April 13, 2007
Water was coming into the basement from the crawlspace, threatening a decade’s worth of junk. What else could I do? I unrolled the hoses, filled my mouth with muddy water at the downhill end, and let the vacuum do the rest. Those rubber snakes spread across the gray driveway like a blue-green medusa and spilled the basement’s dirty secrets for eight hours. The problem was the gutter on the uphill side. I’d neglected to clean it even though scrabbling birds got me out of bed every day for three months. In a circle of lightning I carried my aluminum ladder to the far end of the house and climbed up as high as my fear of heights would allow. My hand grappled around above my head, pulling out twigs and leaves, foil and grass, but the downspout didn’t wake up until I pulled them–two bare-skinned birds with eyes like pouches that had split their seams–and dropped them to the ground. I wondered whether the mother would come looking for them even after the rain stopped. How big does a life have to be to be important? When I have to get away from my job my only escape is through a stairwell so dry moths have dehydrated in mid-flight, the water sucked out from under every scale. I don’t know how they even get there. One of the birds opened its mouth and wouldn’t close it again. I stayed up there on the ladder, afraid to come down, afraid of how much bigger they would get.