Locust House Variations, A Weekly Fiction Column by Adam Gnade, “The End of Spring”

It’s the end of spring and I’m reading Dickens’ Bleak House and a biography of him published 69 years ago. (I think of that often. THAT many years ago. Most anyone my age alive back then is dead. Dickens died in 1870. Do the math on that.) So, right, it’s the end of spring and the sun through the front windows of the farmhouse is golden and pale and the heat of the day is fading.

It’s the end of spring and I’m tired. I’m TIRED, ugh, but I’m here! Like a friend told me over email yesterday, “I’m still here in the world.” Here in the world, though the world feels like a war. Or it feels like a war with gentle moments between battles, and that’s a relief, and in those moments you can forget it’s a war. But it still is. A war, I mean.

It’s the end of spring and everyone is set to go their separate ways. It’s been a full house the past few months. This is good, but also hard, which is ALL life—good and also hard, nothing unusual, just life to deal with, enjoy or not enjoy, love the sweet parts, fix the bad as well as you’re able. The important part I’ve decided is wanting to fix a thing, to make an effort and put your plans in motion. (Mostly you fail but you try.) In the Dickens biography, the author, dead Edgar Johnson, writing in long-gone 1952, speaks of Dickens’ “tremendous energy,” his “superhuman energy.” (Page 372 of 601, “But that, for his superhuman energy, was almost routine.”) Johnson writes of Dickens’ undying capacity for hard work and obligations, his aptitude for balancing so much at once—novels, plays, short stories, essays, philanthropy, activism, family, correspondence, acting, social responsibilities, publishing, travel, journalism. This is what I want for myself: tremendous energy. I want to be cheerful, motivated, excited, careless, laughing, mercurial, and I want to be angry enough to get done what needs getting done. This week I bought a half-dozen collared, three button, short-sleeve shirts made in the ‘80s. I love them and plan to wear no other shirts. They make me feel as if I can be serious and driven. I’m growing my hair out like a Romantic poet. Wearing big sunglasses. Thinking on the daily, “What would Giancarlo DiTrapano do?” I’ve got so many plans (and yeah, John Steinbeck, I know all about plans “best laid,” but fuck it, I’m going to throw my stone. Sometimes the throwing is the best part, the part worth everything you got, worth the sum of your labors).

It’s the end of spring and we’re getting those hot, slow, grueling June days—days where the sun’s not slipped below the horizon ‘til after 10. When night hath fallen, yet it’s still a burning fucking violet-red ribbon of light at the edge of the skyline like nuclear fallout. Marching days. TOWERING days. And so much to DO. In the heart of that, what? What? Making war? Ending war? Making peace, making meals, buying shirts, living through the punishing heat, writing books, writing this column, running a record label, doing farm chores, tackling mounting decisions, all in the midst of light, darkness, mornings, afternoons, night, rainstorms, sweet moments, and things to fix.

It’s the end of spring. Dark blue flowers grow in the gold light and in the deep shadows.

Adam Gnade

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