Previous parts: 123, and also of course 4

Outside the hiss of hot dust passed over the petrified shingles of the roof. Once tight and secure in their plump youth, the flat plates of wood that protected the Hutto household had kept out more than just rain. The ultraviolet heat of the sun, gnats, slow melting or fast melting snow, dust, and even rot. That last had washed over them at last. It used to be they were smooth. Then rot sank in.

The roof repelled all would be infiltrations of unwanted material, but rot leaked through the pores of wood like rain, which no longer penetrated the thin layer of clouds in the sky let alone the thick armor of shingles. The rot worked patiently. The rivulets that had always been there extended and widened, the elements pick, pick, picking at the catches and splinters in what at first seemed perfectly sanded wood; smooth as a baby’s peach fuzzy bottom. That fuzz worked like a hangnail, dragging painfully against even the stillest of air.

All it took was one. One shingle that would start to wear down. That one in the corner, there. It hangs just a little crooked ever since the snow melt last year and the tree branch that came tumbling down last May got stuck on the roof, caught on the nail that raised up only slightly above the surface of the shingle.

Gravity worked the branch free of its hangman, but it thoughtlessly tugged at the shingle too. Ever since it seemed as if that corner took a little longer to dry out after rain. And the gap between the crooked corner shingle and the one next to it seemed to grow and grow. Eventually a fine grey moss began to grow there, separating the shingles indefinitely. The moss grew and grew, spreading over the two shingles and then the whole corner until the roof took on a shade of grayish brown. The color differed only slightly from the brownish brown of the original wood, but the moss itself ate away at the fabric of its shingle hosts. Soon the whole roof submitted to the persistently growing layer of material. There was not getting rid of it.

The roof began to leak. Not water. There was never any water. But dust would drift down as if sifted by the fine comb of moss and in the winter the cold would settle in and reign from above, distributing itself throughout the house.

Every shingle contributes to the whole. Too bad a single shingle could go bad. Too bad they all did.

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