The Garage by Annie Frazier
Big old brown house next door, architecture real modern in ’60-something when the guy’s parents had it built. Got handed down to him awhile back and he’s letting the place go to rot and ruin while he raises his family there. Bunch of boys, bunch of dark-haired boys running around summers shirtless and shoeless on the asphalt driveway hopping on and off bikes and Big Wheels, grey dust pressed always into the swirled prints of their little feet. You can see the color when they run. The mom probably does scrub them down every night but it doesn’t budge, that ground-in asphalt grime. They’ve got a couple of battery Jeeps, the kid kind, but only two and there’s the four boys. So two get to drive, two sit passenger, then passengers get antsy, start trying to hurl themselves head-first out of moving vehicles or stay in and punch their drivers. Then tears come and then the ridicule of tears. So they abandon those Jeeps for something less hostile. Races in the grass. Basketball bounced and swished into a hoop bolted to the garage.
The garage. The dad’s one of those guys says he’s a collector but it’s more than that. Started out with a truck he wanted to restore, did start restoring on weekends with the sun beating down on his bare shoulders, but then he bought the boat and the coolers and the fishing poles and the life jackets and piled and piled it all. And there’s the stack of yellowing boxes, tax returns back to the ‘50s all packed up, black marker labels. No room left to work on that truck. As the four boys age, their crap gets piled atop the other piles. Red plastic bodies of battery Jeeps, dead now, fade to pink in the humidity, paper stickers on the sides puckered and peeling. Piled high atop the Jeeps are the wife’s gardening tools and a tower of orange pots, all with the price tags still on. Bags of potting soil busting at the seams, spilling damp black dirt like intestines from a sliced gut.
And the wonder becomes how far they’ll let it all go. Will they huddle around a metal trash can pulled from the dad’s office, balled up newspapers from the early ’80s flaming away inside, moldy walls softening and leaning in around them? Will they pitch tents and settle in when the roof finally caves and will they later celebrate the first poplar sapling taking root in the dark pungent loam of what was once the den’s orange shag carpet? Maybe they will. Maybe they’ll hunker down and hold on until at last they perish one by one, until their bodies melt back into that damp mound of earth where house and garage once stood, where piles shrunk and compressed under the weight of years and wet. And maybe one day, pines and oaks and more poplars will spring up in nascent tenderness between the bleached white curves of rib cages and slack laughing jaw bones, the forest gnawing away, digesting it all down to nothing.
Annie Frazier comes from North Carolina but lives now in Florida, where she manages a family horse farm. She’s currently pursuing an MFA in Fiction from the Spalding University low residency program, where she also works as a student editor for The Louisville Review. Her short story “Sakura” was a finalist for the 2013 Doris Betts Prize, was published in The North Carolina Literary Review‘s 2014 print issue and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poem “The Waterfall” received second place in the 2015 James Applewhite Poetry Prize and appeared in The NC Literary Review‘s 2016 issue. Her book reviews can be found at Paste Magazine and in The North Carolina Literary Review.