Beer Cans and Vodka Bottles, by Bridget Noel

I have to lean my weight against the door to force it open. The floor is littered with crushed beer cans and empty vodka bottles. I slam the door shut behind me. My sister emerges from the kitchen, where she had been surveying the damage.

“Have you seen her at all?” I ask.

Ally nods in the direction of the stairs.

I stomp up the stairs, careful not to trip on the beer cans. I ignore the “Keep Out” sign on her door and let myself in. Her room resembles the rest of the house, only, instead of beer cans and vodka bottles, her carpet is hidden by piles of clothes. I am pretty sure I see a couple of mice scurrying in the corner. I barely make out the outline of a person beneath the piles of laundry on the bed. “Get up!”

“Go away.” Miranda throws a pair of jeans in my direction, knocking a half-eaten, moldy sandwich off of her nightstand in the process.

I consider throwing the jeans back at her but can’t bring myself to touch anything in this room without gloves. “I’ve spent the last 72 hours at the hospital. I finally leave work and get a text from Ally, who worked two shifts at the restaurant, telling me that the house is, yet again, a disaster.”

“I said get out.”

I exit her room, only to return with the broom and the vacuum and the Lysol all-purpose cleaner. I make several trips to the hall closet to gather more cleaning supplies until they barricaded her door. “You don’t get to sulk all day and drink all night, Miranda. You’ve known Jackson for two years; Ally and I have known him his whole life. He’s our brother. That fancy ring on your finger doesn’t excuse you from contributing to taking care of our house.”

She doesn’t bother to respond.

Downstairs, I join Ally in the kitchen and marvel at the aftermath. Plates coated with remnants of last night’s dinner flood the sink. The counters are decorated with splotches of alcohol, juice, and coffee. The cabinets and drawers are all open and bare, save for a couple of open cereal boxes turned on their side and a forgotten can of baked beans. I start by washing the dishes, and Ally scrubs the counters before she leaves in search of a clean dishtowel. She returns in a couple of minutes with a folded bath towel. “This will do,” she shrugs.

What do we do about her?”

Ally shakes her head. “I feel bad for her, but it’s been three months since Jackson’s deployment. You’d think she would have adapted by now.”

“He’ll be back in eleven weeks. I don’t know if I can put up with her for that long.”

The sound of the vacuum startles us. I rush to the foot of the stairs, half expecting to find the vacuum operating itself. Quietly, I tiptoe up the steps to catch a glimpse. Miranda is cleaning.

-Bridget Noel

Featured in Vol. 3 Iss 4
Featured in Vol. 3 Iss 4