12 Days of Significance (29)

By: Lydia Millet
December 29, 2017

One in a 2017–2018 series of posts reprinting stories originally written — by 12 HILOBROW contributors and friends — for Josh Glenn and Rob Walker’s 2009–2010 anthropological-literary experiment SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS. See below for more info about this ongoing project.




I went with my friend G to her great aunt’s house a few weeks after the aunt passed away. G had been called in by the family to pick out one or two keepsakes. Because she lived in a cramped studio in Hell’s Kitchen she didn’t want anything, a, and b, according to G’s mother every item of value had been carted away five minutes after the old lady died, by a daughter-in-law no one liked. By the time G was called in to make a selection they’d already held the estate sale, so all that was left were the sale rejects. “Harsh,” said G, but she decided to go anyway because it was June and New York City was hot and humid and stank. The aunt had lived in one of those nice little towns on the Hudson, green with a pleasant breeze, and the train would let us out about three blocks from her house. Also there was a good diner in the town that G, who was a part-time food critic with a specialty in burgers, wanted to try.

So we got in the train one Saturday afternoon and we went to the house. It was a modest fake Tudor place, pretty much empty now except for a few dusty boxes of trinkets. G’s second cousin R was there, who she hadn’t seen since they were fourteen, went to summer camp together, and ended up making out. (She told me that later.) Now he lived in Jersey and had a lot of tattoos. They sat on the stoop smoking and talking while I rummaged around in the boxes, just for something to do. They were mostly ceramics of chickens, cows, and other livestock, the kind of cheerfully painted ones some ladies like to keep in their kitchens. Beats me why they do that. Maybe they want to feel their kitchens are farmhouses. Anyway, no one wanted these things. Some had been thrown into the boxes carelessly and were already chipped.

I’d never met the great aunt but as the sun sank low outside, G and R’s laughter floated in to me, and shadows crept over the bare living room floor, I started to feel bad for all those abandoned barnyard animals. I picked through the pigs and roosters with a kind of sadness until finally I found Chili Cat. Ugly as sin, there was no getting around that. No reason at all for the cat to be festooned with red chilis. There was a Mexican motif, I guessed. Maybe Tex-Mex. Chili Cat was supposed to be festive.

G never picked out anything, herself. We went with R to the diner and afterward we sat drinking and looking out at the river. Because she was homely, and all those boxes were full of the homeless, I took Chili Cat home.


SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018). 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE . ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.

CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators