Locust House Variations, A Weekly Fiction Column, by Adam Gnade, “Making Breakfast”

The wind blew like hell all night. This morning it’s sunny and the fields are green from all the rain, but the wind is still strong as I make breakfast for us in the kitchen and watch the trees lash in the breeze. We talk about wind while I cook—the relentlessness or the restlessness of it. You tell us about the LitHub article you read last night; how artists have been obsessed with the wind since Michelangelo.

Leer begins with a storm brewing and Henry VI has that great line about “an ill wind that blows nobody good.” Paul Valery, in The Graveyard by the Sea, writes, “The wind is rising! … We must try to live.” In Bilbo’s competition of riddles with Gollum, Tolkien writes:

“Voiceless it cries,
Wingless flutters,
Toothless bites,
Mouthless mutters.”

While I rinse the frying pan, staring out the window at the clouds panning across the sky, you bring up the Raymond Chandler quote from Red Wind that Didion made famous in her White Album. Chandler wrote about the Santa Anas we grew up with back home in San Diego—that hot, dry wind blowing across the desert and over the mountains, the wind that gives you nosebleeds and sparks forest fires out in East County.

“On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight,” he wrote. “Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks.”

I found Chandler’s quote years ago while writing my first book, and used it in a section about the Santa Anas (then cut the scene when I reread Didion). In Michener’s Colorado novel, Centennial, a woman turns a shotgun on her family when the winds don’t stop blowing for weeks. You read about the prairie wind in so many books; how it eats whatever it can find. Like that, we personify the winds:

The wind “eats.”

“Whatever it can find,” as if it is looking for something. As if it is motivated by desire, by need.

The wind blows like a motherfucker this morning. It’s been blowing for weeks across the plains while we hunker down indoors and talk about how maybe it’s climate change or perhaps this new piece of land we’ve bought is a windier place because there are fewer trees than the last. It gets to you. Frazzles you, is the right word. But me, hey, I’m okay. I’m fine. Spring is here. The spring birds are here. And I am making breakfast.

Adam Gnade