Fireworks

To her, it feels like the sky is shaking – the pounding, deafening beat of the houses around them sending fireworks into the air. Afterward, there’s that lull, that indeterminable wait as someone sets a container out onto the street, lights it, and runs away, a sea of faces turning upwards to wait for it to explode.

Sandcastles

You dig and dig and dig, and the pile on top of my feet grows until my ankles disappear. “Are you going to build that to my knees?” I joke. You look up at me for a moment, then bend your head again without answering.

Baking

He grabs the spatula she hands him, stirs until the flour whirls up, sticking to their eyelashes and coating their lips. He licks off the sticky paste and grimaces. It tastes like chalk.

Dating

In the casino, the carpet is thick with the smell of bad luck. She can almost see the once hopeful faces like ghosts along the edges of the room: gathering empty glasses around their elbows, once bright eyes, now half open and bloodshot, shoulders slumping and spines curling, slinking towards the exit like feral cats

The Neighborhood

She can almost hear the three of them inside, Harold’s loud voice acting out Green Eggs and Ham or The Princess and the Frog, changing his voice to match each character. She used to love listening to his rendition of the witch in Snow White, though sometimes, the voice reminded her too much of her own

Rescue Baby

You run your trucks up the crest of each hill, watch them flatten themselves at the bottom as they skid and scrape against the wooden edges of the sandbox. You throw one into the air for a jump, head tilted towards the sun as you watch.

Bubbles

You tell me that they are tickling your skin, that it feels like the small feet of a thousand ants crawling across your arms. You try to show me, blow the bubbles at me, but they won’t stick. They pop against my shirt, my fingernails, the concrete at my feet.

Soft Ice Cream

Outside, the trees are whispering, and the wind is picking up until the sky turns a sandy gray that reminds me of wool, all those itchy sweaters my mother brought with her from New England that lay in stacks in her closet. The hair on my arms stands up and even in the heat of the kitchen, I wish I had a jacket.

Dear, You

I told you how much I missed you and how much I wanted to feel the weight of your palms on my skin because it had been a few weeks since I had seen you. I even told you that I knew you were with Cathy or Cathleen or whatever her name was, but that I didn’t mind if you showed up with strands of her hair caught in the buttons of your shirt or the bruise of her fingertips on your collarbone .

Why We Could Never Keep It

At the new house, you each had your own room. And then, the baby came, and your father had his own room too, sleeping in the spare room upstairs while I woke up with the baby at night to nurse. You and your sister got older and your father worked more and somehow it felt like the baby never changed.

Begin Here

Me, sitting outside your door while you scream and kick at the slats of your crib, sleep training book splayed out open in front of me, lapping up my tears. Me, staring at my watch as the seconds stall and stall and I can’t breathe. Picture the sharp kick of your heels against my chest as I finally rush in and pick you up.

Meanwhile

The cracks in the foundation are growing. I find myself measuring them with a ruler each day, making little tick marks on the cement with the date penciled above. It reminds me of the way my mother used to document the height of my brother and me on the back wall of her closet, which, in the end, she painted over when they moved out of that house.

After the Rain

They scoured the yard for weeds and gave them to their mother as a bouquet, roots and dirt hanging from the bottom. They decided that flowers needed grass and gave her handfuls of blades like tufts of hair.

The Quiet

You spoke, and I tried to listen, but my mind floated away, and I couldn’t catch it -- it felt like a balloon let loose on a sunny day, seeking the heat of the sun with single-minded fury. I wanted the clouds to soak up my body, for my skin not to feel so tight.

Gone

There was the sweet smell of rain, the mist that caught in my eyelashes, stroked the skin of my cheeks, kissed the bridge of my nose and the backs of my knees as I stood at the end of the dock, begging the lake to wrap me in its cool relief. The water lapped at the edges of the tree roots along the shore, eddied out beneath me in dark, swirling pools.

Falling

As the tension left, I suddenly felt like the wind had been knocked from my chest, as if I had fallen from a swing and very suddenly found myself attached to the ground instead of flying through the air, with black spots across my vision, and my lungs so flat I didn’t think I would breathe again.

Once They Were Up

The two of them ran across the game room, their feet pounding against the floor as if they were giants. They crawled through their vinyl tunnel, stuck their hands through the holes they had torn into it, beckoned one another to come in.

Dinner

The younger one wraps himself around her legs in front of the stove, pulling at her sweatpants, wiping his snot and saliva down the length of her calves like the gummy trails of snails. The oil in the frying pan pops onto her fingers and burns the insides of her wrists and she shouts for the younger one to back away and for the older one to stop jumping, but neither one listens.

Last Night

They fall to the ground as the ball does, and its thud echoes in their small chests like the sound of the front door slamming the night before as their dad left. They lie there and pretend that the clouds will fold them into their warmth.

Spinning

His brother shouted at her to never stop, to keep spinning them forever. He could picture the three of them, spinning as the sun sank and the darkness swallowed them, the night lights turning on and dousing them in their soft glow.