From Jonathan Lethem’s The Empty Room.
My father created a sign-in sheet at the empty room’s door. My mother spent her afternoons managing it. This was the first thing she complained of when my father slogged in for dinner. If he arrived in time to personally hound kids from the room—always checking to make certain we’d faithfully emptied the space of baseball cards, Archie anthologies, Slim Jim wrappers, what have you—he’d honor us with an arched eyebrow and one of his verbal captions: “Multifarious Doings, I Presume” or “Goings-On, Unspecified, Ensued.” Once, cigarette smoke was detected, the residue of a spontaneous radical act by my friend Mike’s annoying friend Buzz, the empty room now the default hangout for a clan of Darby High boys I hadn’t even particularly wanted to impress. My mother flushed us out, Mike and Buzz to their homes and me to my “real” room. When my father returned, she sent him in for a sniffing tour.
“This fails to pass muster at any number of levels,” he began. “The empty room is like a living organ in our family’s house.” My father’s interpretive monologues were getting arcane. We tuned him out before he’d finished articulating nuances of some new policy. “The lung could be seen to be the empty room of the human body, not mere negative space. By filling and emptying with the stuff of the world it stands as the most aspirational organ, in a literal sense.” Charlotte, who had hoped to see me dramatically punished, quit the scene in an arm-flapping show of vexation. My mother wandered off.