Spring Cleaning

“You must inhabit the house for ninety days, and not let any spirits in,” said her mother. “After the season has passed, the spirits will know you are the new owner and we can move in.”

She kissed her sisters and hugged her mother and then she went, as the eldest daughter.

She couldn’t take anything with her. The spirits would be angry at the invasion of new things, so she went with only the clothes on her back. She wore her nicest clothes to show her respect. She boiled water for tea and poured two cups. After she drank her tea, she went into the bedroom closet, where she found a silk green bathing robe. She hung up her nice clothes and put on the robe instead.

There were many ways to rid a house of spirits. Some families cleansed and purified the domain, scouring the spirits out as if they were a bad stain. Others waved and beat sticks to drive them off. Spirits could be prayed to, of course. But she planned to treat with the spirits by preparing feasts no spirit could take offense to.

In the kitchen she found flour and rice and sugars aplenty. Spices folded in wax paper envelopes in a box under the pots and pans. Dark and light bottles of sauces and vinegars. Beneath a paper picture of the Kitchen god, a rack of cooking wines. The ice box was empty, but her family had promised to bring her what she needed once a week and leave it in a box at the end of the road. And when she walked in, she had seen a pump for water and a little garden nearby.

Her first order of business then, would be to investigate what would be available to her.

A thing I started working on two years ago and never took anywhere.


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