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He settled on the flat lands lying along the lake, a place where snow and rain and lightning poured from the clouds, each in its season, and each could be seen coming from the west as far as the mist from the water allowed him to see. Even in settling, though, he remained restless, shuttling from one small room to another before finally deciding to rest in a pink house painted in a hue resembling a sunset with heartburn, a neighborhood where trains rattled east and west in the night until he grew so used to their clatter that he didn’t notice them.

His neighbors spoke Italian, Polish, and Spanish. Their memories lay not in America, but across the ocean in the lands where they had been young. A tall Indian stood on the shore, staring up his street, but hanging maples obscured the Indian’s view, and he could not see up the last block to the pink house with remnants of a curb in front of it and remains of a paved street beyond the curb.

His room was little more than a closet, really, up narrow stairs in the back of the house, tucked in under the roofline so one of the room’s long walls slanted down about 30 degrees, a room that held just a bed, a dresser and a few clothes hanging in a closet the size of a cereal box. He needed no more space than that, though, spending his days on concrete acres where words and numbers flew like blue jays through the air with raucous calls that could not be ignored in their hoarse jubilance.

October, it was: short days, cool nights, great horned owls sitting on power lines hiding in leaves but unable to escape the streetlight’s shine, big birds staring back at the people staring at them until the people left with a thrill of nature dancing up their spine. The owls remained implacable. The nightly parade to the village of lights and fountains had begun, and he was part of it, miles from his room but knowing he’d find a way back at the end of the night.

On the fringes of the village, he adjusted his eyes to the dim light inside a house on wheels. Whiskey, he said to the host. Music was like a soundtrack to life at that moment, but its stifled volume murmured in the background, soft so it would not interfere with the interplay between his eyes and the other people inside, people who glowed as if bathed in St. Elmo’s Fire yet at the same time vanished in this place where night ate the spectrum of daytime colors, leaving shadows and shades of gray.

In that same room in that same house, before it rolled away on its wheels, after he had said whiskey to his host more times than he should have during this particular visit, a fissure in the shadows appeared, visible to him alone. He spun, looking for his bearings, yet the fissure played in the air, swayed and beckoned. He stepped through it and into a mirror image of the room he’d just left, a white room furnished with a white piano, with pencil drawings framed and hanging on the white walls, a room that resembled his reality from moments ago much the same way as a film negative resembles its print. As his head stopped spinning, he noticed a woman playing the piano, her dark hair stark contrast to every other element in the room. She played as if he weren’t there, although her eyes showed she saw him.

Here, gravity grew stronger, his feet anchored to the ground like magnets anchored to a sheet of steel, and thoughts of the pink house, his bed under the sloping roof, the trains and the Indian had been engulfed by a fog somewhere behind his eyeballs, near the back of his skull. The woman kept playing. He kept listening. He always had lived to put one foot ahead of the other, ceaselessly, but now he found his traveling legs had lost their insistence for forward. Clocks melted like Dali’s.

Later, many years later, he could remember few details about the white room and the pianist. A fissure had opened again but in the opposite direction, and, fearful for the first time in his life, he thought about his thin single bed and a sack of clothes in his closet in the pink house. As the notes continued cascading in the white room, he stepped through the fissure, never looking back, to find himself once again in a house with wheels on it, in a room that ate color, a room peopled by dark figures made of aurora borealis. It was later, many years later, before he realized how vivid had been the hues hidden in the white.

And many years later, on certain nights, when full moons glowed against skies from which all color had been drained, he heard piano notes muffled far away in the fog behind his eyes.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 6th, 2012 01:07 pm (UTC)
If this were in a book of short stories, I'd have earmarked multiple pages with favorite lines. This is so vivid, so descriptive, I can practically see the colors in the white.
Sep. 6th, 2012 09:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Jamie. This one just fell out of my fingertips. I was ready to quit after the first paragraph, but it just kept coming.

The voice that I was trying to hear reading the words was Robbie Robertson in "Somewhere Down the Crazy River":

"She said that voodoo stuff don't do nothin' for me."
Sep. 11th, 2012 01:45 am (UTC)
Ooh, yeah - that works. I still love that song. Background vocals by The BoDeans, right?
Sep. 13th, 2012 12:58 am (UTC)
There's at least one of the Bo's on that song; I think there are mo Bo's on a couple of other tracks.

Did you hear his most recent album, "How to Become Clairvoyant"? I played it a lot when I first got it and then lost sight of it. I am going to put it on right now.
Sep. 9th, 2012 02:35 pm (UTC)
Stunning. I am sorry I hadn't stopped long enough to read your piece earlier this week, but am so glad I circled back today.

This is so rich I read it aloud to myself to properly hear each word.

You are gifted.
Sep. 9th, 2012 10:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and a special thanks for your kind words. As I was transcribing this, I was reading it aloud, paragraph by paragraph, which is something I've never done before.

I say "transcribing" because sometimes, and this was one of those instances, I am simply sitting between the words (I don't know where they come from) and the screen.

Sep. 10th, 2012 06:26 pm (UTC)
Are there images/moments from your past in this story? It brought back some from mine quite clearly. This is delicious writing.
Sep. 11th, 2012 12:55 am (UTC)
It's third person, metaphoric, figurative, fictionalized in the way that memoir is fictionalized—and all autobiographical.

Delicious? No, bittersweet.
Sep. 13th, 2012 01:14 pm (UTC)
Bittersweet and delicious aren't mutually exclusive. Think chocolate. I love the "bittersweet" flavor of this piece. To me, that is delicious.
Sep. 14th, 2012 01:24 am (UTC)
The chocolate analogy makes me understand where you're coming from. Thanks.
Sep. 11th, 2012 02:52 am (UTC)
Wow, Pat. Just wow. I reread this a few times to savor your stunning writing here.
Sep. 13th, 2012 12:56 am (UTC)
Thanks so much, Sara. I was just in the middle for this one: The words were coming from someplace else and just using me to make their way onto the monitor. I had an idea of what the story was, but the *how* happened on its own. (I hope that all makes sense.)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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