Somewhere in the country, on an empty cul-de-sac, is a five-bedroom farmhouse. The farmhouse has clean, straight siding, and the morning is foggy but the sun is white and shining on this day that could be any day but is a weekday. You are home from school for a happy reason. Maybe your mother is on an upswing, or it’s snowing, or it’s summer. Sunlight puddles around the small dogs on the beige carpet, it bounces off the steaming surface of the swimming pool. From the inside looking out, you don’t know whether it’s a very hot day or a very cold one. Your arms and legs are small. You are happy and afraid.
Your life will be made up of moments like this, when the house is quiet, when you can only hear the dogs’ deep breathing and the drone of morning television behind your mother’s closed bedroom door. If her door is closed maybe she’s not on an upswing. But you are happy today. Are you happy today?
When you are an adult and you are happy you will remember this exact moment in time but you won’t remember why.
There are many things a child like you can do on a day like this. If it’s snowing you can make a fort with tunnels inside. If it’s snowing and the sun is shining, you will remember a thing your father said about the devil beating his wife. If it’s snowing and the sun is shining, the snowflakes taste like sugar when you catch them on your tongue.
If it’s not snowing, it is very hot. If it’s not snowing, you are afraid. If you go outside, your skin won’t know if it’s hot or cold at first, not until the conditioned air evaporates off the ends of the thin hairs on your small arms.
There is no time like the present. You remember that from television, probably. No time. In the beige living room, you aren’t sure.
Your breath fogs the window. Who is the devil’s wife? You don’t remember. Does anyone remember?
You don’t know how long you’ll be small but it feels like no time. It feels like forever. It feels like this single day, this moment when you are happy and you are afraid. You can feel the bones growing in your arms and legs. You are changing and you always will be.
You wonder how your father knows that thing about the devil but you’ve also seen the veins in his neck straining, his face flushing pink, his open mouth like a cave of wonders.
Outside is the surface of the sun and a frozen planet. There is no time like right now.
Taylor Gordon is a writer from the Southeastern US who came to Wyoming for graduate school and never left. She has published sparingly, and is the 2021 recipient of the Wyoming Arts Council fellowship in Fiction.