Our house is this beautiful thing. Not too old. Paint that makes you think of breakfast. The smudges on the walls, knee- and waist-high to an adult, from years and years of kids putting their grubby hands on everything. You know; lived in. Home.
But there’s this crack near the floor. Kind of in the back by the kitchen, on this back wall. It’s hard to even notice it if you don’t go looking for it, but I noticed it a year ago and didn’t think much on it. Walls get cracks, don’t they? I pointed it out to dad, and he told me “don’t worry about cracks.” So I didn’t.
But a little later I noticed it again, and it looked like it had grown. Out from that corner, like a jagged bolt of lightning creeping out from the corner in slow motion. I asked dad again, and he said “why are you even looking for cracks in the wall? You’ve got this great big beautiful house, and you’re worried about a little crack.”
And he’s right, of course. This little crack isn’t gonna bring the house down. Just to make the point, he painted over it, but the paint was so bright and new it didn’t match the walls anymore and it looked weird. Sort of drew the eye in a way the crack alone hadn’t done.
A few months later, I had been away from the house for a while. I wasn’t even thinking about that crack in the wall; to be honest, I had forgotten about it. But dad had painted the whole wall, which seemed strange to me, and when I went to look for the crack again, there it was — even bigger than before, as long as my arm, snaking up toward the window. It was hidden under several layers of paint, but you couldn’t miss it anymore; it stood out like the veins on grandma’s legs.
I mentioned it to dad: “don’t you think you ought to get it fixed?”
Dad got mad. “I’ve been telling you for months, there’s no crack in that wall. Don’t do nothin’ but complain. Never mind the fresh paint I put up there from where you kids messed it all up. That wall looks better than it has in years, and you’re fussin’ ’bout a crack that’s not even there.”
It seemed like a sensitive subject, so I left it.
It’s been a few years now, since I went away to school and came back. That crack covers the whole wall now, like a skeletal tree from floor to ceiling. Dad quit painting it; it’s out there for all to see. The roof even looks like it sags a bit. I never worried about the crack actually damaging the house before, but now I’m not so sure.
You can’t talk to dad about it though. You even glance at that wall out of the corner of your eye and he’ll blow his top, ranting about everything he’s done for us and shouting that the house has never looked more beautiful.
I’m worried about him. And about the house.
On the one hand, dad’s probably right. That one crack probably won’t bring the house down.
But there’s a new crack out by the garage. And I’m afraid to even mention it to him.