She bakes cookies. She hunches over the oven, my mom, watching them rise, the cookies, through the dark black tinting of the door. She has the light on, the little light that she sometimes lets me turn on if I get the stool, my stool from the bathroom and reach way up on tip toes to flip it with my finger. She smiles when I do this. She smiles when I do most things. She smiles.

MOTHERFUCKER. He drops a screw from the air-conditioner that is going in our window, the big one in our family room. He takes it out and puts it in every year, and every year I can remember he drops a screw from out of his mouth or his fingertips, trying to hold the metal box and the window half-opened and my mom baking cookies. He doesn’t want help. He never wants help. My dad is stubborn is why, my mom says, HE IS STUBBORN IS ALL. He drops another or the same one again: MOTHERFUCKING COCKSUCKER.

He says the fox is on stilts, my dad, when it passes by the place we are looking. We are up on a step, mom dad son, and we are watching past the edge of bushes, watching the fox on stilts walking circles around this thing, this rectangle. THE FOX ON STILTS and I say YEP. THE FOX ON STILTS.

Because I wanted to once, I asked if I could help, if he needed help, my dad bouncing the air-conditioner on his jeans, creasing his leg, making a kind of cut in his thigh, and even with his lips full of screws and his face sweating, his eyebrows soaked, he still managed to get it out: GODDAMN IT JONAH IF YOU’D QUIT FUCKING TALKING TO ME I’D HAVE THIS THING IN BY NOW.

Sometimes I back away from him like he is on fire. Like his head is flames and if I stand too close or breath in the wrong way my lungs might catch fire too, my hair. Like his clothes are smoking or firing up and I need to keep an eye on it even while I get back, backing away. Sometimes I back away.

A FOX ON STILTS my mom puts in there too, because she wants to join, she wants to rub the place on my back between my shoulder blades where it gives me goose-bumps.

She lets me if I want to help with the cookies, she doesn’t say MOTHERFUCKER or COCKSUCKER. She sits on her kitchen chair beside the oven and pats her thigh like I belong. And when I put my head into her neck, into where her hair sometimes is down and touching the gold chain on her, the heart necklace, I smell cookies, like she is a cookie, my mom. My eyes looking down with hers into the dark of the oven, the little light bulb in there burning, my thumb and finger pulling and turning the heart on her gold chain. YOU’RE A COOKIE she says to me and I smile where she can’t see me, with my head down and my eyes looking into the heat.

SMELLS LIKE A SKUNK my dad says and pretends to check the sign, to read, DOES THIS THING SAY IT’S A SKUNK FOX. IT STINKS LIKE SHIT. And I smile there too and want to help him, my stubborn dad, even with the screws in his mouth and the weight on his thighs. YEAH I say, SMELLS LIKE SHIT. JONAH my mom says like I shouldn’t say shit, but my dad smiles and it makes me better, feel more right. WELL IT DOES I say, and the fox on stilts comes back by again, another pass, another lap, not graceful and stinking.