It was a quiet summer with a long terrible time of heat. It was blue in the evenings and black at night. The elderberry hung over one side of the house and near the cars were the locust trees with their long leaves. The lights went on in the other houses and glowed yellow. We heard shouting from the family house next door. Things crashed. There were too many children. In the evenings while the kids ate dinner you could see the mother out near the laundry line, daydreaming wearily. There was no sign of a father.

The children didn’t have enough to do. They strolled over to our porch with bored, expectant looks, swinging a little. Where’s Howard? they said, hoping for someone to catch crabs with. He’s not coming this summer, I said. The little girl glanced toward the channel where Howard used to swim in the evenings, as if expecting him to come up the ladder. Are the cats here? cried the little boy, his body going taut as if electrocuted. Yes, I said, under the house. Later I noticed a cat being hauled away in a splayed tortured position, paws skimming the ground.