Do they know about the propane tank
under the counter? Will they be grateful
that we filled it before we left for home?
Why did they travel to China, and how long
will they be there? Did they discover
the English library on the 9th floor of
Foreign Languages? Did they sneeze
from all the dust? Did the women behind
the counter welcome them with laughter
and clapping? Did the new people bring
a child with them? Is she racing around
that library right now, making the clerks
frown? Did they find the Sherlock
Holmes section? Will they read a Sherlock
story aloud the way we did for entertainment?
Will they act it out using different voices?
Will it contain snakes or hounds? Do they like
the turquoise leather couches in the
living room? Do they use their mosquito
nets over the beds? We didn’t much. Where
do they set up their daughter’s mattress?
Do they run out of dish towels as fast as
we did? Do they bother the front desk for
brooms, portable fans, computer connectors,
towels, a handyman to fix the electricity,
plumbing and the electricity again? Do they
realize just how fast mildew can encapsulate
an entire fabric suitcase? When they wake up
in the morning do they think aliens in the form
of feathery white circles have landed on the
surface of their Samsonite? Have they ever seen
a bug larger than the palm of a hand?
We have, right on the table where they’re
playing rummy. Will that be a deal breaker?

Karen Loeb’s fiction and poetry have appeared in New Ohio Review, Hanging Loose, and elsewhere. Her stories and poems have won awards from Wisconsin People and Ideas and Carve Magazine. She’s the current writer in residence for the city of Eau Claire.