trailer 2

My father’s farm in Virginia is called Oak Hill. When he bought it, not long after he divorced my mother, there was in fact a cluster of enormous oak trees that shaded a white clapboard, nineteenth-century house that stood on the hill in the center of the farm, but the house burned down before my father could move into it. Some of the oaks survived the fire, which occurred on a Halloween night, but despite whispers that the previous owner had torched the house, no charges were ever filed. I remember surveying the charred remains and spotting, not charred even slightly, an old board game called Why, the Alfred Hitchock Mystery Game, which, according to the blurb on the box, involved “real thinking, planning, and memory.” I took the game home with me—I lived a twenty-minute drive from the farm with my mother, brother, and sister—but I never played it, and don’t know what became of it. Maybe my memory wouldn’t be so faulty if I had better developed it by playing Why.

When we were very young, my father taught us that you could skip any rock you could pick up, if it had one flat surface. He backed up his belief by hefting a chunk of concrete and hurling it sidearm at the river. He got two skips out of the chunk before it plowed into the water, dragging a column of air down with it. The water rushed back in with an echo-y kerplunk like the sinking of the battleship Bismarck. My father was very strong, and he could make a rock fly, skipping it dozens of times. If anyone could sink the Bismarck with a chunk of concrete, it was Dad.