like mottled brass as she closed it, a smile at the click of the latch.

Jared Beloff is a teacher and poet who lives in Queens, NY with his wife and two daughters. You can find his work in Contrary Magazine, Rise Up Review, Barren Magazine, Bending Genres, The Shore and elsewhere. His work has been nominated for Best of the Net. He is currently a peer reviewer for the Whale Road Review. You can find him online at Follow him on Twitter @read_instead.