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How to Build a Fence

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HOW TO BUILD A FENCE

Stephanie Willis


From inside the motel room the storm hitting the roof sounded like we were trapped in a laundry mat with every washer going at once. Ben and I had our own room; he gave me the bed and agreed to sleep on the dirty couch because he was the type of brother to do that sort of thing. Mom and Dad stayed in the room next door and if I pressed my ear against the bathroom wall I could hear their television, their muffled voices, their rain against their roof. I wondered what parents talked about when they were alone. 


When we were with them, they talked about us or movies or work. They talked about our grandparents and asked us how school was going and told us to do our chores. I pressed my ear against the bathroom wall and wondered if when they were alone they talked about sex. On my birthday, Mom gave me a bra in a gift wrapped box from JC Penney and sat me down and told me everything I already knew about sex. Ben was sixteen and sometimes I looked at him and wondered if he had done it, yet. 


“I’m going to put my pajamas on,” I said to Ben, going into the bathroom.  


“Okay,” he said. “Be quick, I have to pee.” 


I locked the bathroom door. When we were younger, we changed in front of each other. In a photo album at home there were pictures of us—me at two-years-old and him, six—in the bathtub together. In one, he was standing up so his whole body can be seen and he reminded me of a fish, somehow—white and slippery-looking. He held a pile of bubbles above my head, grinning like he had a secret. He gave me that same grin last year when I caught him smoking cigarettes in the shed with his best friend. 


I finished pulling my pajamas on and tried to open the door. I had forgotten that I had locked it and I panicked for a moment when it wouldn’t open. 


I shoved the clothes I had been wearing—denim shorts and a purple tank top—into my suitcase. We were going to catch a shuttle to Jacksonville Port Authority at six the next morning so we didn’t unpack. The only reason we were staying at the Seashell Motel at all was because our flight came in to Florida at 10pm and the cruise didn’t board until 7am, Saturday. 


The ceiling leaked in a corner and the wallpaper bubbled up and pealed away from the water. I thought for sure the whole room was going to flood because the rain was coming down so hard. Ben kept telling me not to worry, but I pictured the bed floating along in rushing water, joining others, becoming matchbooks in the gutters of city streets. 


“I guess if the room does flood, we’ll just climb up to the roof and wait,” I said to Ben, picturing what I’d seen on the news about floods before.  I could tell I still sounded nervous. I put all my weight onto one leg and then the other. He nodded and put the ice bucket down to catch the rain. The ice machine was out of order, anyway. 


“It’s not so bad,” Ben said. “Maybe this is just the ocean refilling. So we can scuba dive and stuff. The ship will float better.” 


 “The ship would float just fine with out all this damn rain,” I said, but then I wasn’t sure. 


“Since when do you swear?” he asked, his voice sounding sharp like a father’s. I shrugged and sat on the bed, curling my legs beneath me Indian style. The comforter was scratchy beneath my bare ankles and I tried to pull my socks up further to cover my skin. Ben sat down on the bed too, looking up at the ceiling and back to the ice bucket a few times to make sure that he had lined it up right. A drop of water fell and hit the bottom of the bucket; if it made noise we couldn’t hear it over the sound of the rain outside. 


We sat together and flipped through channels, trying to find one that wasn’t all static and white noise. Sometimes we’d see parts of a person before the whole—an arm to the right, the legs up on top and moving downwards, a face stretched long and thin and turned gray. A storm alert scrolled across the bottom of the screen, blue and wavy at the top, the way children draw the ocean. 


 “This is stupid,” I said.


“Okay, let’s do something,” he said. “What do you want to do?” He looked out the window. We could see the rain only under the street lamps in the parking lot. It looked more like a piece of sky falling than individual drops. 


“Let’s go outside. To the pool,” he said, already standing up. 


“Okay,” I said and opened my eyes wide, surprised the voice came from my own throat. I waited on the bed while he went into the bathroom to change into his swimming trunks. I stood up to get my bikini out of my suitcase but then remembered the sign on the pool’s fence stating the hours it was open; it had closed at ten and it was past midnight. I decided to just put on rubber sandals and a jacket over my pajamas and to not swim. If I just sat with my feet in the water, I couldn’t be yelled at by anyone.


The door from the bathroom opened and Ben looked at me. 


“Are you going to change?”  


