birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Now, I'm at a Loss

Daddy is working in the garage, and I’m helping! We are moving heavy boxes; rolling the lawn mower out onto the driveway; lugging the metal trash cans out, too. He has already put the car out on the street. I’m carrying boxes that are “Just my size,” he says. Everything, everything must get out of this garage. Daddy’s going to paint the floor. That’s so weird…who paints the floor? With both of us working it takes a long time, but I am a big help, Daddy says.

After lunch mom says I’ve helped enough for now, it’s time to go play. I know Daddy is still painting the garage because I can smell it.

Late in the afternoon, Daddy comes inside to get cleaned up. “We’ll put everything back in the garage after dinner,” I hear him tell my mom.

That will be too late for me to keep helping, but I can go see what it looks like! While Daddy is washing his hands and face, I go out the garage door and sit on the steps to observe the result. It’s beautiful! So smooth! So green! So clean – not like a garage anymore.

“Lauren! What are you doing?! GET UP! GET UP!” I hear yelled from outside by the driveway.

Then, as I stand up, “DON’T MOVE!”

“Look what you’ve done!” to me.

“Look what she’s done!” to my mother, as my father disappears back into the house.

I try to look at what I’ve done even as I’m lifted off my feet by my father from the doorway into the house.

“Don’t touch!” he commands.

I cannot see the paint on my bottom and legs, but it’s there – green. I don’t get to see the mark I’ve left on the garage steps.

Dad takes me outside, but not through the garage, through the house. He finds the turpentine and a rag from the garage things piled in the driveway. He begins to rub away the paint vigorously with quick sighs. It all comes off, mostly. My shorts are ruined, mom says, as she takes me for a bath.

I don’t know how my dad fixes the scarring of the paint on the garage steps. There is no mark of my bottom and legs when I see them the next day.

I don’t know how to help my dad feel better and not angry. By the next day, he is the same as always.

I don’t know what to do when I ruin something and I don’t mean to. I am at a complete loss.


King Arthur's Bite