The history behind “The Ladder-Back Chair”

Photo courtesy Patrick Ashley

THE STORY IN BRIEF
Joan becomes obsessed with a ladder-back chair that was used by her recently deceased husband Morris.

HOW IT WAS WRITTEN
“The Ladder-back Chair” is one of the more recently written stories in the book, although it takes place only a couple of years after “In the Loop,” which was actually written several years earlier.

I’ve seen many articles out on the web that urge you to simplify your life by divesting it of things — “things” being all the clothing, keepsakes, books, holiday cards, old photos and other stuff you tend to collect over the course of a lifetime. It is better to live simply, these articles tell us, rather than be surrounded by a crowded and chaotic environment full of things you don’t really need.

The problem is that many of these things may not have any practical use any more (if they ever did), but they can have strong emotional resonances, and often it is difficult to dispose of something, however useless, that reminds you of the place you bought it, or the person who bought it for you.

And sometimes, even if that jacket, or book, or toy, or chair is physically gone, you can reach out somewhere within your mind and try to recreate the missing object in order to remember what you were like, and what your life was like, when it existed. There are times when I can think back and remember good things that happened, and the moment is so strong that I can almost taste, smell and feel what it was like. And that led to the writing of this story.

“The Ladder-back Chair” was originally published in Mythic Delirium issue 3.4, April-June 2017.

She knew, in her head, that he was dead, gone, but the house didn’t seem to know it, and she acquiesced in its illusions.

The Ladder-Back Chair

NOTES ON THE PEOPLE
Joan’s experiences while caring for a dying husband, and what happens during through his funeral and after, are based on personal family history.

Both Joan and Morris are fictional, as is Gail, Joan’s friend.

Marilyn and Annie will appear — and will be described more fully — later in the book.

Although he remains offstage, Steve is based on Terence Gazzani, a neighbor’s son, who died at the age of 24 on September 11, 2001, in One World Trade Center.

NOTES ON THE PLACE
As I wrote this, I pictured the house in Long Island where my parents lived for about 40 years, and which is still very clear in my memory. But you can picture any home that you like.

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