I shook my head no and he just said, “Okay then,” picked up his baseball cap and the room keys, and walked to the door.  With the door open, the sound of the rain amplified in to applause at a concert and I felt my heart race.


The pool had flooded. I stood with my head bowed against the rain and the wind and looked forward at it. The lounge chairs sat in a half-inch of water. My pajama pants stuck to my legs at the knees and the shins. I could barely see; I held my hand against my eyebrows to try to block the rain from getting in my eyes but it kept hitting my eyelashes anyway, making me blink. 


“It’s like a fucking water park,” Ben said under his breath. His eyes were wide and he bounced once on the balls of his feet. “I’m going in.” 


I watched him walk to the pool, to its actual edges. He didn’t sit down on the side and slide in, the way I would have. He just jumped in, screaming. I walked the path he had and sat down, so wet from the rain that the water flooding over the edge didn’t bother me. I didn’t even roll up my pants before dropping my feet in the water. Ben popped up to the surface, grinning. The rain was bouncing off the water and hitting him in the face. 


“Oh man, it’s so cold.” 


“It’s not that bad,” I said, trying to sound brave. I had goose bumps. We looked almost the same amount of wet even though he was in a pool and I wasn’t. I thought about jumping in but worried my pajamas would weigh me down somehow, pull me under and he wouldn’t be able to see me; the water was murky from all the rain hitting it.


Ben swam a few laps, lazy and slow. He looked so long when he stretched his arm above his head and I could see muscles flexing in his back that I had never seen before, that he didn’t have when we were younger. I looked around us. A fence with ivy winding through the chain links separated the pool area from the parking lot. The parking lot was full of water. Big bubbles and piles of leaves marked where the storm drains were. I thought someone should clean the leaves off. The motel rooms made a square around pool and I looked for lights on, for people awake. I wondered if any of them could see us, but either most rooms were empty or most people were asleep. 


“You should get in,” Ben said to me. He had to yell to be heard over the rain and the wind. “It’s fun. Come on.”


“I don’t want to,” I yelled back. I kicked my feet in the water, making figure eights and clockwise circles. 


“Come on. It’s fun. I feel so clean or free or something, like I’ve never done anything wrong before.” 


I wasn’t sure what he meant by that really. I thought about the things he had done wrong, the things he had been punished for—skipping school and borrowing Dad’s car even though he only had a permit. He grinned at me, the bathtub grin, the cigarette grin, and I wondered if Mom and Dad knew about the cigarettes, I wondered if he ever smoked them again and how he had gotten them in the first place. I pictured his hands shaking when he lit one and I wondered how they tasted. I remembered the smell, the heavy stench in the shed that made my skin feel damp, almost and made me cough, too. Awful, I thought. 


“Hey, what’s wrong with you? Get in!” He laughed and splashed water at me.


“Maybe. I’ll get in a minute, okay? Just give me a minute.” 


“Don’t be such a girl! I’ll pull you in!” He warned. He swam up to me and put his hands on my ankles. 


I kicked him away and stood up, taking fast steps backwards. I was laughing. I almost slipped in the wet of the cement and grabbed an unsteady table for support. 


Ben pushed himself out of the water and stood up and moved towards me, reaching his arms out and laughing with me. I ducked under his arms and went the other direction, though almost excited to be thrown into the pool but still nervous, preparing myself for the slap of the water and the cold of the deep end. Either I was too quick for him or he took it easy on me because we made it around the entire circumference of the pool.


He paused, just a foot away from me. A table and a chair trapped me in one spot and I knew he had me this time; I was ready to admit defeat. I was screaming and laughing and saying  “No, no, Ben, please don’t,” but not meaning any of the words. I thought about how I’d have to plug my nose as soon as he got me so I’d be ready.


On the ground near our feet, black and white tiles were positioned to read 6FT and he stepped on the six and leaned for me. His fingers touched my loose jacket and he should have had me but the tile was slippery and he lost his balance. He slipped and his head hit the edge of the pool hard. Then, he was in the water and I couldn’t see him through all the raindrops and the blood. 


? ? ?


The cab pulled up to the house and I unbuckled my seatbelt but stayed in my seat until Mom opened the door and pulled me out. Her hand was cold. Dad paid the driver and took our suitcases from the trunk. He pulled the handle out from each one and set mine in front of me. Mom wheeled hers to the front door and I followed, pulling my suitcase behind me, listening to the sound of the little wheels against the driveway because there was no sound other than that. Dad pulled his in one hand, Ben’s in the other. They hit against each other as he walked. 


