The ticket seller would prefer to meet the guests outside, order them shortest to tallest, take the most boisterous by the hand. But the rules say she must remain at her station. So they clomp through the doors of the house museum like children from the playground. She settles them by conducting every exchange in a whisper. Bonjour. Combien? Only if a guest looks completely flummoxed does she cede to English. A necessity she can predict on sight.

The American lady in the smart scarf isn’t fooling anyone. It’s true she’s whispering back in passable French. But look at her posture, the suggestion of excess at her midsection. For such softness, the ticket seller communicates the rules with particular care. You must check your bag across the hall and dispose now of your gum. You must climb the wide stairs to the great writer’s appartement. Keep your hand on the rail. At the top, show your ticket, face up, to the guard and proceed against the direction of the clock. You must stay behind the ribbon. You must not touch the flocked wallpaper or exclaim too loudly over the opulence. You must not utilize your camera’s flash. Your tour should take one hour. Any less and you are not receiving the full value of your money. Any more and you are delaying others. Do not crumple your ticket in your pocket. Keep it fresh-pressed in the pages of a book, preferably one by the great author himself, in place of a tacky souvenir.

The gift shop is open, the ticket seller is obliged to mention. She counts change into the woman’s palm as if each coin is sticky with glue.

About the author

Kory Wells is the author of Sugar Fix (Terrapin Books, 2019). A former software developer and poet laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Kory nurtures connection…

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Issue 24 · Autumn 2021

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