Old Money Sample Post 2

Meghan Gilliss
| Fiction

My cousin and I veered off from the boys, sometimes, and set off
down the central trail that we could navigate by then with our
eyes closed, except that then our bare feet popped the shells of
snails and made us feel squirmy and uncertain of our place in
heaven (we still believed in it then). Reopening our eyes on the
path, we made our way to the big house. the family that had
bought it from our grandma hadn’t spent a summer there since
before we were born. they didn’t seem to appreciate our island,
which was just as well for us, I thought. the house’s clapboard
shingles were falling off. It was aesthetically tragic, which I appreciated—
I’d read Great Expectations by then. But it pained my
grandmother to see, and she stopped her own walks short, turn-
ing back at the clearing by the barn and walking home along the
beach. My cousin and I peered through those appropriately cobwebbed
windows. If we couldn’t live there, why should anybody

We lied to each other about having been inside.
We did break into the playhouse that had been built for our
grandmother when she was small, at the far side of the gardens.
It had a pointy roof of tiled slate, and a door that opened in two
sections. And only the puniest of padlocks, easy to smash with a
rock brought up from the beach. We were torn on whether to liberate
a velvet rocking horse. the fur on his muzzle was rubbed
away to gauze. We imagined restoring him to our grandmother,
triumphant. In the end, we didn’t want to see her moved to tears
by love of anything but us. It also occurred to us that we’d get in
trouble. We closed the horse back into the darkness, promising
each other we’d buy lottery tickets with our weekly allowances.
We’d buy the big house back.

I had no better idea then than I do now about how people
make money.
The rich man who now wants me to paint his sixteen bedrooms
bought the wreck and that whole side of the island when I was a
teenager. “Develops golf communities in Florida,” my grandmother
said—the only disdainful thing I heard her say in her life.
Was her tone for his work, or simply for the state of Florida?
Both, my dad said. Our parents showed us for the first time
where the property line was, and we waited behind this new landmark
as crews got to work. The house was stripped of its old
worn shingles. trenches were dug for new septic. The collapsing
barn was resurrected. A brand new yacht appeared at the mooring
in the cove, emblazoned with the name of the island.

We didn’t meet the new owners until the renovations were
complete. They came down the central path one evening, in a
golf cart, holding their fluted glasses up and out. We were on the
porch. “A golf cart?” we thought, and that sealed it. They said
they wanted a peek at the people they had to thank for their new
camp. They understood there was some history? We saw them
looking at our cabin. I saw them imagining generations of weakness.
My grandmother excused herself to the kitchen.

We watched the tail end of the cart bounce down the trail,
out of sight. I don’t think I’m the only one who thought I heard

My uncle-by-marriage spoke first: “Now there’s a man who
didn’t wait for handouts.” Nobody else said a word and soon he
started whistling, thinking he’d scored a point for his team. Our
silence grew and festered. My aunt, his wife, squinted at the sunset
through the trees, feeling our glances.

“Dog eat dog, right?” said my dad’s brother, with his wry

“You betcha,” said my uncle-by-marriage.

A graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars, Meghan Gilliss writes

short fiction from her home in Portland, Maine. Her stories have appeared

or are forthcoming in New Letters (which awarded her its 2014 Alexander

Cappon Prize for Fiction), The Rattling Wall, Folio, and Nat. Brut, among

others. She was a 2014 fellow of the Hewnoaks Artist Colony.

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Old Money Sample Post