Peg Alford Pursell
As if in a game, my brother Derrick crawls across the plank he’s stretched from rooftop to rooftop. Twelve stories down. How many feet equal one story? But this is not the kind of math problem my teachers have prepared me for.
And why? Why does he edge across the board, far enough out there now that there is only the clotted shape of him like a hazy planet pasted on the night? For Carlotta. A girl. One day I will understand the power of that, he tells me, but I’m a girl who can’t imagine a boy risking anything for me. I can’t understand why I would want a boy to dare death for me. What would I think of such a boy?
I imagine Carlotta over there on her rooftop, a cigarette trailing from her hand as she lounges, cool. I’ve seen her weekends, eyes hidden behind her sunglasses. Smiling at Derrick, adjusting the straps of her top. “That body!” Derrick said.
He must be getting near. There is no sound of his progress anymore. There’s only the traffic below, no longer indistinct like how I imagine the ocean’s endless movement to sound. At this moment, in this concentrated state of listening, I hear individual cars, stereo bass thumping, a truck’s engine.
Picture the truck, picture the driver; the stupendous serendipity, the body crashing through, a heaven of shattering glass, refracting light like glitter. Imagine that neither body ever knows what hit it.
Peg Alford Pursell is a graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for writers. She’s been a short-list finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award, and was twice awarded the (S.C.) State Fiction Prize. Peg curates the Why There Are Words Literary Reading Series in Sausalito, where she is completing a novel told in stories.