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Watering Down the House
By Maggie Dove


I.
Pool Water


Two inches of green water in the above-ground pool; bubbling with giant tadpoles. Cleaning out the muck, the soles of your feet, between your toes, the tops of your feet, all the way up to your ankles, slimed with their wriggling struggle. You die with each one that you accidentally step on. You cry and try to get out, but your father orders you back in. This is the end of your immediate family and theirs. They’ll drop dead and then
                                                                        he’ll 
                                                                              drop 
                                                                                     you.

The pool once brimmed clear, everyone happy to swim in circles around the edge, laughing, your joined mechanisms turning the still, blue water into what you called a whirlpool, where when you stopped, its tornado current would float you three extra laps around; a free merry-go-round. 

For better, never for worse. 

It’s going
               down
                       to
                          the
                               dump.

II.
Rain Water

Three years later, rain water bulging the kitchen ceiling until it forms an upside down, wet, blister head four feet across, finally collapsing 
                                                               in
                                                                  an 
                                                                      anti-climactic 
                                                                                           drip 

onto the dining table below; then a marathon of drips, too many for such a small crack.

The crack grows wider; the drip turns to a stream.

Wider, then a second drip. A second stream. Wider.

A third, a fourth, a mosaic of mold blooms into brown, inky blots, changing in size and shape each day; a fungus kaleidoscope that you can turn by craning your cranky little neck.

It explodes into spores when 
                                              the
                                                   ceiling 
                                                             comes 
                                                                        down; 

a surprise that unfolded over the course of six months with no chance to say, “I don’t like surprises,” poverty clamping its hand over your half baby-teeth and half adult-teeth mouth. 

You are becoming something else with each baby tooth that 
                                                                                                 goes
                                                                                                         under 
                                                                                                                  your
                                                                                                                          pillow.

Next the living room; an old man neighbor comes to help by punching a hole into the middle of this new bulge, putting this blister out of its misery. There are no drips, only streams. It takes three months before the ceiling 
                                                  comes 
                                                             down 

this time. Popping the blister didn’t solve the problem of the rain water coming in, unless you considered suspense to be a larger problem than rain on your head indoors.

Next your bedroom, the place where you and your stuffed lambs used to be dry and safe; where you were their shepherd and the roof, a cloudless sky bubble. 

You’re unemployed and they’re wet and you can’t get a goddamned hold of yourself.

III.
Well Water

One year later; well water, yellow, sulfurous, the failing well buried 
                                                                                                          eighty-
                                                                                                                     eight 
                                                                                                                              feet 
                                                                                                                                     down

in the backyard, like the devil himself poured you a drink of stink. It flows slow and eggy-stenched from the faucets, the showerheads, the hose, aerosoling up from the flushing toilet, sparking conversations with furrowed-brow visitors that start with:


“You don’t drink this or bathe in it, do you?” 

The rust stains 
                         streaking
                                        orange
                                                   through 
                                                               your 
                                                                      blonde
                                                                                 hair.

Everyone sleeps with lemon juice in their hair to counteract its effects, bleaching the orange rust into slightly less orange rust. Your hair, packed with so many minerals it could be wrung out into a sports drink, gets eaten away by the juice.

You stopped swimming. You stopped looking up. You cut your hair.

IV.
Thirst

He’ll drop you 
Down to the dump 
In an anti-climactic drip
The ceiling comes down
Goes under your pillow
Comes down
Eighty-eight feet down
Streaking orange through your blonde hair
Maggie Dove is a dirtbag Southern writer by way of Florida. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Hobart, Cosmonauts Avenue, Moon City Review, Queen Mob's Tea House, Drunk Monkeys, Taco Bell Quarterly, The New Southern Fugitives and elsewhere. She is a semifinalist for the 2019 Pamet River Prize for her memoir manuscript "Dirtbag Lights" and is a two-time 2019 Best of The Net nominee. She is petty and immature, and has many tribal tattoos from the 90s for which she refuses to be apologetic.