Terrance Manning Jr. things I could’ve taken when I broke back in: a baby shirt, half-burned and still folded in the drawer that Jonny had worn, it seemed, every day; a few pictures saved by the glass in their frames; a tin toy car on the window sill in the bedroom; Chris’s old guitar beneath the bed; a Tonka truck; a model plane. But I was too embarrassed in front of my friends, afraid of feeling silly or looking uncool walking from the house with all that junk, charred and stinking in the car. “It was a dump,” Chris said when I told them. “Property value just went up,” my father laughed. Jonny didn’t care either, though he remembered the sawdust on the kitchen floor, insulation hanging from the walls, even the stairs, but for him it’s Chris teaching him addition on the bottom step, the smell of the wood. “You remember the smell,” he said. “Smelled like shit. You don’t remember?” I didn’t. I only remembered the steps, his falling down them. “You don’t remember Mummy trippin’ about that stink, Daddy tellin’ her to shut her mouth. Fuck that place, man.” And in some ways, I want to say, Yeah, fuck that place, but often I’d like just a little more—from his perspective. Or from Chris’s. Maybe he’d remember the basement, all musky-bricked and chilly. Hardwood floors in the living room, worn out in the middle, gray. Or the plastic stapled to the far wall to keep the heat inside that first winter. The smell of kerosene soaked in the pillows and blankets. The sound of Buzz, the old dog barking late into the night. My father laughing, singing Johnny Cougar and Boss songs in the kitchen those nights he’d come home late from work, middle-night, whiskey-voiced. Maybe then I could bring it back in some way, reconstruct the place, from the steps and into the kitchen—the bedroom—through the sliding glass doors—to the yard. I could build it again from the muddy hillside, the empty space left looking out into the valley as the morning spills down into the Monongahela.
200 u Crab Orchard Review