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The Broom Closet

Growing up we had always had interesting folks living with us. I have seventeen aunts and uncles and eighty-four first cousins, so the odds are we were related.

One of my dad’s brothers had a particularly strong penchant for serendipitous travel and not quite settling down in one place for too long. He’d decide he wanted to live in the U.S. for a while again, would pack up one duffel bag, take the bus to MEX, and walk up to the Mexicana or Aeromexico counter and fly standby to LAX. A few hours later, he’d take the bus to our house, and I would find him waiting on our porch waiting for me to let him in when I got home from school.

Then he’d just crash with us for an indeterminate amount of time. He worked on the higher-fidelity parts of construction projects, tiling bathrooms, or intricate brick stuff. Whenever a hotel would go up, his old real-estate connections would reach out, he’d come over, and when he was done, he’d go back home.

I knew he lived in the house because he used Nivea creme. Its aroma would take over whatever cabinet or closet he’d end up keeping his things in. Like the broom closet, or the place I kept my toys. Whenever I travel for work I like to take a little tin of it with me to remember him.

He was also knowledgeable about folk medicine, and would keep supplements and this and that on hand to treat such and such.

One day my mom asked me to sweep the kitchen. I went to the broom closet and reached my hand in, like I had several times before, but he had moved everything around. The broom wasn’t where it usually was. Something else was there. Much thicker.

Turns out, a dried rattlesnake is also about the length of a broom. Its aroma also takes over the space where you put it. This memory also stays with you forever. The end.