We begin in the year 1984. After living in our Detroit home for over 20 years, we finally threw in the towel and made the move to the suburbs. My father settled on a house in the sleepy town of Roseville, barely three miles from the northern border of Detroit. Handy fellow that he is, he was looking for a fixer-upper – and boy, did he find one! The folks he bought it from were scarcely living in the house at all by then. The interior was so ripe with excrement from their various pets that the family reportedly spent most of their time in the back-yard trailer. The first time I set foot in the house, I immediately saw a kitten urinating on the dreadful shag carpeting that covered the living room floor.
Ah yes – the living room floor. As soon as we took possession of the house, that carpeting had to go. When we’d gotten it up off the floor, we found a little surprise awaiting us. But in order to tell you about that surprise, I must now turn back the clock several years earlier still.
Before the Slobskys moved in, an old woman lived there by herself. But she didn’t merely live there – she died there as well. Apparently, she was on her couch when the moment came, and she rolled off onto the floor. There she remained for a considerable period of time; long enough for a detailed image of her body to be burned into the wooden floor, like some latter-day Shroud of Turin.
So when we took up the carpeting in 1984, there was her image. In certain areas of the floor, the varnish and stain had been virtually taken right out of the wood as a result of her body's advancing decomposition. You could see that she had been on her side, her knees slightly drawn up. You could see that she was a small woman, probably no more than five feet or so in height. Even the most chic and cynical among us could not avoid feeling a little chill run through our veins at the sight of this very specific departure point from this world into the next.
My father and brother still live in that house. It’s a cozy and clean abode, with no lingering souvenirs of its time as a two-story litter box. Some very nice brown carpeting now covers the living room floor from wall to wall. In the twenty-plus years since our grim little discovery, a generation of many nieces and nephews have strewn their toys about that room, and rarely has any thought of that oddly stained wood crossed any of our minds. I still can remember, though, that before the new carpeting was laid down, a challenge was issued among my siblings and me; a challenge for which I believe there were no takers. It was this: Lie down upon that stain and assume the precise position we see etched into the wood.
Not that any of us believe that anything bad would come of such an action, you understand. But… what if our beliefs are wrong? Should you ever find yourself in Roseville with me, I will invite you to try your luck.