While Mom searched for her keys in her purse, I stood and stared at the door. I imagined the way the house should look, the way we left it, and then felt a tightening in my chest as I imagined it destroyed. Picturing everything stolen, I wondered if the criminal was still in the house. He heard us coming and hid in a closet, my closet, and would only come out when I was alone in my room. He would gag me and kill me. 


The front door swung open. “After you, sweetheart,” Mom said. Her voice sounded different, somehow. I looked to my right for Ben, but just for a second. He was the only person that knew about this fear. After every vacation or outing that brought us home late at night, he walked with me and opened every door first. I realized how fast my heart was beating, even though I could see into the house, all the way down to the glass back doors and into the backyard. The TV was there and the couches weren’t slashed and Mom’s favorite vase had flowers in it, barely wilted. 


Mom stood there in front of the door looking neither at me or into the house, just looking somewhere, holding her suitcase still by one hand, her keys dangling from a finger of the other. She waited for me to go in first. 


“What’s the hold up here?” Dad asked, and his voice sounded different, too. He didn’t move for the door.


I understood then that neither of them wanted to go in; that somehow returning home meant something important had happened and that it was real. I thought my heart might stop from how fast it was going and I would just fall dead, and then what would Mom and Dad do? Lifting up my suitcase to get it over the doorjamb, I walked into the hallway and kept walking, all the way into the living room, looking all ways for anyone hidden in a shadow with a knife or a gun. I wished we had a dog. 


I had been taking a really deep breath as I walked through the house and I held it in my nose and lungs and mouth. Someone, maybe a science teacher, had told me once that smelling is really tasting tiny, tiny bits of something. I told Ben this once, and he said, “If that’s true, we should hold our breaths whenever we walk by dog crap.” 


I held the smell of our house in my nose and lungs and mouth trying to learn it. All my friend’s houses smelled a certain way but mine smelled like nothing to me most of the time. Only after being away for a long time could I really smell it, but all I tasted was airplane food and the house smelled like nothing still and I knew we weren’t gone for long enough. We should have been. We should have been gone for a week and one day and then when I got home I might know if our house smelled good or bad. I might have been able to smell Ben in it and what if it never smelled like him again? But if we had been gone for a week and one day, Ben would be with us anyway and I wouldn’t care so much, I thought, trying to think of what he would say to me when I thought these things. 


I could hear the wheels of Mom’s suitcase and Dad’s suitcase and Ben’s suitcase, too, against the tile—an unsteady sound. And then we all left our suitcases next to the couch and stood there for a second until Dad said, “Well, we’re home.” 


I looked at Dad, and then Mom, to tell me what to do but they didn’t say anything to me. 


“I’ll take my suitcase upstairs to unpack. I hate putting it off,” Mom said. 


“No you don’t,” I argued. “You never unpack right away.” 


Dad put a heavy hand on my shoulder to shush me but removed it quickly, like touching me was a mistake.  Mom ignored me and went upstairs, leaving Dad and I standing there next to each other and next to three suitcases. Then the phone rang and Dad seemed relieved and went into the kitchen to answer it. 


I stood there a minute longer, trying to listen to what Dad was saying and trying to guess who it was on the phone. I picked up Ben’s suitcase and it felt so light. I could lift it only a few inches off the ground but still it felt so light, like how could it be possible that a week of Ben was in here? I dropped the bag and it landed on my foot and tears welled up in the corner of my eyes. 


I looked around the room. A pair of Ben’s sneakers peeked out from under the couch, a sports magazine that came to his name was on the coffee table. I could hear Dad on the phone and his voice sounded like crying. He said something like, “Oh, I don’t know what to do, Mom.” I picked up my suitcase and took it to my room. When I passed Mom and Dad’s room, I looked in and saw Mom sitting on her bed, her suitcase open next to her, her head downwards. I stopped and stared at her, watching her shoulders shake and listening to little gulps of breath come from her, a noise I had never heard from her before, like a fish drowning on land. She looked up at me and I looked away, pretended that I had never paused there at all. 


In my room, I opened my suitcase on the bed. I looked at my denim shorts and purple tank top and pajamas wrinkled into balls and shoved on top. The rest of my clothes were still folded the way I had put them when I packed to leave. I took out a t-shirt and walked to my closet and stood in front of the closed doors for a long time. I imagined Ben next to me, reaching out and opening the doors. “You freak, there’s nothing there,” He’d say, smiling. I opened the doors and though the knobs were cold, I pretended like they weren’t. Like his hands had just been there, too.

