Jenny

I hate house chores I hate woodpiles I don’t want to do this I shouldn’t have to do this Dad doesn’t even need my help for yard work Laurie and Peter can do all the chores by themselves why are they making me do this this is stupid stupid I want to go in the house the warm house I want to watch cartoons why are they torturing me with stupid work they can burn the woodpile on their own they can do

Laurie

Disgusting the whole woodpile is rotten, drywall and plywood gummy with layers of tiny crawling bugs, black lice, termites Don’t look, underneathe the hollow two-by-fours, budding things, white pulp veiny moss, purple purple mold Disgusting, every slat of wood insect-chewed, throw it, throw it in the fire, burn the gross in the burnpit so gross kill the bugs, the wood pops open and hisses in the

Peter

Don’t do it, don’t say a word, we can’t fight, is that so difficult to understand? I can see you two starting, I can see you two fighting without speaking, don’t you dare, Mom is working a double in town for you and Dad will hear us from his woodshop if we fight, don’t you babies get it? The doors are propped open, the dinningroom table isn’t done, it was supposed to be finished already, but Dad is still

the work without me I hate this I hate them I just want to be left alone I’m tired cold cold and tired don’t any of you realize there’s a hole in the ceiling of my bedroom Peter doesn’t have a hole in the ceiling of his bedroom there’s a tarp over the hole in my bedroom ceiling and the wind snaps the noisy tarp all night all night I can’t sleep the snapping tarp and the insect chewing termites keep me awake every night their chewing and crunching and the snapping like getting your face slapped every second of

heat, moving pockets of creamy rot pocked termite tunnels bursting, a cloud of wet decay, so disgusting so gross, like the chunks of melted wood Dad pulled out of the ceiling, when Jenny started crying about bugs in the night, now there’s an open hole in our bedroom ceiling instead of a roof full of waving, jumping saw- dust Can’t look Can’t look again, Dad said he would fix the hole in our bedroom ceiling before fall started, but now Dad says there’s no money for ceiling wood and Mom says Dad can’t go on the roof again, not

sanding the dinning- room table his boss wanted last week, even though his back isn’t healed yet, don’t you see the thick bandages under his t-shirt? His surgery was only a few weeks ago, have you two completely forgotten? Dad fell off the roof of your bedroom because you were complaining about little, tiny bugs, Dad hurt his back and now we’re broke because you didn’t want gross ceiling wood, and Mom is working another double and Dad is working in his woodshop even though the doctor told him not

every night and none of it is my fault this isn’t my fault this isn’t my job why can’t Dad finish fixing the hole in my bedroom ceiling why why it’s his job his job “I don’t want to do this, this is stupid”
 
 
 

“I don’t care what you do, I’m going inside, I don’t care!”

 
 
 
 
 

Peter thinks he’s always right thinks he’s better than me and Laurie but

until his back is healed or Mom says Dad will only fall off the roof again but Jenny wakes me up every night, red crying, crying all the time, and I always have to deal with her, always
 

“Why do you get to go inside and I have to keep working?”
 
 
 

“That’s not fair, that’s not fair!”

 
 
 
 
 

to, and you two are being shitty about doing the chores and helping Dad, even though we’ re burning the wood that came off of your bedroom ceiling, and you can see the bandages on his back all the way from the burnpit and we can’t even afford to fix your ceiling until he sells the diningroom table, until there’s money for the ceiling, money for back surgery
 
 

“Quiet, can’t you see there’s no money? Everyone has to work”
 
 

he doesn’t want to keep working either he’s just saying that because he didn’t finish burning the wood yesterday Peter doesn’t want to work Dad doesn’t want to work no one wants to work

“Stop! Stop walking so close to me, you’re always bumping into me”
 
 
 
 
 

“Go away, stay away from me”
 
 
 
 
 
 

Peter thinks he cares about Dad more than me and Jenny, I’m not blind W aving purple rot, I know Dad’ s working with black stitches on his spine Can’t afford to fix our bedroom ceiling Can’t go on the roof until he’s healed, but Peter doesn’t have to hear Jenny every night, all the time
 

“I don’t want to be near you
 
 
 

“You’re such a spoiled brat”
 
 
 

of course everyone has to work, if you two had helped us yesterday when Dad and I started the burnpit we could have been done before the rain came and made everything more soggy and slippery, did you expect Dad to do the work by himself? It hurts him to stand, it hurts him to work, but you two are fighting and you’re going to make Dad angry, don’t you hear yourselves
 
 
 
 
 

“Shut up, just shut up1
 
 


  1. The buzz of the wood sander clicks off. Spine spasms.
    “I don’t want to hear another word out of you kids, not one more word. My back is killing me, I have too much work to put up with this bullshit, and it’s dangerous to have that bug-wood near my shop, understand? Stop arguing and finish the work now.”

