All the Way Round

It was a blue sky day. Outside, a grill, a redwood fence, a swing set, a gold fish pond, a pebble garden, a gate, a chain link fence, a green shed, a silver shed, a concrete porch, smoke, spatula, hose, kids drinking out of a hose, a dog, two dogs, a group of kids, barefoot, a group of mothers he didn’t recognize, a table of desserts, a spot in the driveway where the Pontiac usually sat. Missing from inside the house: the red purse, white sneakers, the box of secret stuff in the bedroom closet, the copy of The Joy of Sex with strange line-drawn pictures of hairy men and women folded around each other, the bag of silver dollars under the sink, the coat with the fur on the collar, the painting of the deer next to a lake painted by a family friend that hung behind the couch, the mirror in the hall with the big ripple across the bottom, the jewelry box. How all of these important things had fit into the Pontiac was unclear, but all of it was gone. His father hadn’t told the guests. He was waiting. The radio was playing Counting Flowers on the Wall. Smoke from the grill came through the bedroom window. The man at the grill kept opening and closing the lid. There was a hole in the window screen and the boy kept looking through it, squinting so that all there was was the hole. He opened his eyes and couldn’t see anything. He squinted down and he could see it all, the backyard, the redwood fence, the swing set, the other kids, the fence, the grownups on the patio, his father by the birdbath holding a bottle, the hill, the grape arbor, the vine with its broad leaves, the creek, the woods, the pump-station, the smokestacks out by the industrial park, the city, the North, the ice, the Arctic winds, and all the way around the other side, all of it, water, people, buildings, fires, wars, mothers nursing their children, mothers tucking their children in, all of it, all the way around, all the way until he was looking at the back of his own head.

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