Our parents made their down payment for the family house in blood. Eight percent, pooled together from their arteries’ supply. It didn’t sound like much, but the bank took more each month for the mortgage. Enough that we remember them in life as tired and not much else.
Otherwise, I think they were normal. Longed for the winter solstice in the late summer. Longed for late October the rest of the year.
Their wailing spirits leak viscous neon ectoplasm through the attic floor and the plaster ceiling above the living room. We collect it in mason jars. The bank will graciously accept these drippings for the first six months after death.
The brother who’s a lawyer says we might be able to push that to eight months—a year, tops.
It’s perfectly fine ectoplasm, according to our parent’s spirits. We notice how watery and dark it’s getting, but we don’t want them to feel worse than they already do. They fear we’ll sell the land and the house they inhabit—cast them away and do our best to forget about them.
They slam against our childhood bedroom doors while we pretend to be asleep. They scratch and screech the phantom words “don’t worry about it,” their piercing cries hurting our ears. The sister who’s a doctor forgot to lock her door tonight; she is lectured and thrown around the room. The rest of us practice prepping our veins for a blood draw under the covers of our twin beds, with the sterile sample supplies a Wells Fargo representative delivered to us at the funeral.
I use a jar of our parents’ ectoplasm as a flashlight, but it dims and dims. It’s fading light dances in the drops of blood that miss the branded mortgage blood bag before they seep into my mattress. I don’t think I have the tube in my vein right, but I’m learning.
Our parents hurl the sister who’s a doctor against the mirror on our shared wall. She coughs—moans out the pain. Dad and Mom will apologize tomorrow morning, if they even remember. The needle slips well into my plump vein. I flex my fingers to get the blood flowing. I close my eyes.
We bleed for each other, as we always have.
Nick Perilli is a writer and library person living in Philadelphia with loved ones and a Netflix DVD plan. His debut novel, Cul-de-sac, is forthcoming from Montag Press in late 2021. His chapbook Child Lucia and Other Library Fabula will be released by Ethel Zine Press around then too. Short work of his can be found in Milk Candy Review, XRAY Lit Mag, and elsewhere. He tweets @nicoloperilli and spared no expense on his cheap website nickperilli.com.