Two in the morning and he’s stumbling around in the attic, lost in horizontal archaeology: the further he goes, the older the artifacts become. The stuttering flashlight guides him past boxes of Christmas decorations and half-dead appliances, past garbage bags of old blankets and outgrown clothing stacked and bulging like black snowmen, over and around the twenty-year-old rubble of his son’s treasures: Tonka trucks and science fair projects, soccer trophies and summer camp pottery.
His shoulder brushes against the upright rail of a dissassembled crib, sends it sliding, and somewhere in the dark a mirror or storm window smashes. The noise doesn’t matter. There’s no one in the house below him to disturb.
Twenty feet from the far wall his way is blocked by a heap of wicker lawn furniture. He pulls apart the barricade piece by piece to make a narrow passage and scrapes through, straws tugging at his shirt. On the other side he crawls up and onto the back of a tilting oak desk immovable as a ship run aground.
The territory ahead is littered with the remains of his youth, the evidence of his life before he brought his wife and son to this house. Stacks of hardcover books, boxes of dusty-framed elementary school pictures—and toys. So many toys. Once upon a time he was the boy who didn’t like to go outside, the boy who never wanted to leave his room. The Boy Who Always Said No.