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January 2014, vol 9, no 4

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Glenn G. Coats


Rochelle is our crew chief. He is the one who visits families, studies their houses, and decides which ones are most in need of repairs. The local people trust him; he is from the mountains. Rochelle orders materials and divides up the work between us. “Don’t wander off,” he says to me. “You stand out like a sore thumb.”

Today we are God knows where and I am on the roof of a house that seems to be held together by threads. Tom cuts long strips of one by two; hands them up to me. I nail them across the joists. Later, I will use the narrow wood to fasten sheets of tin.

It is mid-morning when she appears, steps out of the forest like a deer. Her hair is black as a crow’s feather and she is wearing a long skirt. There are no shoes on her feet. Children emerge from the trees and follow her every step, flutter around her like birds. All of us stop working and watch her move across the meadow until she is gone. Who is she? Where did she come from? Are there gypsies in the hills?

We break for lunch and walk back to the truck. All of our lunch boxes are gone. Rochelle does not hesitate, leaves us in the shade and walks into the woods. Comes back with arms full of boxes. Squints at the bright sunlight. “The boxes are empty,” he says.

nest building
the music
of work

worn records
the scratchy sound
of memory