Even as little as five years old, you would stand in the doorway that wasn’t even a doorway, just a spot in the park your father walked you to, told you let’s build a house right here that only the two of us know about and I can say something like Parkhouse in the middle of dinner, and you’ll know exactly what I mean, and in this house I won’t be out of another job and I won’t have to ask your mother to make half for dinner, count out the bites of a pork chop to make it last longer, and we can slurp down buckets of soda if that’s what we want, and the trees would listen to all of this, shaking their October heads, leaf after leaf falling, all crispy and brown, and dead, and that’s when another little girl, another father stop at the ice cream truck parked just across the way and the little girl wont have to eat it slow and slow trying to memorize the taste of chocolate with every tiny bite, and your father would see the look in your face, the haunt that would stay there forever, and say c’mon let’s pick out some wood for our house, some magical tree that will know us even after we shave it into a wall, and he takes you by your little girl hand and you take one last look at the little girl across the road, her father handing her an ice cream cone, drippy and lush, and her not having to measure or memorize anything, about to take a bite.

14 Comments

  1. Al Kratz

    dang, this is longing. I love everything about Parkhouse but particularly the “I can say something like Parkhouse in the middle of dinner, and you’ll know exactly what I mean” that not only perfectly bonds this father and daughter to this dream it also bonds the reader.

  2. Jonathan Cardew

    Francine,

    This is possibly my fave piece of yours I’ve read (and I’ve read and loved A LOT). This is a supremely controlled sentence that just unfolds on the page–the dream-like quality of memory. I particularly like the trees in this piece:

    ” and the trees would listen to all of this, shaking their October heads, leaf after leaf falling, all crispy and brown, and dead….”

    I love that line “leaf after leaf falling.”

    What’s brilliant about this piece is the way you juxtapose the two girls and fathers, coming into land at this point: “her not having to measure or memorize anything.” That is the keynote for me, measure or memorize–what an amazingly touching and executed story!

    I don’t really have anything to suggest on this piece–only to say send this one out after you let it mature in a file. Maybe you could enjambe the title, as in remove “Even as little…” from the opening of the story.

    Plenty of competitions to send to! I LOVE this piece.

    Cheers,
    Jonathan

  3. Len Kuntz

    Hi Francine,

    You continue to dazzle. I love everything about this. The comma breaks work perfectly for setting a great cadence and flow. Every metaphor is spectacular. It’s such a sweet and tender piece, heartbreaking while also hopeful. This–the haunt that would stay there forever–really touched me, how some of those landmark childhood moments never leave us. Brava, once again.

  4. Lisa Alletson

    From the first three words this caught me, and I’ve read it numerous times. Only on the third read did I realize it’s a single sentence- the telling so immersive I hadn’t noticed.

    So sweet and somehow familiar, without being sentimental. The edge of it takes me back to the Enid Blyton stories of the Faraway Tree.

  5. Georgiana Nelsen

    Francine
    This is such a gorgeous piece leaves me wanting a father who created Parkhouse and a childhood that never wished for ice cream. Perfect.
    G

  6. David O'Connor

    Francine, there is something fairytale/mythic here. The connection of child and father and growing up and out of it all. Water-tight and a pleasure to read, the reader feels skilled hands etching away. I might take another stab at the the title, but that’s just an opinion. It’s a lovely solid brick of prose, well done.

  7. Jennifer Todhunter

    i am so taken by the connection between the dad and his daughter here, the way its beauty and the beauty of the park around them butts up against the struggle that is going on in real life and how the daughter knows this, can sense it in the way she stares at the ice cream the other girl is enjoying, but still allows her dad to take her by her hand and lead her through life and there is something really gorgeous about that and the way you’ve brought that to the page is amazing.

  8. Benjamin Niespodziany

    “c’mon let’s pick out some wood for our house, some magical tree that will know us even after we shave it into a wall”

    This tale works so well as a one sentence piece! Really enjoyed reading it out loud in seemingly one long breath.

  9. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Francine, love the structure, how you contain SO MUCH feeling in this one continuous sentence. It made me think of Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird, and her father, the malleable tenderness, and nature echos back the intimacies. Parkhouse. Send this one to the top notch journals. It’s stunning.

  10. Kristin Bonilla

    Francine, I was so taken with the story and the relationship here. That turn at “And in this house…” followed by the I won’t and we can. Just lovely!

  11. Francine Witte

    Thank you all for these really wonderful comments. I felt like this was such a great weekend led by one of my all-time favorite writers and teachers, Jonathan, and the talent in this room is just astounding, so many really accomplished writers here. So many wonderful pieces.

    Bravo/a to all.

    Francine

  12. Wilson Koewing

    Francine,

    I echo the praise. So much longing in this piece, was my main take away. The sentence is so well controlled and it reads like a damn dream.

    Wilson

  13. John Steines

    Hello Francine. I love how this reads, flows. It’s so sweet. I love the imaginary house. Nothing feels out of place or extraneous. I love the presence of a second father & daughter – think=ijg of how we compare ourselves to like figures/pairs/situations. Beautiful.

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