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FICTION


one side. He knew they were going to put up posters and shelves, bounce music off the walls and want to paint them lime green (or have him glue up some awful safari-print wallpaper with badly drawn lions staring out with lidless eyes), and that was fine, but a) the holes and colors and all the other awful life choices on the wall were going to be a bitch to fix for resale—no, he wasn’t thinking too far ahead, he just knew the first house was never the last unless you were one of those extremely large, very quirky, always bickering and ever loving families on TV—and b) those runts of his, those little angels and his charges, would forget about the four walls while attending to their appearance. Such a shame. He could see that now, as a father standing outside the bedrooms of children, looking in. He saw them hanging signs up on their doors that spelled their names. It would have to be a rule, he decided, that their nomenclature was inhumane, so they’d know what it was like to be laughed at and never do it to anyone else. Names like Friedrich, Tuskeegee, or Alberta would do.


He would punch out the ceilings, at least on one room, probably only one room, for he didn’t think his wife would ever be open or drunk enough to live completely roofless.


They would see those four walls and


think each slab of drywall belonged to them, that they were just canvases to tack up their perception of the world, the nature of their characters, their love of sports, of fish, of bands that taught them the virtues


of rebellion and distrust. The little darlings wouldn’t dwell for one second on the fact that one wall of the four would have three hinges in a line, and a door. If they weren’t careful, someone would shut those doors, lock them forever in upon themselves, and the thought of that, while he sat in his chair, just made the entire world go ass over teakettle.


So he would make them sleep outside


in the dirty world, and their mother would have to deal. When they sat up in their timber beds at night, rubbing the sleep from their eyes after the invigoration of a dream full of sweet scents, or insomniatic from nightmares chocked with voices crooning out of monster heads, he would be waiting feet away, by an enormous telescope he would point up toward the stars. Come here, he’d say, and they would listen, bend down, look through the lens. They would gasp at how clear they could see the crenellations of the moon, but he’d say, That’s not the biggie. Do you see the black everywhere behind the moon, Alberta? She would nod, and blink more crust from the corners of her eyes. That’s space, he’d tell her, and did you know there’s an end to it? Well there is, but it’s spreading farther away all the time, always faster. Remember that, baby, he’d say, because he was going to have the fuckin’ lightning strike him down in the chair where he sat planning his children’s bedrooms if they ever felt anything but free. He was determined on that. Remember, he’d tell Alberta, that there might be walls to everything, but they never ever stop.


17


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