My father rests his chin on the shovel’s handle. The hole before him begs to be deeper. Gone already—redbud trees, patches of violet peeled away like a bandage. Goodbye ragged hammock. Goodbye, tire swing. My father used to be President of the Neighborhood Homeowner’s Association. He doesn’t know he’s been impeached. Neither neighbor nor impeached mean anything. My mother mostly looks out the window. She’s become Special Occasion religious. She parts the red kitchen curtains and says Jesus Christ in a voice reserved for car accidents. She wakes me in the night to help her apply Special Occasion makeup. We count the lines in her face. My brother counts the shovel strikes aloud. Shovel dings rock: a star collapsing. My father tells us kids not to go anywhere, we have to take turns guarding the hole. When a bagger at the grocery asks me to the movies, I tell him I’m busy. He says I hope you don’t fall in. My brother, sister and I rig a rappelling device. At the bottom of the hole we shine like dimes. My brother was born with gills, remnants like pinpricks above his ears. My sister can float like a kite—the year she turned thirteen, we kept a rope around her waist. When the hole reaches beyond the sides of the house, my mother no longer believes it will bring us the forgiveness each of us needs. She packs a suitcase, calls a cab, waits at the end of the driveway. I part the curtains with my hands. I hold my breath until she has gone. I fall asleep. I dream of boats. The hole has become a lake. The hole has become a breathing body. The current drags lawn chairs across our neighbor’s yard. My father is gone. I step off the porch into chin-deep water. I duck below the surface, grab my brother’s waist, kick. In the sky above, our pajama-footed sister waves us east.
Art by Brook Erin Barman