Kevin Spaide ~ Disrepair

As the road fell into dis­re­pair – crum­bling at the edges, and then sink­ing and buck­ling and crack­ing up – the trees crowd­ed in for a look. One of them must have tak­en a step for­ward, maybe just half an inch, and the rest fol­lowed. When trees got an idea like that in their heads, there was no stop­ping them.

So the road was chang­ing for the worse, but we kept up repairs around the house. I was nev­er one for clam­ber­ing over the roof with six or sev­en nails clenched in my teeth, knock­ing down sheets of cor­ru­gat­ed iron with a mal­let, but Cara made it look quite nat­ur­al. It was as if that was what God had had in mind when he turned her loose down here. She wasn’t a tin­ker­er, either. Cara only fixed things that were bro­ken. A win­dow pane. A hinge. The roof of the chick­en shed. She rarely over­did it. If a rock fell out of a wall, she noticed and set it back in place. If a sec­tion of wall col­lapsed, she built it up again stronger than before.

I wasn’t total­ly use­less. I knew how to darn socks. I could patch up a pair of old work trousers and resole a pair of boots. Not too many peo­ple knew how to sole a boot right. I could also tune a gui­tar even though I didn’t real­ly know how to play – not quite so use­ful a skill, but one I was secret­ly proud of. Guitars need­ed to be in tune. Sometimes I thought about ask­ing Cara what she did with my old gui­tar. Maybe she could even bring one back from town before win­ter set in – she swore there were still peo­ple out there repair­ing the silence with music – but the thought of an object like that tak­ing up space in a cor­ner of our house was a lit­tle too hard to imag­ine. Looking at it would put ideas in my head. I might want to learn how to play it again, and hon­est­ly I didn’t want to want anything.

I wasn’t much use at pry­ing out a set of rot­ten steps and build­ing new ones. Cara liked to get in there with a crow­bar and rip things apart. Day by day, our house was falling apart and she was grad­u­al­ly rebuild­ing it. Keeping a house upright was a con­stant war. Mostly against win­ter and squir­rels. Squirrels were hell on a house. As soon as peo­ple stopped liv­ing in them, the squir­rels came in and start­ed decon­struct­ing the place with their teeth. Transforming it from a place fit for human habi­ta­tion to one fit for squir­rel habi­ta­tion. It didn’t take long. Sometimes just a minute or two. And then a bird land­ed on the roof and it collapsed.

Now and again we went for a spin on the motor­cy­cle, dodg­ing pot­holes that looked like craters on the moon. You got to know where they were and just swerved around them. They became part of the geog­ra­phy. The trees stood at the side of the road, lean­ing in a lit­tle clos­er than I remem­bered. As we zipped along on the motor­cy­cle, I often had the feel­ing of a thou­sand eyes trained on us. Well, we prob­a­bly did have, even if they were just the mos­qui­tos. Did mos­qui­tos have eyes? I hoped not. In what kind of world would mos­qui­tos be giv­en eyes?

Maybe the whole world was falling into dis­re­pair. Imagine the crow­bar you would need to rip the rot­ten stretch­es out of a riv­er. What kind of nails were hold­ing rivers in place? And what would you replace them with? Cara might’ve had an answer to these ques­tions there­fore I didn’t ask. I knew bet­ter. I knew I didn’t real­ly want to know the answers to most of my questions.

Last time we head­ed upriv­er the dam was almost gone, wiped out in last year’s floods. The riv­er had grown tired of it and made its deci­sion. Rivers, of course, didn’t real­ly make their own deci­sions. Even the old­est, most mature rivers were at the mer­cy of nature. And every­thing in nature was snared and strug­gling, caught up in every­thing else, even our riv­er. Still I went right on think­ing that a riv­er could decide its own fate, to some small degree. The riv­er was aware of us perched along its banks in the same way that the trees were aware of the road cut­ting through their midst and the motor­cy­cle speed­ing down it car­ry­ing two women with patch­es on the knees of their jeans. Patches that would have to be patched again soon.

We were no dif­fer­ent from any­thing else in this world. Why would we be? Believing oth­er­wise was the root of all our troubles.

Sometimes things broke and you couldn’t fix them. You just couldn’t, no mat­ter what you did. There was no fix­ing my face, for exam­ple. It was the way it was for­ev­er now. And Cara was los­ing her teeth. I couldn’t mend her mouth any more than I could mend her soul. Both were in per­ma­nent degra­da­tion. Well, if I had a gui­tar and knew how to play it I might be able to mend a soul – but not Cara’s. I might be able to put a lit­tle patch on it, though. Shore it up a bit. Until then, I would stick to darn­ing socks in front of the fire­place, keep­ing myself warm, get­ting only half-drunk at night like a good lit­tle girl.


Kevin Spaide is from Auburn, New York. His sto­ries have tak­en hold here and there, most recent­ly in Atticus Review and FRiGG. He lives in Madrid with his wife and son.