This Time We Play for All the Marbles (HTML excerpt)
It was worse than Nora had imagined. The ministry agent had warned her, but the assessor’s photos hadn’t done justice to the sheer horror of it. Nora got out the moving van and stood on the sidewalk, staring.

The siding of Aunt Eileen’s house—Nora’s house, now—was deeply cracked, the paint peeling away like snakeskin. The slats drooped at varying diagonals where the wood had rotted back from the nails. The windows were almost entirely opaque, filmed over from the inside with dust or soot, or worse. The door sagged in its frame, both warped beyond repair.

It looked like the aftermath of a flood. All it lacked was the water line halfway up to the roof and the rescue workers’ spray-painted tally of the living and the dead.

The houses to either side, and along the rest of the block, were just fine.

“It got like that all of a sudden,” said the lady next door. “Over the last month or so. Maybe three weeks.” Nora had run over and knocked before remembering that the Bennetts had moved out years ago, not long after the boys had called her a cheater and stopped coming over to play. She’d been seven years old at the time.

This was a stranger, and she eyed Nora with a mixture of pity and suspicion. “Terrible when people let their homes go to rot and ruin.” She did not invite Nora in.

Nora reread Aunt Eileen’s letter yet again as though she could replace the reality in front of her with the cheerful words on the page. Seems your globe-trotting Auntie has got to go gallivanting off again! I’ll be gone at least six months, maybe more. Would you look after the house while I’m gone? Your room’s just the way you left it....
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for May 19, 2017. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (1121 words) from Patreon as an ebook or audiobook depending on their pledge tier.

Cover art incorporates original photography by the author. Props include a AAA map of (I think) southern California and a cat's eye marble given to me by the daughter of a roller derby teammate. I treasure it. (The marble, I mean. The map's outdated.)

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