? ? ?


 “Someone’s on the phone for Ben.” I held the phone outwards towards Mom and spoke in a fast whisper.  We had been home for three weeks and the phone had rung countless times since then—people calling with their condolences, a word I remembered from a sixth grade spelling list, a word I missed on the test because I replaced the first e with an a—but no one had ever called and asked to speak to him. 


 “What?” She sounded angry. She was on her knees, with a toothbrush to the grout between the bathroom tiles.


“I don’t know, I just answered the phone and they asked for him,” I said, wishing I hadn’t brought the phone to her. She didn’t say anything. My throat felt like cotton, like the way cotton sounds when you rip it apart. I said, “I don’t know what to tell them.” 


“Who is it?” she asked, with out looking up. She scrubbed harder.


“I don’t know, I didn’t ask,” I said and my hand holding the phone felt sweaty. I worried I’d drop it. The sound of the toothbrush bristles against the floor made my ears hurt. “Mom, please, just tell me what to say, they’re waiting.” 


“I don’t know!” She said, dropping the toothbrush fast and looking up at me. Her eyes were dark. “I don’t know, just tell them he isn’t here. Tell them not to call again.” 


I nodded and took a step back, away from her, moving slow, lifting the phone to my ear. My voice shook when I said “Hello?” The dial tone rang. I pushed the off button and set the phone on the counter. I looked at Mom but she had already gone back to cleaning. 


“They hung up,” I explained. 


She poured more bleach on the tile and said, “Help me clean, baby. Be useful.” She tried to sound gentle but it felt like she slapped me. She used the words honey and baby for show, like she was relearning language. “There are dishes in the sink that you can do for me.”


I stared at her and took a sharp breath. I wanted golf ball sized raindrops to pound on the clay of our roof tiles. I wanted rain to pour down the chimney like a waterfall and soak beneath the carpet. I wanted to step with bare feet and press down with all my weight.  

I turned the faucet on and turned the knob to the left, letting the water heat up. My hands reddened when I put them under and the contrast made my nail beds look bleached white, open casket white. I poured soap all over the sponge and scrubbed the dishes that were barely used because only Dad ate the way he always had. Soapy water splashed and got on my shirt, into the strands of my hair falling into my face. I washed one, two, three of everything and felt the fourth as a heavy weight on my shoulders, pushing me closer to the sink, into the hot water, burning not just the tops of my hands but my palms, my wrists, the sliver of skin beneath each nail. I set the last bowl on the drying rack and looked down; the front of me was wet. I sat down on the kitchen floor and looked at my hands for a long time. My skin felt too small, or my bones too big.


 “I got a call from your guidance counselor today,” Dad said at the dinner table. He put mashed potatoes on his fork and stuck it into the pile of peas on his plate. 


“You did?” I stared at my plate and moved my peas around with the prongs of my fork. My whole body tensed. I looked at the empty chair at the table and thought about what Ben would say to me: You’re going to be the first 12-year-old to have a heart attack. Calm down. You couldn’t have done anything wrong, anyway.


“Why?” I asked. What I meant was, why wasn’t Ben saying those things to me? 


“She said she wants to meet with us,” Dad continued. “If you don’t come back to school soon, you might not be able to move up a grade next year. You know—your mother and I are proud of you. We shouldn’t have kept you out of school for this long.”


 I stared at the empty chair at the table and said, “We should get a triangle-shaped table.” 


I cut my chicken into small pieces and chewed each one fully. I ate my peas and mashed potatoes separately. 


The last time we ate this meal, Ben was in the empty chair. He put so much pepper on his mashed potatoes that I could smell it and it made my throat tickle. I worried my throat would swell up. He had said, “Dad, after dinner, will you take me driving? I want to practice.” I asked to come too, but Dad was busy, had work to do, he said. 


That was right before the weekend Ben borrowed the car without asking and drove it to the beach with his friends. That day, he came home wind burned from driving the whole way with the windows down. He smelled salty and when I took a shower after he had, sand stuck to the bottom of my feet. I came into his room later that night while he studied for a biology test and noticed for the first time that he had facial hair. I meant to ask him how he was brave enough to do that; I wanted to say how jealous I was that I didn’t get to come. I said, instead, “You don’t have a license. You could have died.” 


