Terry Scott Boykie
The house was not plumb and the wind knew it.
In winter, the drafts would break into
whistles and spook the old dog; who would
pace the linoleum in search of calm.
Sometimes, field mice would cozy between the
cinder blocks and joists and wait out
the storms, only to have the mutt paw their retreats
Mostly, the shades would stay up to take in
the moon and stars, but with each cold snap
down they would come to hold the dying heat.
On snowy nights, the man and woman would retire
to the foam-fill by midnight to sleep below the
vinyl headboard with its chewing gum warts
or linger a little longer with the residue
of alcohol and the ashes of death.
By 1 am, the little boy would be alone with the glow
of the space heater in the downstairs kitchen and
the drum of ice pellets on the corrugated roof above.
In the dim, he would raise the shades and press
his face and fingers against the frosty pane.
He always liked the taste and feel of iciness.
Beyond its makeshift lens, a lone street
light would reveal tomorrow's fate.
By two, the little boy, wide awake yet half asleep,
would secret down the splintered stairs past
the cobwebs and the clutter to the front room where
he could hear the whistle loudest. He would turn on
the TV and scrutinize its test pattern and consider
what came next. Bouncing furtively on the sectional, he
could feel the wilted tips of the philodendron and imagine
the tentacles of a beast preparing to eat him up.
By three, the wind's whistle would become a melody
and the field mice and the mutt would have settled in
for one last January. The ice pellets would have turned
to snow flakes too muted to stir the snoring man
or the sotted woman. And the little boy would
doze off on the front room rug; his dreams of no school
unfazed by the fading warmth of the space heater
and the expectant glow of WNBT.