We sat in the hay. The sodden straws of your youth, worn and frayed by the squabbling chickens, by your own tedious pacing and kneeling, by the brogans of your father—the woodworker.
I wanted to play a game, something like pick-up-sticks, to escape this nostalgic homecoming, but the straw was too flimsy, soggy, and went limp in my fist. You picked up a handful and rained it over my head. Now you’ve seen my first home, you said.
The cinderblock walls bled black-green moss. The starched yellow patches, lichen maybe, the musty earth scabbing over. It is a home, isn’t it? I said. My first was just rooms, an apartment.
My city boy, you said.
We huddled together in the corner, peering upwards. I felt as if we were at the bottom of a pond, the moss on the slatted ceiling like misshapen lily pads at the rippling surface. Beneath the wood-grained door, darkness pooled, deeper waters. I stood, palmed the cold knob.
That room, you said, smiling, I’m not allowed.
Behind the ever-shut door, the woodworker carved and sawed and etched and stained—his hands always blotched with dye, which he wore like a meaningful tattoo. Whenever you slid open the latch, chickens pecking at your ankles, he would set down his file, or saw, or rag, then grip your neck, directing you out of his wood room, once again, and you hoped some remnant of his acid-scented stain would seep into your skin.
My country boy.
Daniel Drew Schlegel
Washington, D.C., United States of America