— Richard Siken

No one cared until the underside of the balcony collapsed. The concrete, stucco, and steel lath fell on the patio set and crushed it. That was the last day the dogs went outside. There were too many sharp edges in the debris. They used fabric spray and paper towels to clean up after them and had new carpet installed every few years. The homeowners’ association made threats but the man who was not my father ignored them. He said they would be dead before the rest of the balcony fell down so he wasn’t going to spend good money on upkeep. In the afternoon, he would take out his teeth, drink scotch, and watch sports while my mother played solitaire on the computer in the other room. In the evening, she would defrost something and they would eat together in silence. They didn’t seem unhappy but I kept finding my mother’s pills under the kitchen table. She said some days she didn’t need them. I convinced her to move to assisted living. The man who was not my father couldn’t take care of himself but refused to leave. I had no leverage. I wasn’t related to him. I offered to get him an emergency button that would call an ambulance in case he fell. He said if he fell, he would crawl to the gun case and shoot out the sliding glass doors and someone from the homeowners’ association would call the police. They were nosy, he said. He had lung cancer, which he would not treat and hadn’t told anyone about. He wasn’t going to shoot out the sliding glass doors, he was going to die quietly at home, alone. But he didn’t die and the pain got too great so he asked me to help him move to hospice. I think he had been in some kind of pain his whole life. I don’t think he knew that pain management was an option. He suggested that I give up my apartment and move into the condo since it was empty. He was really high when he suggested it. I moved in anyway. The collapse of the balcony had left holes in the wall and shady, covered spaces in the remaining parts of what used to be a nice place to sit. Of course the bees moved in. They got into the wall and the space between the first and second floor. I had stripped out the carpet in the upstairs bedrooms. The subflooring was hot in the places they had built their hive. What was left of the balcony leaked honey. I had them removed but they came back like the drunk girl who broke into my apartment on 9th because she used to live there. She was just trying to get back home and what do you do with that?

Read more from Issue No. 31 or share on Twitter.