He had said, “It was worth risking.” 


Dad finished his food and stood up and went to the couch.


“Will you do the dishes for me? I’m so tired,” Mom said, stretching in her chair. I nodded. I thought about what I said about the triangular table and apologized to Ben for saying it. 


? ? ?


On the last day of school I came home to no one there. It was the first time I had been home alone since the vacation in April and I hadn’t realized how strange that was until I was standing in the house by myself again. It smelled like a funeral home: sterile. I tried to remember when it was messy sometimes. When mom went to work and came home and let dust settle, let the floors go unvacuumed, left coats hanging over the back of the sofa and coffee mugs in the sink. 


I went upstairs to my room to drop my backpack and I looked around. My bed was made with hospital corners. My desk was organized by a series of boxes Mom went out and bought one day. She bought a whole bunch of them, all in different sizes. They were made of cardboard and she sat at the kitchen table, folding them on the creases, putting them together for hours. Everything in our house had a labeled box it belonged in. She organized the junk drawers with plastic dividers. She bought wooden hangers and reorganized all the closets in the house—arranged our clothes by garment, then color—and threw away all the mismatched plastic hangers we had. 


I left my room and passed Ben’s door. I strained to hear his music playing every time I walked by but I hadn’t been inside still. Mom went in and out often but I just looked at pictures. I didn’t want to see how she had cleaned it, given him the same boxes the rest of us had, made his bed, dusted. 


I hesitated. I was alone for the first time and thought it might be a good time to go in. No one would have to know I did. I’d just peek in and what had changed and see if his room smelled like the rest of the house or like him still, and then I’d leave. 


I put my hand over the doorknob and it was like opening the closet door to check for serial killers, except I wasn’t worried about being killed. As I turned the doorknob, I took a deep breath and pushed the door open. The windows were dirty; the windowsill was covered with dust. The closet overfilled onto the floor and his sheets weren’t tucked in, weren’t even on the bed. Only his desk was neat, the way he kept it, all his pens in an old tin can, his papers stacked on the right side, a couple notebooks scattered on the left. The February page of his calendar hung on the wall because he never remembered to change it. I touched the edge of it with just one finger. 


I walked around and picked up Ben’s things and then set them back where they belonged. Feeling the weight of a trophy in my palm, I touched the little figure on top that was kicking the soccer ball. I picked up the name tag from the carwash that he worked part time at. I didn’t touch his pillow or look in his closet or open any of his drawers. I sat at his chair and picked up a pencil. I held it between my fingers like I was about to write. I chewed the area he had and compared the size marks our teeth left. Ben, I wrote on a piece of paper and said the word out loud. I set the pencil down and folded the paper into a small square that I tucked into my pocket.


I heard footsteps. Mom was at the open door, looking at me. 


She said,  “I know what this looks like.”


I didn’t say anything. I stood still, surprised, wondering when she had gotten home, how she moved so quietly.


“I know he isn’t coming home,” she said.


I snuck back into his room that night and fell asleep on his floor, under his blanket and woke up in the morning to the sound of rain. I hadn’t heard the sound of it since that night—since Ben died—and it was strange and loud and scary, but in the way he liked. I thought to myself that he liked rain, but realized that maybe he didn’t feel any particular way about it. I kicked the blankets off of me and jumped up and tripped over my own feet. Running downstairs, I hollered that it was raining, hollered “listen, listen.” 


I ran down the stairs and out the back door and through the rain, not noticing it yet, not feeling the drops on my skin. I ran into the shed on the side of the house and thought that I could smell the lingering scent of cigarettes. I pulled the door open and right before I tugged the string to the lamp hanging from the ceiling, I thought I saw him sitting there, grinning. 


I grabbed the buckets we had for yard work and took them outside. I lined them all up in a row and bounced on my toes, realizing I was wet for the first time.


It wasn’t falling fast enough, the buckets were each only half full but I picked up the first two by their handles and ran inside, ran to the bathroom, left a track of dirty footsteps and water all the way there. I stopped up the drain to the tub and poured the rain into it. I ran back to the yard, left the two empty buckets where they once were and picked up the next two in line, which were fuller, full enough that when I ran, the water spilled over the edges, hit my feet and splashed on the kitchen floor. 


