Micah Dean Hicks

Creative Nonfiction

Micah Dean Hicks usually writes magical realism, southern fairy tales, and other kinds of magical stories. You can find his work in places like New Letters, Indiana Review, and New Orleans Review. His short story collection, Electricity & Other Dreams, will be out from New American Press in summer 2013. He attends the creative writing PhD program in fiction at Florida State University.

Raising Houses

At twenty-seven, this is how you find yourself home. Standing high between the ribs of a naked roof, supporting the heavy lean of a loose rafter. Hold it in your arms, tension coiled in the ball and socket of your shoulders. Hold it in the flex of your chest, muscle and sternum stretching against the weight. Let its heaviness drive down on you, making your legs soft on the ladder rungs. The sun breaks open and runs all down your skin, and you bleed sweat through your jeans. Know this when your body melts under the wood-weight, your father yelling “hang on, hang on” and slamming in nails to steady it: Know that you will always be a boy.

As a teenager, you held the sky on your back. Grandmother's dark house, new ceilings going up. You on a ladder-top holding wide sheets of plywood flat against the rafter bottoms. You were too small, your arms too thin, so you held it with your whole self. Twisted tight, you pushed up with your back and shoulders, spread your arms, shoved up with your knees while the edge of the board lay along your neck and scraped your ear. Your father put in the screws around you, one metal point at a time taking the weight off your back. “Hang on, hang on.” If you held something long enough, you learned, it would float clean away.

Nearly ten years before that, a porch frame lying on the concrete, ready to come up and meet the side of the house. Your skinny ribs powdered in sawdust, feet hard and bare. You and your mother lifted together, you forcing yourself underneath the frame and shoving up until your arms stretched and fingers strained, raising it as high as you could. “Hang on, hang on” when she left to bring your father the hammer. You alone with that monument resting on your spine. What a marvelous thing for a boy, to realize he can bear the weight of the world.

A partially built house

I spent much of my childhood helping my dad work on houses: digging a pit for a septic tank with a pick and shovel; crawling underneath the house to level it with scrap boards, cinder blocks, and a bottle jack, the kind you use to fix a flat on your car; unrolling sheets of itchy pink insulation while dripping with sweat and dodging the wasps coming in through the attic vents. It all feels unremarkable to me, just what we've always done. After visiting my family a few weeks ago and helping my dad put up rafters on the new house he's building, I told my best friend how my week had gone. She insisted that I write something about it. This is probably why she's my best friend.