They told me the news over a brief phone call. They could not elaborate on the phone, so they were quick. Short and sweet.
I got in the car and drove to the nearest supermarket, where I asked the sales associate to show me where the adhesives were. We passed a series of aisles and until we arrived: white glue, yellow glue, super glue, fabric glue, spray glue, and all kinds of tapes. I didn’t have time to read the labels. We filled up the cart and went to the cashier. The sales associate at the cash register asked if I wanted some tissues. I said no and thanked him.
There was an ambulance in front of the house when I arrived. I pulled up the handbrake, rolled up the window, and locked the doors from the inside. A man in a white unbuttoned uniform came out of the house with a stretcher. A sheet hung from it, rubbing on the ground. I put my head on the hot steering wheel, covered my ears, and pressed them as hard as I could. I waited. Then, slowly, I opened my eyes, hoping they had left. No one was there.
I got out of the car, picked up the bag from the backseat, and folded the side mirror. Once inside, I locked the door behind me. I emptied the bag onto the carpet and sorted all the adhesives into glues, tapes, or sprays.
I stood up and scanned all the items in the house. Everything looked like she had been living there until just a moment ago. I had to sit down on the chair for a few minutes. I tried to remember its exact position so that when I stood back up, I could put it back where it was before. I wiped off my tears and took a few deep breaths. I knew the location of a few things. Next to the oven, just right of the pot, there were always some loose dried tea leaves. I sprayed them with glue, and when it dried, I covered them with transparent tape. Then I went for the rice sack and the sugar container, and then to the flowerpots, hoping to find some dry petals. I searched the entire house.
I even glued the bathroom sandals—which you always had to open the door to reach—exactly where they were. One straight and one crooked.
It was time to glue the glass and the teaspoon on the round table, and the pot lid beside the sink. A glass of water for soaking dentures was beside the bed. The blanket had dropped on the floor.
I carefully applied glue under the chairs and dinner table legs as well as the carpet. Then I went for the half-opened balcony door. I fixed it with glue. I also glued the closed and halfway-closed cabinet doors.
It was already dark and I could not turn the lights on anymore. I had glued all the light switches, electrical outlets, and everything that was attached to them. In the dark, I had to look for the things that could be moved. I was anxious about hitting something, not knowing where it was originally placed. I touched everything carefully, examining it with the tips of my fingers. I only hit a saltshaker. Salt spilled on the floor. I stood still. I took off my socks and marked where I hit the saltshaker. I put its lid back on and tried to wipe the salt off the floor. I lapped up the rest. Then I glued the saltshaker where it was before.
By the soft rays of light coming through the old green blinds, I determined everything in the house was affixed. I gathered all the empty tubes, cans, boxes, bottles, and rolls in a bag and threw it out the half-opened window with difficulty. Then I poured glue all over the sofa where I used to sit and listen to her talk. I put my hand on the arm of the sofa and pressed the back of my head on the backrest. I squeezed a glue tube into my only free hand, which I gently placed on my face. I pressed it a little and held still.
“The Glue” by Arash Dabestani and “The World’s Forgotten Boy” by Silas Plum appeared in Issue 40 of Berkeley Fiction Review.
Arash Dabestani is an author who counts among his publications one novel and three collections of short stories, for which he has been honored to receive recognition. His stories often make use of surrealist themes and have been translated from Persian to many languages, including English, German, and French.
Silas Plum won the East Coast POG tournament at age 12. The prize was 500 POG’s, small collectible cardboard circles, each with an identical red and blue design on the front. From that moment on, he became obsessed with the question of Value. Why were these important? How could anything not necessary for survival be worth more than anything that was? Does artistic sentiment have value? The POG’s are gone, but the questions remain. Through assemblages of defunct currency, discarded photographs, and long-forgotten illustrations, Silas Plum challenges the idea of objective vs subjective value. He believes strongly in the tired old maxim that the true value of an object is more than the sum of its parts, that the gut is a truth-teller, and that the Aristotelian notion of learning-by-doing is the best teacher around. Judge his worth at silasplum.com.