I filled the tub. It took many trips but I didn’t feel tired. I took off my socks and climbed in, sat down, wished I could be small enough to swim laps and float on my back. My clothes were sticking to my body. My hair was damp against my neck. 


“Come in, it’s fun.” I said, touching the edge of the tub with wet fingers. “It’s like a fucking water park.” 


“Okay. You don’t have to ask me twice.” I responded.


The storm picked up. I stayed in the tub for a while, touching my pruned fingers together and listening to the rain. I almost felt clean or free or something, the way Ben described. I thought about the triangle table I had wanted and it felt okay to want it. 


In the bathroom, the sound became almost as strong as the storm at the motel—the wind screaming, as if in pain, as if the raindrops were injuring it. They fell hard against the roof, sounding dull, like the sound of a skull hitting the cement. 


There was a knock on the door and then Dad’s voice. 


“Are you okay in there? What are you doing?” He sounded concerned. 


“I’m just taking a bath, Dad,” I said. 


“You left water all over the floor,” he said.


“I’m sorry.” 


He didn’t say anything for a long time but I knew he was still at the door, his face close, listening for a splash or a reason to be concerned. 


“Your mother is taking a nap. I’ll be in the den if you need anything. When do you want to eat dinner?”


“I don’t care,”


“What are you in the mood for?”


“Anything,” 


A few moments passed and it felt like I was holding my breath under six feet of water. Like I was sitting on the bottom a pool the way Ben taught me to last year.  


“Okay,” he said.


“Okay.” 


When I got out of the tub and dried off and went into the living room, I realized the storm was mostly wind, slamming the raindrops into the windowpanes, making it sound louder and stronger than it was. The house creaked and injured dog noises came from our fireplace as the wind rushed down the chimney and got trapped. The fence around the backyard moaned and moved back and forth, leaning on a tree and then, later, splintering and falling to the ground. 


The storm ended overnight and by the next morning the sky was still and clear. I woke up and made myself cereal and when I put the bowl in the sink next to the other two already there, I saw my father through the kitchen window. He wore jeans and a t-shirt and stood staring at the fence at his feet. He turned and saw me in the window and smiled. 


Dad stayed busy all day. I followed him around from inside, watching from whichever window was closest. He carted all the old wood out, carried it a few pieces at a time into the bed of his truck. He came back, an hour later, with new wood in a color too gold to be real. I watched him lift a few boards at a time and set them where the old wood had been. I watched closest when he began assembling the fence—he held nails between his teeth, pushed hard into the saw, hit down with the hammer hard. 


When he came inside to get water he said, “It’s a beautiful day, you know.”


“I know,” I said.


“You should be outside,” he said. “I could use the help.” 


I thought about hammering—lifting and missing and hitting my thumb. It would turn swollen and purple, like a grape. I thought about not having anything to say to Dad. I imagined the silence. 


“I’m reading a really good book,” I said. 


He sighed deep into his lungs and I noticed that his eyes looked wet, not like he had been crying, just wet with exhaustion or, maybe, a quiet sadness. “Suit yourself,” he said and went back into the yard. 


When I was eight, Dad built for us a tree house in the backyard. Ben had been begging for one. He swore he would help, that he could hammer and saw and said that I could paint. When it was finished, I refused to climb the ladder. It was so far off the ground, there was so much of a chance that I could fall.


“It’s not scary,” Ben had said. “Look, you can see the neighbors yard but no one can see us.” 


So I climbed the ladder and he said, laughing, “I knew you’d do it. I told you there’s nothing to be afraid of.” 


I knew if Ben were alive, he would be outside too, lifting wood and getting red with sun. He would tell me to come out too, and I would listen. I wanted him to make me do things I was afraid of, still. I was less afraid of having a grape-thumb than of being not afraid at all.


I looked out the window and watched Dad put a piece of fence into place. Sweat made his t-shirt stick to his back like rainwater would. When I opened the backdoor, Dad didn’t turn around. I walked to the shed first and turned on the light. All the buckets I had used were stacked neatly in the corner. The air smelled like grass and dirt. I knelt on my knees and moved my hands across the cement ground, digging into the cracks. It was rough and dry against my palm. Against the wall I found two cigarette butts, caked with mud. I put one in my pocket and then picked up a hammer from a shelf. I turned the light off when I left and walked to the broken fence. Dad turned around and I held up the hammer to show him and I grinned like I had been caught doing something that made me scared and guilty and excited all at once.


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