Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Some Enchanted Place, Part Three

No house is an inanimate object.

I've tried to explain that to lots of people over the years. I can never make myself understood. I'm not sure I understand it myself; that might be the problem. I sense it. I've spent some time ruminating on my failure to put a pencil and straightedge to the vague feeling invested in a house, and I've come to the conclusion that it's one of the parts of life on this earth that won't let you gaze directly upon it. You can feel it, and you can explain bits of it around the periphery of the question, but like some ancient god, it won't stand for looking right at it. Ineffable. A yahweh fact of life.

I got out of the truck and walked slowly in the dooryard, crabwise, looking at the facade the whole time. My boots made that familiar sound in the gravel. Not familiar to you. Regular people crush granite into sharp-edged little cubes and multivarious hedrons. They dump it in their septic fields and cellar holes and driveways alike, and it always sounds the same underfoot. Crunch crunch. None of that here to hear. They all have the same stuff, these people with a vapor trail of names and numerals appended to their names and phalanxes of zeroes marching to the horizon in their hidden bank accounts. They have gravel that must be gathered from a riverbank in Elysium. It doesn't even look like little stones. More like dun grey seed pearls spread in a sort of carpet. They always bind it with a steel band that snakes its way all around everywhere outside in a sort of maze, until the snake eats itself and you're back where you started. It never says crunch crunch. It says shush underfoot, and means it. They apply the chloroform early in these places.

Elysium. I remember reciting the lines.

Down the dank mouldering paths and past the Ocean's streams they went
Past the White Rock and the Sun's Western Gates
Past the Land of Dreams, and soon they reached the fields of asphodel
Where the dead, the burnt-out wraiths of mortals make their home

Oh, I knew it was Asphodel for me and my brethren even as the nuns tried to pound the whole of Elysium into our heads. There was a class of emperors in their roosts, thumb held quivering between the only two gestures in this world, and the few men chosen from the barbarians with the metal-hooded faces and the poised swords. The rest of us are born wounded and lie with a sandal on our necks, our life slowly weeping into the sand beneath us, waiting for the decision.

"This place is creepy."

I liked Angel. He always pulled his weight when we worked together, and was good company to boot. Rare, that. He had some editor in his head that was stillborn in mine. I noticed early on that there were never any meandering tributaries in his sentences. At first I thought: No semicolons. No hyphens. Then it dawned on me: no commas! His words were his tools, all made for stonework, not filigree. He had a lively mind and a quiet face. Just like him to figure it out in four words to my four hundred. The place was creepy.

"We'll get canned if they see us out front. Let's find the little house."

Angel got back in his battered pickup truck and went looking for the little house, the place appended on these piles somewhere where the servants answer the door for such as we. The owner's family used to live in the little house before the big house got built, usually, counting their coins by whale-oil light, and having a belt from a decanter they hid from the minister. Little house, big house, back house, barn. Go to the kitchen door, or else. Shush, shush, my feet told me, and I climbed into the little cab of my truck and looked at the facade again. The bricks weren't pressed from pure corruption, then mortared with the souls of the innocent or anything. There were no gargoyles anywhere. It was evil like a lawyer. Not visible on the veneer. It glowed from within somehow like a brimstone lantern.

We went around the circle made by the fountain, trying to pretend we weren't a two-man parade of unwanted commotion, both turning our steering wheels like we were holding a stranger's baby, trying not to disturb the seed pearls under the wheels and testify to our presence. It's hard to drive on tiptoe, but I think we did. We went past an appendix of gravel that ran to a distant stable cum garage, bigger than the hospital I was born in; some sort of parterre; a flagstone area big enough to interest the Pope; then a door surrounded by enough glass to see out of. That's our cue. We'll be inspected before the door is opened.

Angel and I locked shoulders, puffed ourselves up a bit by slouching together, and approached the door. They always make you knock, these servants, even if they're sitting right there glaring at you through the window. Some sort of protocol I don't get and don't care for, but nobody asked me, and never will. This time there was no one visible through the panes, and we had an extra minute of tension while we waited to see what exactly would answer our timid rap. We always hope for a matron. They understand us, as trying to act inoffensive is their daily bread.

He appeared out of the gloomy background like an actor in a candlelit theater and looked at us through the twelve panes for a good long time before reaching for the knob. Good god, I thought; it's a wraith.

(to be continued, if you want it)


Sam L. said...

YES. dammit, I want MORE!

Andy said...

This is the sort of thing that keeps me writing - gives me to know that it has been done, so that I feel like it can be done. Something this great. Someday, maybe I...

There are people who wouldn't care much to read this. They are the numbers folks, I guess, and I certainly don't begrudge them their proclivities. But to not have some broken place in you made right for a minute by reading a thing so well done as this must mean that it can't be fixed.

I tend to tend away from this kind of overt compliment, as people who deserve it get it aplenty without my help, but this is just too good. Phenomenal.

Robert said...


bwebster said...

Me, too.

dick said...

What happened to part two?

This is too good to miss any of it.

Matt said...

Sure, more. For me, the interest depends upon the truth. Is there mostly truth?

Red said...


Part one and two, please point the way there.

leon said...

cool you used 2 words to describe gravel that i had to look up. thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

"Please sir, I want some more." C. Dickens

TmjUtah said...

"... to interest the Pope..."


Please sir, may I have MORE?

lorraine said...

I thought about part 2 also - then thought, knowing you, you just skipped the idea of 2 and went to 3 - if I'm not right then fork over part 2 and keep going. Great story, beautifully crafted. lorraine

SippicanCottage said...

Nobody said the first one was part one.

As far as the truth, I promise to make up any lie necessary to tell the truth.

Matt said...

Ahh, truthiness. There's something congressional and Clemens-esque.

Gagdad Bob said...

I'm scared, like when Opie tossed his baseball through the window of that haunted house.

angelnfreefall said...

This had better turn out to be an epic book. I know where to find you if you stop....
Damn! This is ....
Keep writing.