We've been gone so long, but there are pieces of us to be found, even now, all through this old place: the broken-off corners and peeled-away paint of our childhoods here and there on the floor, the dust of our singing and laughing and crying out hanging in the air for the sunbeam to catch and warm.

I climbed out this window once to test my bravery, and then later, many times, to sneak away and rendezvous with a boy. The panes were thick, and so old and warped as to distort the trees beyond as would a fun-house mirror; but a child's view of the outside world is always contorted.

You were never happy here. I remember. You were older, and impatient, and you were gone as soon as allowed by calendar and law. But I stayed until the last possible minute, and will again, until the bulldozers arrive.


Claire, is that you? Are you there? If you can hear me, listen carefully. You need to stay inside today. Kids too.

I know the weather's nice, I know the pool opened for the summer yesterday, I know I just oiled up the bikes, but none of that matters. Stay in the house. Close all the windows while you're at it. Wait for me to call. Don't go outside again until you hear from me.

And Claire, put all the potted plants on the back porch. And lock the back door. No plants inside. Not even a little one.