The Film Making Techniques of Dead People
by Daryl Scroggins


Some of my old neighbor's things have been sent to her distant relatives. The rest is left. At the estate sale a stranger eats pizza behind a cash box, and people wander in to dig through drawers and cartons. There are laughs about things oddly saved. I wonder about the smallest mementos, tagged or bathed in plastic bags. All of it spreading out in a slow explosion, a dispersal not unlike decay. Bounty reabsorbed or discarded.

I take a shoebox full of home movie reels to the man by the door. He looks up, wipes his mouth with a napkin and shrugs. "Fifty cents," he says.

Back home I thread a reel into the projector I found at another estate sale and flip the silver toggle that gets it going. Always there is an abrupt start, like waking up in the middle of a party. People wave at their children, who fall often and laugh about it. Otherwise, there is a magnanimous slowness of gesture and gait. Somehow the reel's three-minute limit informs the play. A woman appears, shading her eyes against the sun. Her long skirt is the gray of an overcast sky, and the geraniums beside her are the color of a new pennies. A toddler plays beneath a magnolia tree where grass will not grow—his toy truck a gash of yellow light. Then the camera moves slowly toward a calico cat. Green eyes turn at the end, and there is a leap toward zinnia stalks, the tail disappearing into a flash of numbers that give way to white dots with black coronas.

Everything is put away now, but it's hard to sleep. The house is a mess these days, though my mother would not have approved. I try to doze off but I know what my dreams will be. How they will move in fits from one thing to the next.


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