Saturday, May 15, 2010

Post-Diluvian Follies: The End of Days

At the end of the week, the weather changed overnight from sweltering, noxious summer to clear, crisp fall. The sky turned from a gauzy, whitish haze to clear, radiant blue. With cooler temperatures, the pervasive stench lessened, and the inside of my house was actually tolerable.

The ground floor was now largely empty; only the sad antiques remained. They were in varying states of flooded disrepair, some stained and disjointed but clearly salvageable, others crumbling into hopeless shambles.

I couldn’t abandon any of them yet—even the lost causes (though I consoled myself that a catastrophic flood was an appropriate way for old New Orleans furniture to go). They’d traversed generations of family before coming into my care, and I wasn’t ready to haul them to the curb. For now, just stash them. Do the hard reckoning later.

A friend had an empty storeroom. John had the truck. I prepped the antiques for the move, dragging Victorian armchairs and settees one by one out to the porch, cutting out their upholstery, pulling out fistfuls of moldy horsehair and padding. Plumes of fine white flour-like spores billowed over me. (I wore my Desert Storm mask.) I puzzled sideboards and secretaries together, hunting down missing pieces from across the room, stashing them in garbage bags and duct taping them to their item-of-origin.

John’s loaded-up truck resembled something from the opening credits of Sanford and Son. Our formerly grand old furniture now looked like a trash picker’s haul on an off day. I eyed them nervously as we drove the few short blocks to the storeroom, fearing a modest pothole might deliver the final blow, turning the still marginally intact pieces into kindling.

We discovered the storeroom keys didn’t fit, and we couldn’t get the right ones until the afternoon. But hauling the frail things back to the house was not an option. After pondering the issue, we made our decision: stash them in the bushes until later. Leaving my family legacy in a pile among the weeds of an empty lot made me nervous. (My nerves were bad. Far smaller matters jangled them severely.)

John looked at the sad heap, “I think they’ll be okay.”

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