September 15, 2015 by The Citron Review
by Adam Gianforcaro
The morning gleam shot rays into my house, warming us with an intimate sincerity. My dad put his arm around me as we watched the cops press Well Done Mike’s face onto the white car. He was covered in oil from a fight with a woman, puddles of it on the edge of his lawn spilling out into the streets, oil whirling tiny rainbows on the sidewalk. I peered through the curtains at the scene, at the words sketched across Well Done Mike’s house. They cried black paint. They screamed an ugly scream. Those words forced me to consider ideas I wasn’t yet ready to consider.
Before this night, before the disturbance reeled its way into the morning glow, Well Done Mike was just a harmless drunk living in the dilapidated house across the street from my family’s suburban home. My father started with the nickname. It was mostly due to the peeling stickers on his truck—Well Done Welding—but also by virtue of how unwell Mike really was. He always smelled of beer and car excrement. His home was no different. Like in fiction, where one object passively reflects one of the characters, his property was clear-cut symbolism—his house unkempt, his lawn littered and overgrown, his truck rusted and loud.
It was just before sunrise when I woke to the commotion. I scuffed my slippered feet to the family room and scooted between my parents where we stood studying the happenings outside. My dad held my mom’s free hand behind my back, his other pulling me in tight.
“How could he?” my mom said. “There are kids around here.” I figured she was talking about the fight, the buckets of used car oil Mike’s girlfriend used to deface him and his property.
I shifted my eyes from the cop car to the front of his house. And there it was, bold black letters spray-painted boldly across his home. The four words screamed out in a hoarse voice only a house could muster: THERE IS NO GOD. Shadowed by the overhanging roof, each letter, each word, jumped out at me as I read it slowly. I could taste the small spits of black from where the paint dripped and then dried, digging its way into my throat.
Though this may have been a monumental point of my adolescent theistic perplexity, it was the irony that lifted me from the scene. In the spiritual mid-morning daylight, in the arms of devoted Catholics, in a house with crucifixes and angel figurines, I listened to the neighboring house protesting. The chanting grew louder each time I read it. Spotlights of blue and red from the sirens made it a display of art.
That night, the heat in my bedroom hung like a premonition. Those four short words, each dripping letter, scrolled in my head like a stock market ticker. I repeated it, whispering the sentence to myself. There is no God. I hated the words for not feeling out of place. I kicked the sheets off my bed. I tossed and fluffed my pillow. I prayed for sleep to a being I questioned for the first time. It was there that I lied awake in the sweltering dark, hearing the click of the letters as they scrolled in my head. And on and on they went, clicking. I could smell the oil. I could smell the excrement.
Adam Gianforcaro is the author of the poetry collection Morning Time in the Household, Looking Out and children’s picture book Uma the Umbrella. His poems and prose can be found in The Brasilia Review, Hippocampus Magazine, Kentucky Review, The Los Angeles Review, Sundog Lit, and others. He lives in Delaware.