Trashed out. In need of repair. Dingy paint, chipped. Floors, scratches showing clean wood through years of grime or squares of linoleum tiles searching for their place among empty patches of dried glue. Ceilings, smoke stained; bathtubs, ringed with mineral deposits clinging to God only knew whose old skin. Chicken coop out back, empty except for piles of leaves. The upper half of an unidentified small building peaking through the woods. Years of leaves from oak trees three feet deep packed tightly against the perimeter of the house and all the way to the edge of the forest surrounding it. A pile of old mattresses and box springs shoved into a small garage. And the kitchen. The stove from sometime in the fifties with three ovens and six surface burners.
Yet another rental house they were moving into.
The girl did her best to go somewhere else in her mind as she arranged her single bed and dresser and attempted to find closet space for her winter coat to hang. But this house she just could not stop obsessing over.
She was not going to live in a trash heap. Not her. Ever again.
But it was dark and she couldn’t do anything about it. Her mother was cooking dinner which meant she would be doing the dishes. Two weeks before school started. Eighth grade. High school. She didn’t want to think about that either. She was never going to remember her locker number. What is a locker number, anyway? She didn’t know.
So she ate the dinner and washed the dishes and crawled into her bed on sheets she knew were clean because she had washed them just the week before and she slept until the morning when, after breakfast and washing those dishes, she went outside and somehow managed to find a rake.
She worked like a whirling dervish. Never taking her eyes off the leaves at her feet because to do so would show the enormity of the task she had set herself. She did not want to quit before it was done. Every now and then she would hear an exasperated man’s voice — “What is she doing?” — followed by a female voice, sighing — “I don’t know. She’s your favorite.”
She did not hear the call for lunch and she waved away the call for dinner. She. Must. Finish. Tonight!
And finish she did. No more driving over leaves to park the car. No more walking over leaves only to carry bits of that flotsam and jetsam into the house that must be cleaned next.
But the next day, her arms and legs and back could barely move. They felt frozen and it took days for her to get back full use of them. While waiting for her body to cooperate, she looked around for what next needed attention.
The outside of this damn rental needed to be freshened, brightened. She would paint it.