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“Jen Michalski’s second novel is an intense emotional commitment, but a worthwhile one.” – Ploughshares


“Jen is an astonishingly sensitive writer.” – HTML Giant


“Jen Michalski excels in subtlety that is made possible by her nuanced understanding of voice.” – The Rumpus


“Jen is a writerly heavyweight.” – Nate Brown, American Short Fiction


“We’re lucky to have Michalski before the rest of the world discovers her. But they will.” – Baltimore City Paper

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Gene Frequency

I got up early this morning because the community organization in my neighborhood makes an arrangement every year to have dumpsters available for several hours on a Saturday for residents to get rid of big junk. Of course, there are some limitations—no computers, no animal carcasses (why this even needed to be listed in the flyer is a mystery), no paint cans or toxic materials, but if you have a broken chair or a pile of mismatched floor tiles or a broken Christmas tree or whatever, it's a great deal.

Of course, I went as soon as the dumpsters opened and dropped off an old weight bench, minus weights and bar, and a huge gilded mirror with two shelves and Greek stylings that had been hanging over my grandparents' couch for many years, displaying Hummel statues. Of course, I'd gotten rid of the Hummel statues 5 years ago when I moved in, but the shelf had been sitting in the basement since then, collecting dust and coming further apart.

Although I hate to part with my grandparent's things, now that both of them are dead, I've begun to realize that the most important of my grandparent's things are deep inside me, burned into my DNA. My grandfather would be the one who would get up at the crack of dawn to take stuff to the dumpster (and, unfortunately, he would probably bring home more junk from it). I'm sure he was proud of me today. I also see other parts of my grandfather in me, like my habit of bringing home baseballs and other sporting equipment people have abandoned or forgotten on the playground. Once I got my dog Celie a really threadbare but usable soccer ball that she would chase all over the yard. I collect volume upon volume of free books in the same way my grandfather would scour thrift stores for ten-cent copies of Shakespeare plays and J.D. Salinger books and sheet music to give to me.

I see my grandmother's DNA in me as well. When I moved in I had great plans to overhaul the garden, which had been in disarray for years after they moved in with my mother. I spent one summer weeding, the next planting herbs, others experimenting with cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers. I found a picture today of my grandmother in the garden. Hers looks so much better than mine, flowers bursting from every available inch of the garden my grandfather dug in their concrete backyard. The lavender is several feet; geraniums push themselves into pansy beds. I actually don't remember my grandmother's garden very well, even as an adult. I'd not been interested in it; it was enough work to go over and mow their front lawn every two weeks in the summer or drive them to the nursery every spring. But now, I see why she loved it so, and I'm glad that that "switch" turned on in me after being dormant for many years.

It's going to be painful to leave this house, which is the plan in the next year (of course, with the economy the way it is, it's hard to say). But I realized that, even though I can only take my grandparent's bedroom set (not particularly valuable, but very valuable in my heart), I really won't be leaving much behind.