Sunday, summer, second day of men’s loud voices upstairs
with scraping, banging, wood thudding overhead, the metal
saw blade screeches, shrieks, then silence. They say they are raising
the roof, building a dormer, new bedrooms up there for her
and one brother, a new bathroom, new office for Daddy.
Sawdust settles everywhere, covers everything in sweet-
smelling slippery sharp bits of wood. When they say “It’s time,”
that she’s allowed to go look, she tries to scoot now, Daddy
grabs her shoulders, grips hard, shakes her a little, “Stay away
from the edge!” “Okay okay!” and she squirms away, races
to the stairs, flings open the door, clambers up hands and feet,
gets halfway and one foot slips on sawdust. She falls and slides
facedown, bangs her chin on a step then another, bumps cheek
belly chest, thumps both knees hard before she can slow herself,
before she can stop her tumble, keep herself from screaming.
Daddy lifts her up, squats in front of her, opens her mouth,
checks for chipped teeth, presses cheekbones, nose, sore chin, runs his hands
down past collarbones, brief pause on her flat chest, sighs “I hope
nothing permanent . . . time will tell.” She looks at him, her sobs
stop in one breath. “Nothing broken,” he says, but she feels doomed
somehow, damaged, even though she hurts only a little.
He gives her a slight push, “Go on, but go slower this time!”
She holds the handrail, then stands at the top, afraid to move.
The entire back wall of the house is gone. All she can see
are a few sticks holding up the roof, letting in the sky.