"Emporium" won 1st place in the American Short(er) Fiction Contest judged by Stuart Dybek! Its three pages reveal as much as it doesn't, making obvious what is not told. Remnants of a person's belongings left behind after their death often does not reveal anything either. We can only speculate.
The story is that a father bought a painting when the family was at an open-air festival of sorts. He'd disappeared for a few minutes and reappeared with the painting titled Emporium 1985-1992. The narrator spends some time trying to decipher the dates in the title and then uses the seven year span as a measurement.
The painting hung in their home from that day forward. The mother didn't like it and he'd spent five-hundred dollars on it which evidently was quite a sum for the family. After the father's death, "She did not want Emporium, no thank you, she said, that godforsaken strip mall hanging above our heads our whole lives had made things even more mediocre than they were already, more pale, removing her hopes one empty parking space at a time."
We watch the narrator try to make sense of the painting of the emporium and its empty parking lot and lack of people and in doing so reveals the emotional state of the family during the narrator's childhood. Even as the painting now belongs to the narrator, "It hangs now in my garage over the tools..." not a place of honor. Interesting. The sense of mystery of this man who had made a purchase that had given him, "...radiance, like a man come to Jesus, like a man in the faith who has brought another man to Jesus, salvation all over his face," is compelling and reason enough to read the story over and over and then wonder what makes our family members tick.
"Emporium" is in volume 18, issue 60, fall 2015 issue of American Short Fiction.
Jennifer Marvin-web page-teaches at Missouri State University and at River Pretty Writers Retreat.