The Northville Review
an online literary journal
The Direction of Chaos

Phoebe Wilcox

Maybe the clutter on the kitchen table will remove itself to a place more suitable to Aunt Ramie. She won’t see it in the woods. Big deal. So there will be staplers in the trees and post-it notes on toadstools. She is no forager for chanterelles, she of the Twinkies and Krimpets; she’ll never notice it out there, in back. Only the hunters during doe season will be perplexed to find all those unpaid electric bills garlanding white pines.

One such hunter will pay the bill his way with plenty of buckshot turning it to lace.

Aunt Ramie is on her way down for a visit to her niece’s home, a home crammed with children and crusty dishes. She rides with her back seat piled high with Tastykakes, treats for all the little dears. She flinches in the driver’s seat and doesn’t know why. Could it be the secret of her niece’s bad credit rating, written silently around the cosmic girth of sunlit sky (as if the heavens ever cared about credit ratings anyway), or is it the precognitive awareness that when her niece cleans prior to her visits, she simply tosses everything hodge-podge into a bedroom closet with hopeful plans of never having to open that door again?

Aunt Ramie is a neatnik. Aunt Ramie pays her bills on time. Art is an abstraction and a luxury to her. Her perfectly manicured hand turns the wheel in the direction of Chaos. Unlike her niece, she doesn’t have chipped nails for days on end. She doesn’t limp from day to day, sneaking between them, feeling like she’s getting away with something every time she manages to climb over the windowsill of a newly written poem. She lives in conformity. She’s just bringing Tastykakes. She’s visiting. She doesn’t have to live there.

Her niece is not filing her nails or her taxes.

She’s thinking.

She thinks that conformity is insecurity turned inside out.

But then she remembers what she’s doing and wonders where to hide all the old New Yorker magazines.

About the author

Phoebe Wilcox lives in eastern Pennsylvania. Her poetry chapbook, Recidivist, and a novel, Angels Carry the Sun, are pending publication with Lilly Press (May and June 2010). An excerpt from a second novel, Flower Symbolism for Dummies, has been published in Wild Violet. Recent and forthcoming work may be found in Sixers Review, Illumen, A cappella Zoo, Folly Magazine, The Chaffey Review, Ginosko, The Battered Suitcase, Frostwriting, Gloom Cupboard and many others. Her stories have twice been nominated for the Pushcart prize.