twisting twisting anger stupid Peter if he hadn’t told Laurie and me to shut up Dad wouldn’t have yelled at me it’s Peter’s fault Dad is angry I’m not doing this work   I   don’t   care   I’m not doing this it’s all Peter’s fault anyway because he didn’t finish burning the woodpile with Dad yesterday after school he said I was supposed to help but that’s a lie a lie lying whipping stick I’m not going to help just watch me going to whip this stick in the air and you just try and tell me to work after Dad said to be quiet whipping this

worry hate worry, I hate you Jenny I hate you Peter I hate the angry black stitches in Dad’s back hate angry yelling hate being afraid for money and picking up rotten wood flesh and bugs, rusted nails, dragging pulp to the burnpit, one piece at a time Do you see how angry I am, one little piece of wood at a time and small shuffling steps See how bad this is I hate it and no one can say anything to me about how I’m not helping because Dad just told us to work quietly no one can tell me to work harder at all

you see, do you see what happens when you fight? Dad hates fighting when he’s working now he’s hurt and he’s going to get angry and we’ve got no money and all we have to do is burn this wood to be done, to make Dad and Mom happy and Jenny is whipping a stick in the air instead of helping, Laurie, dragging one piece of wood at a time to the burnpit, we are going to be here all day, all damn day fighting and making Dad angrier unless you get your shit together and start being a part of this family and helping Mom and Dad

stick up and around and you can’t do anything about it when Dad’s listening what you get for thinking you can boss me around and make me do things I don’t want to do2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

kicking kicking kicking the woodpile
 

“I don’t want to do this I don’t want to do this I don’t want to do this—”
 

can’t say anything to me not while Dad is listening and you do all the gross work on your own the way you were supposed to yesterday until you said I was supposed to help
 
 
 
Just because Dad’s on the phone doesn’t mean you get to talk to us
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

and you are only making this work harder, don’t you babies understand that? We need to help Dad, we could be done by now, we could be done by now, could be done by now

“Stop throwing that stick around”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“We couldn’ve been done by now if you two were helping—” 3
 


  1. The phone in the woodshop rings.
    “Hello? Oh Rick, I was just about to call you, the table is looking great…”
  2. A loud hush, a burst of air through gritted teeth. Trembling hand makes a quick, neck- slicing motion. Cut it out.
    “I hear you, Rick. You see, I’m still getting over my back surgery…”

angry
angry
Dad’s angry at me
Peter’s fault
whipping
whipping stick
want to be done
want
want
 

“That’s not fair, that’s not fair!”
not fair
whipping
not fair
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

fire ugly ugly fire, Don’t look can’t stand it, can’t stand it
“I hate you, I hate you both
 
 

“I’m going inside, do the work on your own, I hate you”
 
 
 
 
 

hurt
hurt
screaming
red screaming
screaming the stick

now Dad is angry at me, I’ve only ever tried to help, only tried
 
 

“Just finish the work so we can be done4
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


  1. Plugging phoneless ear, quiet quiet—
    “…how about I send you the invoice today so on Friday we can settle on the spot…”

 
 
 
 
 

“I was trying to throw the stick in the fire!” 5
 

“Laurie,  I  didn’t  mean  to—”
 
 

scared
scared
scared
scared hurts6
scared hurts

the stick
it hit my face
my face, is there blood on my face?
red stinging
screaming
 
 
 
 
 
 

Dad
moving fast
running
Jenny
spanked

 
 
“I told you to stop throwing that stick, I told you!”
 

“Laurie, Jenny, both of you get back to work—”
 

“Be quiet, be quiet!”
 
 

Dad
moving fast
Laurie running
Jenny
spanked


  1. Phone clicks off.

scared hurts
scared hurts
scared
scared
scared
scared
scared
scared
scared
scared

running
looking
back
Peter
Dad
Peter
scared
scared
scared
scared

her feet off the ground
my feet off the ground
wasn’t my fault7
hurts8
ear hurt9
ear hurt
ear hurt
ear hurt
ear hurt
ear hurt


  1. Spasm.
  2. Back spasm, the wet woodpile underfoot—Peter’s too heavy to lift, too heavy to spank, in the woodpile Spasm, dropped him into a nail in the woodpile, Peter’s ear ripped by a nail, slippery termite wood crumbling Spasm children and back surgery and work and ceilings and bills and children, Peter, so heavy—carry him inside, call Carol, can’t bleed into his ear canal, hold his ear sideways, hold the gauze gauze and ice hold ice, the hospital Get in the car Jenny Laurie in the car, going into town, going to the hospital, doctors fix backs and ears I can’t fix it I can’t fix ears and backs and ceilings and bills, bills I can’t pay can’t pay for my family, rotting ceilings and fires, burning the unpayed bills, there’s nothing left nothing but bills to burn and children awake and crying and fighting and it hurts, it hurts I’m sorry I’m sorry scared scared scared scared
    Quietly scared Forward
    quietly
    “Hold the gauze. Everyone, in the car. Peter, I’m so—I’m so so—”

scared
scared
Laurie
Dad
Peter

scared
scared
Jenny
Jenny
Dad
Peter

ear hurt
ear hurt
ear hurt
ear hurt
ear hurt
you hurt me
you hurt me