Two boys were scraping a house. They had been scraping for hours, saying things like “That was a real knucklebuster” and “Hand me the paint-blisterer,” delirious with their tedium and occasionally on the attack against the same. Their father came around the corner of the house, and it struck him that the boys were laughing at him, that this chortling and knee-slap- ping and ladder-shaking had everything to do with him, who had provided some small amount of income for these boys who otherwise would have been wandering the woods at home with no intent or purpose in their lives at all. He began abusing them with his acute perceptions of their laziness and inefficiency and their general ingratitude. Both boys had such a look of shock upon their faces from the cursing (their father was the pastor of a small non-denominational church), that they stiffened there on their respective ladders, unable to even stammer a word in their own defense. The father, then realizing he had not been the subject of their ridicule, now felt ridiculous. He grabbed the smallest boy’s extension ladder and shook it relentlessly until the boy let loose real tears. Finally, he released the ladder with the boy still clinging to it, and it clanked back onto the side of the house. Their father walked directly to the truck, roaring away, leaving the boys alone for the afternoon to continue their scraping until he retrieved them just before sunset without a word. On the way home, there was no denying it was a beautiful sunset. There was at least another complete day of scraping left for three men due to the size and deplorable condition of that enormous house.

John Poch’s most recent book is Dolls (Orchises 2009). He teaches in the creative writing program at Texas Tech University. He has recent work appearing in Agni, Poetry Magazine, and The Cresset.