Bud stood in his kitchen and watched his wife and brother get something going in the pool. He did this through the window above the sink. Tiny houseplants and flea market junk idling on the windowsill. Also: soap and a sponge. The water outside moved a lot and shimmered and was very blue. With both hands, he gripped the counter’s edge.
But breathing, he remembered, is also something to remember. He opened a can of beer and walked outside into his front yard. Next to his wife’s van in the driveway, his brother’s little Camaro lazed, all red and fast-looking and going nowhere. Behind them both, Bud’s pickup parked them in. All up and down the street, identical white ranch houses ranged beneath the Florida sun in perfect suburban symmetry. Vinyl siding. Green, green grass. Not even the odd punctuation of children. This place, Bud thought. What a place. He drank from his beer but then decided he didn’t want it, so set it on the driveway and went into the garage. He was only gone a moment before coming back outside.
The sealant wasn’t quite what he was looking for—he’d thought there’d been a tube of quick-set polyurethane, the stuff he’d used to glue down the underlayment in the cabana—but still: it’d do the job. Bud clipped the tip and loaded the tube in his caulking gun.
From behind the house: splashing sounds, and laughter. He wondered if they were having a good time.
One thing this sealant had going for it was that it was clear, which is another way of saying invisible. How can you see what you don’t know how to see? Bud opened the driver’s side door and lay a thick bead of sealant along its inner edge. Then he pressed shut the door. He did the same thing on the passenger side. He thought for a moment and shrugged. He filled the keyholes with sealant. He was starting to feel okay. Maybe he’d have that beer after all. He opened the hatch and unscrewed the gas cap and filled the void with clear glue and screwed the cap back on. Then he glued shut the hatch. The sun was high and felt good on his skin. And there was a breeze. That felt good, too. Bud studied the car that belonged to his brother and wondered what else he could fix.
Douglas W. Milliken’s recent work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Slice, and the Adirondack Review. He is the author of the book White Horses and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, most recently for his story “A Thirteenth Apostle’s Star,” published by Camera Obscura in 2012. "How To" was written while in attendance at the I-Park Foundation. For the time being, Douglas lives and works in Portland, Maine.