I built a house all around this day. I inspected the lumber piled in the lean-to, pulled stacks of boards from the moist blackness, planed and trimmed quarter-sawn planks, and checked decades-old Southern yellow pine for squareness and warp. No less than one hundred spiders perished on account of my actions, and for that I’m sorry.
My only desire was to contain the day, but to do that all else must be excluded. Keep the day safe from long shadows, the early mist that crawls from the pond, the strawberry and orange sherbet sun as it climbs above or falls below the horizon’s shoulder. Partition the day from night.
There were no voices except my own, so I sang while I labored. I’ll confess I’ve never sounded better: ballads and cowboy songs, chants in languages I could not have known, pop hits and fragments of lullabies. Louder I sang. My ears tickled and my throat nearly split into bloody strings. The music made my hands stronger and eyes straighter.
When the thunderstorm began, I didn’t seek refuge inside the new house. I threw my tools deep into the curtain of water, and then dashed to find and bring them back. Lightning helped me recover my framing square and hand plane in the sudden afternoon darkness. Rain poured into my face and quenched my thirst—I became a savage, dancing in the splash and spray. I don’t remember if I was naked, but it would have been right. Shame was no neighbor of the house I built.
At twilight, the storm cleared out and the sky tattered into scraps. Stars crept in like assassins, but I watched over my house and it was safe enough. I walked all night as a sentinel. Sometimes I slept while I paced. I uttered a prayer in my sleep, but upon awakening in the gloom, the words were wrong. I had spoken of my doubts and trials; that which could not sustain the house. I walked back to sleep and explored new dreams of redemption.
Birds began to warble and scold. The air changed as color bled back into the world. The house still stood but in the latest light it was a nest of splinters and chips collected in a flood drain. Mean and small, as if constructed by vagrants or hobos. I could not recall the day that dwelt within. I doubted its residency.
As the sun pierced the tree line’s grille and insects shifted their chatter, I used hammer, crowbar, saw, and wedge to break what I had built for that old, forgotten day. I did not yet sing, but whistled a little through my teeth. The air lifted and fell with my tools, and I became the patron, the ascetic, the priest of this new day. I would build a house in which it could reside, and I will always keep this day.
Michael Grant Smith is at various times a musician, writer, live sound engineer, marketing associate, carpenter, automobile mechanic, and rancher. He wears sleeveless T-shirts, weather permitting. His writing has appeared in elimae, Dime Show Review, Ghost Parachute, Longshot Island, and others, and is forthcoming in The Airgonaut and Riggwelter. Michael resides in Ohio. He has traveled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cincinnati.