The father, the husband, the homeowner stands at the top of the front steps he will sweep before he leaves, wondering where those dozen cardboard boxes went.
There they are, stacked at the end of the straight path of carefully fit tiles that he will brush with the same broom. Having already drenched the exteriors of the cardboard boxes with leftover stucco-colored paint, the man’s son is roofing a meticulously constructed replica of his house with one last layer of toilet paper tubes cut in half – a reasonable simulacrum of its corrugated clay tiles.
This isn’t the first time he has created such a structure. Because he never builds them to last.
The last toilet paper tube laid, the man’s son mounts his bicycle. With his feet shuffling off its tiles, the boy backs his way down the whole length of the path. Without turning to acknowledge his father’s presence at the top of the steps, he starts pedaling. Seconds later, he spectacularly crashes into – and through – his house. As the cardboard construction collapses behind him, the boy stops pedaling only long enough to – at last – turn and nod at the man.
The man returns the nod.
The boy rides down the street and out of sight.
Sighing, the man walks down the path to pick through the wreckage. With his left hand, he salvages the least damaged cardboard box. With his right, he removes his cellphone from the pocket of his pleated pants. Then he taps out a text to the woman for whom he is about to leave his son, his wife, and his home.
“They Never Build Them to Last” was originally published by Postcard Shorts in 2013.