Tooth Marks In The Wood.

by Serge Bielanko

I just got done shoving some more joint compound into a hole in the bathroom wall when Monica called up the steps that Amy Winehouse was dead. Some stuff fell off my blade, but I kept pushing what was left into the old plaster. Finish the job, I told myself. Hide the hole, motherfucker.


My daughter is half a year from three now and she talks a lot. We'll be in the Honda, cruising down the road towards the Home Depot or the beer distributor and she'll be back there in her seat all strapped in, the summer gushing through the window/making her curls medusa, and out of nowhere she'll holler,"AIRPWANE! AIRPWANE! OVER DARE! IT"S AN AIRPWANEOVERDAREOVERDAREAIRPWANELOOKANAIRPWANE!"

And sure enough me and her mom will lean out over the dash and look up in the sky and see some jet high out over the world, dangling from a cloud.

"There it is!," we'll say.


Airplane: full of people; full of businessmen with tilted necks gazing down into reflectionless laptops; airplane full of LAX-bound Sikhs; full of peanuts and Diet Pepsi. It ain't our airplane. We ain't riding on her and probably never will. We don't know anyone up there probably either. Probably won't ever meet anyone who was taking that particular flight. And, even if we did, how would we ever know they were way up that afternoon, soaring above our little car/little ant down between the cornfields?

Still, the plane becomes a wonderful little part of us, and of our proverbial ride. This little girl who melts my chest open and dumps my molten heart out all over ten differnt floors a day: she called it out with such lovely gusto.



So, in some ways, that thing is ours now. Forever. We rode on underneath her, living our life as she passed us by. Then, one of us tore through the wind in her eyes and saw that bird cutting across the bluebird sky and pointed her little right index finger/marzapan stub and announced it like it was something she'd lost long ago and just re-found.

And so: shit. That makes it as much our airplane as anyone elses, I guess.

Maybe even more.


Violet in the morning. Six-ish. Seven-ish if I'm lucky. Standing at the peak of these carpeted stairs in a house we barely even know yet, Violet grins a little: like a bashful grin, something shy coming over her. She nudges a pillow-matted curl out of her eye and giggles a little, nervously.

I know what's up.

I know what's up down here on my perch on the fourth step down.

My sweetheart is scared.

We touch eyeballs for a sec, but it doesn't last: and almost instantly she throws her look back down the long stairwell.

She doesn't want me to know. That she might be scared of these deep old stairs.

I act smooth. Or I try to.

"Remember to use your butt, girl," I tell her. "Slide down like we practiced. One Cheek. Two Cheek."

She rolls around on the upper landing and pretends to be getting in to a conversation with a plastic Wal-mart cow.

I let them have a couple private words before I come back in.

"Hey Violet, you can do it!", I tell her, a little pep in my tone. A fat bald little coach standing there on the tip of my tongue, his whistle dangling down a red lanyard, his clipboard curled up in his one arm like a sleeping baby.

"C'mon Violet, you can do it!"

She grins/her eyes give her away/she looks for a way out.

"A COW!" she screams.

She holds up the plastic heifer and looks him in the face. "A COW A COW RIGHT HERE A COW!!!"

Whadya do, you know?

"Oh yeah," I say. I know I sound dejected too, but this is before coffee and I'm bursting with old piss and I just wanna get down these steps and walk out into the kitchen, into the new day. But, I sound like a douche.

I pump some DaddyNeon up from my guts, up into my face. I get more interested.


She digs that and I can see that right away.

I lay on some thick butter.

"Why don't you give Daddy that cool cow and I will help him down the steps while you come down on your own because you are a big girl and you can do it, Violet!"

"BE CAILFUL BOOTS!", she hollers as she slides her tiny ass down a step. And then another.

Boots is Dora's monkey friend. Duh.

"I got the cow!", I assure her after she gives him up to me to sherpa down the morning slope.

"CAILFULBOOTS!", she says.

We slip our asses down from one carpeted step to the next. Same as we did yesterday. Same as we'll do later this afternoon.

At the last step, I turn around and watch her descending just behind me, concentration smeared all over her face like her jelly gets.

I love her so much. So fucking much. I hand her the cow as her feet hit the floorboards.

She brushes him aside with a wave of her hand.

As if to say: what cow, daddy?

As if to say: that never happened, Holmes.


Fear wells up in me all the time and I try not to let it show, but I know I suck at that and my wife would confirm that. You can't keep your kids from falling down off shit or splitting their lips open on the very tables we set up to hoist their small dinners toward the heavens. Bees are gonna find that soft skin and they are gonna be fucking excited as hell when they hold their asses in the air and wave 'em around and then send the stinger home some early evening when you're all relaxing out in the yard, putting flowers in the dirt and feeling all good about yourselves because you're such a quality time family and look at us out here digging in Mother Earth together but not in some dirty hippie kinda way but more in a Beekman Boys vibe and aren't we just so....BAM.

The kid gets stung. Hell comes calling.

I can't stop it. I can't stop anything, really.


I would give anything to have all the dope in the world out in my garage. And all the fast cars and all the bees. I wouldn't care if taking the bees away fucked up the planet. I wouldn't give two shits if their missing honey started making it rain hot glue balls.

I would give all my limbs and my eyes and my teeth if that was the deal, if I could stave off all the goddamn possible bee stings. 

Not being able to makes me crazy. And super sad.


If you YouTube Amy Winehouse you can see what you wanna see. You can watch her in Serbia, all messed up. Her eyes seem like some lighthouse miles away over rough rough seas. You see a moment, a flash of glow. And then it's gone/out/blocked by raging whitecaps. People boo her/a new song kicks in/the people sing the words/it falls apart/people boo her/

You can check her out just a few hours before she died too. Dancing her kooky dance onstage over in London, a few blocks from her house, cheering on her teenage friend as that young girl sings a good song. Maybe Amy was loaded that night. I can't tell. She seemed happy though.

Or you can watch her sing back before she got stung bad.


Goddamn, that little girl could sing.


They will have burned her body and her bones by now. And now, no matter how much you maybe wanna stop it, there will be nothing left but the songs and some dust and whatever she left there on her nightstand, on her kitchen counter.

It won't be a half-written song or anything like that, either. It'll be something way more sad and way more heart-breaking.

A half-eaten bag of salt'n'vinegar chips. A novel with a bookmark in it.

A pencil with tooth marks in the wood.