Fable

The woodshed door’s ghost exists just enough to keep out those who do not belong amongst its logs and secrets. Under the layers of wood chips and sweat and dull axe blades hide cigarette butts and bottle caps. The rusted metal tops and faded nicotine remains are the only remnants of this structure’s secret-keeping.

The man who used to cut the wood bought the cases of beer and packs of Marlboro’s each Sunday, when his wife and children went to church. The bottles and cigarette packs fit well into the cracks between the drying logs. Every summer night, this man could be found with the axe and the logs and a half-drunk Magnus, a cigarette dwarfed in his free hand. The single bare bulb overhead spluttered as it watched wood splinter into pieces and bottles into shards of colored glass. Every winter evening, that same bulb flickered welcome as the man ventured, bundled, into the shed’s inhospitable, unheated air. Not a day went by without some desire feeding its secret-keeping hunger.

His oldest son soon followed him to the shed, copycatting the rise and fall of the axe to become, one day, the honorable man he knew his father to be. The man, in turn, never opened a beer bottle or lit a cigarette in front of his child. As the boy grew distracted by soccer practice and Marioworld, his father spent longer hours in the shed, lighting up and drinking long. Guttural voices began to pull the boy awake in the night, words bleeding into his ears.

The fighting and drinking eventually faded. The smoking did not, but the father was caught with a cigarette only once. His hands were shaking. “Don’t tell your mother”, he said, and the boy nodded—a secret between father and son. That particular secret he, like the woodshed, never spilled.

The secret grew to be a memory rather than a tangible thing. On New Year’s night, the now teenage boy passed through the woodshed’s doorframe, its ghost welcoming a newly kindred spirit. With axe in one hand and can in the other, the boy fed the shed with beer tabs and pot smoke, new food for its ever-crumbling soul.

– Anna Kramer, The Agnes Irwin School, Class of 2016