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Jason M. Thornberry

Residue of Yesterday

Gates by Sarah Samuel.

I had never seen a demolished house before I came to Seattle. Now, they lay in smoking heaps, propping up corners of every street. No one needs their single-unit home, knowing they’ll make a million from the lot alone. So they sell, sounding the knell for the neighborhood. With a hammer tap, a flimsy yellow sign pierces the lawn beside you. It sways in the breeze as you pass. Months later, a rumbling flatbed arrives, offloading a beeping backhoe the color of ketchup-mixed mustard. In thirty-minutes, the house next door—a chamber of someone’s memories—is a tangled pile of splintered wood, torn insulation, broken bricks, pulverized porcelain, bent nails, and shattered glass beside a mound of freshly uprooted trees. Within minutes, the “construction” begins, twelve-hours a day, six-days a week—the kind of thunderous resounding basso profundo aftershocks you thought exclusive to war. One year later—presto!—a faceless cluster of utilitarian townhomes, little wider than public toilets, rises proudly toward the sky, blocking the sun from your garden. Your green tomatoes dwindle and die while you write another hollow letter to the city council, dress quickly, and look over your shoulder as you scramble down the sidewalk toward the blue mailbox, gazing at the residue of yesterday.


About the writer:
Jason M. Thornberry’s work appears in The Los Angeles Review of Books, North Dakota Quarterly, Broadkill Review, and elsewhere. Jason performed with numerous post-punk and alternative bands before suffering a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic epilepsy. Relearning to walk and speak, he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Chapman University.

Image: “Gates” by Sara Samuel. From Monoliths, a collection of photos depicting unifying elements of the Manhattan cityscape. Fine art photograph. No technical information specified.  By permission. Sara Samuel lives in Woodbury, New York, and is a computer graphics researcher at Columbia University.

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