I. My first rainshade was sun-blasted,
with room enough for boys. Then came one covered in umber-colored horses, which galloped, when I had the wherewithal to spin the crook handle, like figures in a zoetrope. The kids on 17th street called themselves the Dismantlers, stripping away the canopy from the ribs and stretchers and hollowing out the wooden shafts, filling them with gumballs and wild onions. My father was cynical about the whole enterprise. He’d walk in the rain like his tumors were made of sugar. It’s not like my mother donated her skirts and dresses after he died. They just disappeared, absorbed into the wall at the back of her closet. She rescinded anything shelter-shaped, including the parasol flowers. The wind was our theatre, dramatically turning all bells inside-out: school bell, church bell, dinner bell. We became known as the town whose clappers were stolen by a series of gusts from the west. The only thing that tolled was the toll road. When Wanda gave up taxidermy and became a Jehovah’s Witness, some of us absconded with her impressive collection of stuffed predatory birds, wings extended in mid-flight. I impaled mine, a barn owl with blue glass eyes, on a long copper tube I found at the shut-down pattern factory. I brandished my owl like a papal umbraculum whose purpose had nothing to do with weather, not shade but shadow. A mayoral candidate ran on a platform of installing a velarium over the town, a sort of awning, the corners tied to city limit signs, like the retractable one at the Roman Coliseum. He was defeated in a landslide. The minister’s final sermon had a catchy title: There Is No Protection. Not Really. Even my mother nodded at that one, the smoke from her Viceroy entangled in her unwrangled curls.