Late July, On the Porch with My Childhood Best Friend By Jane McBride

Late July, On the Porch with My Childhood Best Friend

It is long-dark and the night
is only sound: crickets and
her laughter, and the clink of
spoons in bowls. I am twenty-
one years old and mostly fine,
except sometimes the world
comes dangerously close to
making sense. I cling to the
back of her chair so that she
can stand on her tiptoes to
fiddle with the outdoor bulbs.
A plug enters a socket and
finally the lights come on.
On the first day, God created
light, and He separated light
from darkness. It was not until
three days later that it occurred
to Him to make the sun and
the moon, to sprinkle stars
across the sky. If that is the case
a professor asked us once,
where did the light come from?
Looking out into the lit-up yard
I feel a prickle of the terror I
felt when I first considered that
question—the same terror the
primordial beings must have felt
when our upstart God flipped
the basement light on. The
roaches, who are smarter than
us, flee from it. I, on the other
hand, freeze: a caught-out
voyeur. The light hits the porch
all wrong, glancing off the
awning and crashing in the grass
so that everything is illuminated
but the two of us, cast in shadow.
In the artificial shine, I see
the way the fence and the trees
are suddenly too close, two-
dimensional, their colors rained
out and over-saturated, enameled.
It’s not real. It’s the inside of a box.
And I want to take my ice cream
spoon and gouge out my eyes.
I want to put my fist through the
fragile plaster and strip it off like
wallpaper, because that’s all it is:
just set dressing. Beneath,
I would find wooden slats nailed
together, brittle and sea-worn,
and I would pry them apart with
my bare hands and climb out
legs first. And then I would be—
where? In the abyss. In the void.
In a dark and endless black.
And when I looked down,
I would see myself
even though it was impossible,
even though there were no rays
of sun or moon to illuminate me.
Where is the light coming from?

By Jane McBride


Jane McBride is a fiction writer and occasional poet. Her work has appeared in Quarto Literary Magazine.

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