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Lettuce Nights

When Ada died, the wash hadn’t dried yet. The trousers’ elastic waistbands were still damp, socks swollen, T-shirts hanging the wrong way out. A rag was left soaking in the bucket. Rinsed recycling bins in the sink, the bed unmade, open biscuit packets lying on the couch. Ada had gone away without watering the plants. The household things were holding their breath and waiting. Since then, the house without Ada has been nothing but empty drawers.

Otto and Ada were married in 1958, just as the town was transitioning between mayors. They bought a yellow house and decided not to have children, no dogs or cats, not even a pet turtle. They spent almost fifty years together: cooking, assembling massive puzzles of European castles and playing ping-pong on the weekends, until arthritis set in and made the game impossible. In the end it was nearly impossible to tell the difference between their tone of voice, their laugh, their way of walking. Ada was thin with short hair and liked cauliflower. Otto was thin with short hair and liked cauliflower. They wandered up and down the hallways and took out the rubbish together. Ada dealt with the various household details and did most of the chores while Otto followed her around telling anticlimactic stories. They were such good friends that Ada’s death left a silence in the hallways of the yellow house.

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