T.K. Dalton



What could be so hard about measuring the width of a window? Not the window itself, but the--well, whatever it is you call the eight-inch inset that he had measured the bottom width of, while his wife was on the phone, calling from the hardware store, as she had forgotten that he’d emailed her the dimensions of everything they needed measured, and now that they were on the phone, she couldn’t use the data network to retrieve the email, well she could but she’d have to hangup and call back, she’d have to do something that she preferred not to, and Marvin loved this woman but she had moments when she could be a real fucking Bartleby.

So he’d done the best he could, screaming baby in his weak arm, the left one, the one he didn’t know the location of in space if he wasn’t looking right at it. His gimpy brain strained under the pressure of an intense time demand for a task he knew took him three times as long as anyone with a master’s degree and no “dain bramage.”

“Dain bramage” was what aclever art school drop out he’d once lived with had called it, she had dyslexia or something, which had ended up being a lot like what his injury looked like from the outside. The difference was etiology: the bramage to his dain was man made.

The injury, and the injury’s exposure in the now-evident mismeasurement of the blinds, triggered the flood of powerlessness in which he now floated. It was odd to feel floating with his feet firmly planted on the windowsill four storeys up; but floating was how this felt.

The danger of flood stems from both volume and strength of the water, the first creating varying and unpredictable iterations of the latter. For Marvin, the volume of the feeling of powerlessness--of a problem with a multiple-step solution whose steps he could not place in the right order without a free hour that he did not possess--created a current, an alternate solution something like: Do what Dad would do.


His father, who had also had brain tumors, whose surgeries also numbered two, was acarpenter-turned-engineer. The elder Marvin--for they shared a name, too--would approach this problem with shims and a bubble-level, with a small army of screws in a paint-splattered muffin tray, with a heavier-than-it-looked pumpgun of something Marvin the Younger was pretty sure other people called acrylic latex, a substance that people who cared even more about such things called “Alex” for short, though he never referred to it as anything but the tube of whatever in that orange doohickey

His father would make shims from wood scraps, and even if the son had thrown away during the move all the 2 x 4s of miscellaneous sub-30” lengths, there were still shims aplenty from where the bed and the bookshelves had initially been positioned, and a few of them were even available now that the bed had moved to the more level part of the floor.

Which is to say, this problem would not exist if his father had been in charge, and if it had managed to exist, it would have been solved by now, solved so carefully with such precisely cut and measured shims that no amateur could have noticed the subterfuge, the imperfect slight-of-hand fix, without looking more closely than politeness would warrant.

In a lot of ways, this described the way Marvin’s bramage worked in the world. You’d have to look for a while to see for sure that the impression you got was correct: the vague sense of off-ness, an initial impression of imbalance, and most people lacked the patience to get to the bottom of what exactly it was about, once they got the sense it was not interesting enough to make into their business.

The nail falls a dozen times, the blind bracket another ten. Marvin falls once, but as a yoga teacher once told him, falling is learning. The pair of metal rings still won’t hold the blind, they’re an eighth of an inch too far apart. Nail’s out of the wall again. Start over.


The injury, as stated before, is manmade. This is as specific as we will get at present. This may disappoint various dain bramaged constituencies: veterans with no visible scars but the dovetailing memories of how worse off the rest of their convoy was, and how hard it is to do simple things; forgetful post-stroke seniors shuffling toward the sunbath of senility; epileptic pool sharks who down three bottles of beer nightly just to keep up appearances--appearances, for a shark, being the whole of the job. This is not an injury like that sort of injury, but a divergence apart.

It is a mistake to look for yourself exactly mirrored in an object emerged from imagination; the clearer reflection is the designed, the engineered, the downright Macgyvered. The wood shims don’t work, so our ersatz handyman looks for a substitute, and what he finds is a magazine, an overpriced weekly read too sporadically. On the cover of this issue, some Presidents watch a speech by an implausible candidate with frighteningly high poll numbers.

Marvin halves his magazine under scissors, then cuts again making quarters, then eighths, as if it’s not maintenance but music. He tapes the packet with cover art facing out, then climbs the ladder with this literary shim and hammers it under the brackets.  It’s a gamble that all this will work, but once he’s done it has seemed to. You can tell the shade hangs crooked, but only if you stare and if you look that closely, you can find a good reason-gobsmacked Presidents nailed out of sight to a hidden patch of wall for as long as it takes to hold up the blind.



T.K. Dalton's work appears or is forthcoming in The Millions, Southeast Review, Radical Teacher, Wordgathering, Barking Sycamores, and Pariahs Anthology, among others, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and inclusion in Best of the Net. He is currently the Prose/Hybrid editor at the new journal Deaf Poets Society, which focuses on disability literature.