2868 S. Pine Valley

By Eric Alt

Every year, the pine tree would leave needles and cones on the lawn for me to rake.

My older brother woke up with tears not yet crusted. He ducked his head to avoid the bars from the top bunk, and ran down the hallway to our parents’ room. He stood over our sleeping dad. “We’re all going to die,” my older brother said.
Dad briefly opened one eye before he nodded his head, “I know.”

Mom lay between me and my brother. She read from a drawn-on storybook. Dad threw the door open, which made the coil vibrate. His open hand swung across the tall wooden dresser. I got out of bed and knelt next to the plastic gold man. The batting baseball player was split in two. I held both pieces in my hands, and did not hear he said after.

I picked up the clear-chorded phone, and heard Mom on the other line, talking to a man whose voice I did not recognize. She repeated his words back. Those three words, that are supposed to mean so much.

The bathroom was dark, so I turned on the light. Jag was hanging from the air vent by yarn. His whiskers were still crinkled, and his nose had long fallen off. The pimpled boy in the mirror should not still care about his childhood friend.

An orange and white truck parked close to the garage. Rain made the cardboard soggy and hard to grip. Eventually, everything was packed. The tires backed over the sliver stream that formed in the gutter, the haul of the truck prevented me from seeing the house as we rod off.

Years later, I drove past the home. There were no more needles, no more pine tree.

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