Locust House Variations, A Weekly Fiction Column by Adam Gnade, “The Carter Family

It’s April 5th. A rainstorm rolls in from the south, the wind blowing the grass in the fields, and the skies darkening over the low hills and woods. We are in the farmhouse—the rooms dark at noon like Victorian parlors. No, not like that. Like something else. This is no time except now, and ours. Don’t romanticize. Love it or not, you must live in the world as it is.

At night to fall asleep I tell myself the words “All is in its place.” I breathe in and when I breathe out I think the word “All,” and then with the next breath out “is” and then “in” and “its” and finally “place.” This is how I push away the news that twice-vaccinated people are getting sick, that Giancarlo DiTrapano has died, and that the Earth is choked more and more each day. I used to build a castle in my mind to sleep, but now my castles can be breached. You have to stay flexible, pliant. I’m not the first to say this, but I’m saying it now—a rigid stick will snap in two while a blade of glass will bend low then rise again.

With the windows open you can smell the world outside. It’s nothing distinct, but it’s a living smell, the smell of life coming back, struggling back, standing back up. It’s spring and it is as good as a thing can be. (Now we repair damage. Now we drink water. We sleep as late as we can. We walk in the wet fields. We eat big meals. And we do this together. Together is what’s important here. Remember that. Remember how this feels.)

Sometimes at night I lie awake and I think of all the time I’ve wasted. The empty lonesome hours, months on the internet, the busy work. How much of our lives have we spilled out like piss onto concrete? To quantify this would be to look into the face of something I’d rather not know. So, you push on. You make lists and you try your best to check them off. You ignore that which has no remedy.

The spring birds peck in the grass as seen from the front room windows. The gray skies heavy (“leaden” is a word I’ve always liked). The sound of happy voices and movement in the house. A joke told. A song sang. To live like this always would be to truly live.

Our days on this blue Earth are like a song that says, “the storms will hurl the midnight fears/and sweep lost millions to their doom.” They are also a song that says, “I am going where there is no depression.” Sometimes life is a song that says both, and maybe it’s necessary to say both, maybe it’s not possible to say one without the other.

Then laughter in the house. The rainclouds gather. The spring birds growing healthy under gray April skies.

Adam Gnade

To watch a discussion featuring Adam Gnade and Justin Pearson about the house show that inspired the book Locust House, sign up for the Three One G Patreon HERE.