Notice of Proposed Land Use Action

by Jennifer Fliss

This is a notice to tell you that you will be removed from your house in sixty days. We understand it is the multi-generational home of your family, that your childhood heights and your mother’s childhood heights and your grandfather’s childhood heights are marked on the doorframe. As are your brother’s and your sister’s and your two aunts’.

We understand you were born there; upstairs, in the second room on the right. That your mother labored for eleven hours and there you slithered onto the knotty pine floor, yowling. That the stains of your birth were covered by a round rug decorated with a ring of small red flowers and blue and orange curls within curls. Rosemaling, they call it; your great-grandparents had brought it over from Norway in 1927 along with a single suitcase and your soon-to-be-born grandfather. We know that sometimes your mother pulled up the rug and pressed her face to the stain when you were a teenager. When you told her you hated her and slammed doors and had sex in the laundry room but denied it even though she found a line of condoms in the dryer. After your sister was hit by a car while chasing an escaped tetherball, and after she lay pretty and cold at the funeral home up the block, and after she was deposited into the ground, your mother rested her head on the hard floors again. For hours at a time, she spread her soft body on the kitchen linoleum and on the original-to-the-house hexagonal tiles of the bathroom. They were cold, still are, and could turn a hot flush into something not unlike pain when needed.

We will also be demolishing everything left inside, so you better make sure you get everything you want. That Ouija board under the floorboards of your bedroom closet? That too. Otherwise we will take the ghosts and phantoms that linger and crush them down into the sediment of the earth. Above we will build rectangular townhouses constructed like Lego with brightly colored doors. Ochre or sunbeam or vermillion–buyer’s choice. The ghosts–your ghosts–they can float down another hallway, another street. They’ll follow you wherever you go.

You should think about digging up your sweet mutt Larry with the one floppy ear and the one Doberman ear, and also the many dead gerbils. We will be placing large four by four foot paving stones down to create a patio; no need for grass–we want these homes to be low-maintenance. The grill will go over there and a raised bed or two can go over here. The new residents can grow peppers and tomatoes and beets. They will reach into the loamy dirt and pull out organic meals and proclaim: It came from our very own garden! With my own two hands! Can you believe it!? And their friends will shake their heads, hand off a can of local IPA and say, no, we can’t.

You may also want to dig up the time capsule you planted when you were eight. We know it was meant to be opened in twenty three years, but no harm in pulling it up a little early. Bet you can get good money for the Mary Lou Retton Wheaties box and that Paddington collectible bear, even with the ear chewed–you were such a nervous child. Take out the love poem you wrote to the squirrels, the letters from your Japanese pen pal, the Polaroids of you and your little sister dressed as the Doublemint twins, and the postcard that reads: Dear Sugar, The holy land sure is holy! I keep falling into them left and right! Can’t wait to see you. Love, Grandpa.

Recycle them perhaps.

But first, we are going to erect this chain link fence. When the weeds grow high and hide the house in its shadows, it will be time for the Department of Planning and Development to go in and conduct an environmental review. Is it safe?, Is there lead?, water levels, and all that.

See that billboard? That’s one of ours. “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” It’s a quote from Picasso. It’s supposed to make you feel good about this. Don’t you feel good?

Approval has been received. We’re sorry about the economy. That recession really hit hard, didn’t it? Anyway, the project will go ahead as planned. And thank you. Really. You are an integral part of seeing this come to fruition. You are part of this creation. Your life, your entire life, we are indebted to.

When you stuck your fingers into the knotty wood floors; when you hid under the sink with the cleaning supplies that you thought smelled of oranges and love; when you snuck up onto the roof to read Encyclopedia Brown or Goosebumps during the July 4th barbeques, you knew exactly where to place your feet to climb higher and higher and where you could sit and still get a good view of cousins and friends eating burgers and coleslaw and you hummed along as they sang wonky versions of the national anthem, making up their own lyrics like it was a contest. Your father always saved you a plate. Hot dog–no bun, potato chips and a tangy pile of ketchup. Don’t let us destroy those memories for you.

The mantle, the cupboards, the doorknobs, the doors–all those will be auctioned off or brought to one of those salvage warehouse stores. People just love those period details.

About the chimney. When you were six, you climbed up it from the inside to check that it was clear for Santa. When you got stuck for two hours, your brother tossed fruit roll-ups and jelly beans from above to keep you calm. Such a nice brother. Are you still close? Anyway, the chimney will be the first to go, it holds the entire structure up.

And when the damp enters through those knotty floor boards and you think you can’t drive by the old sodden family home anymore without killing yourself, it’ll be gone. Just like that. An empty lot of tall yellow grass, a few pieces of siding here, a brick there. Maybe you think you see the rocking chair where you rocked your baby sister every night and sang/told her that she had the whole world in her hands, but you don’t. The ghosts the pine floors the rug the stain the hexagonal tiles. It’s all gone.

And minutes later, it will seem, our beautiful modern townhouses will be up in its place. Bright and airy and filled with young families from out of town.

We will be able to build eight townhouses on this lot. Eight! With a one-car garage and parking pad for each unit. LEED certified and all that. Silver. Gold. Platinum. Whichever is the best. We believe sustainability is key to the future.

Jennifer Fliss is a Seattle-based fiction and essay writer. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in PANK, The Rumpus, Bartleby Snopes, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. She recently won the Fiction Southeast Hell’s Belles Short Fiction Prize. She can be found on Twitter at @JFlissCreative or via her website,