The Match (for my father)

The window above the sink where you do the nightly dishes frames the sunny backyard, flitting Chickadees, the stump of the maple you cut the previous fall. You stare it down as you gobble the last bite of your hot dog, mustard wiped from your mouth onto blue jeans black with chain oil and sawdust. Old. Goddamn thing woulda fell on the house, you say, your mouth full, when asked why you cut it down.

With spring dew soaked into your steel toes, making hollow sounds on the kitchen floor, you are intent on finishing the job. Just sicka lookin at it. Your steps are heavy down the stairs into the basement. The sounds of rustling wrenches in a red metal toolbox, local rock’n’roll radio. You come back up slowly, bent slightly with age, stumbling over the twenty pound bag of birdseed she placed at the back door to remind you.

The punky stump, older than you are, defies the chainsaw muttering and growling along with you. Sweat and wood chips fall until the engine sputters and fails under birdsong and cursing. You didn’t get more gas before she took the car shopping. Standing over the dark chunks, like wedges of an overcooked cake, you put your hands on your hips. Story of my life.

You glance at the axe you brought out just in case. The young forest surrounds you. Screw it, you say, and hang the new birdhouse on a branch of the budding birch tree instead.

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