Locust House Variations, A Weekly Fiction Column by Adam Gnade, the Rain and the Dust

It’s hard to make plans anymore. I find myself doing shit just for today. Of course that’s good, and I need to keep telling myself that it’s good. The truth is all I want to do is plan. I want to plan because in chaos you look for structure, just like when things are too steady you look to shove them off balance. Neither are bad. That’s just life and the way we live it. Here is what I know: You need to find the upside of a curse. Get knocked down and see what’s good on the floor until you can get up again. (I write that to remember.)

Here on the farm we wait for rain. The earth dries to a crust and lightens to pale brown. Dust is next. I remember the dry spells of the past and because I remember the dry spells I remember that rain will come. When you live rural you think often of rain and the lack of rain. You plan, and often your plans don’t come to fruition. You think about the uncertainty of the future and soon you’re unable to live in the present.

Every morning at the start of farm chores I take two carrots from the fridge and walk down our gravel driveway to the lower acres. I climb the red metal gate and head out into the field holding the carrots in front of me so the pair of donkeys we adopted last month can see them. This is about building trust. They won’t let me near them yet, but they’re coming closer each day. “Close” is three feet until they turn and walk away. Last week close was six feet. This is progress, I tell myself, and that is a thing I am sure of.

I’ve done the math and my god-sons Willy and Johnsy have been here on the farm for 48 days now. It’s the longest I’ve spent with them since they left Kansas for Michigan six years ago. (Maybe the longest I’ve spent with them adding up all our visits during those years, which is an idea that hurts me in a fundamental way). They’re eight and ten and they love Harry and the Potters, Star Wars figures, and the farm’s cats.

I push Willy and Johnsy on the tire swing and we walk in the fields together while we pretend we’re wood elves on a dangerous quest. When they smile at me my world seems more certain, like a world you can make plans in, like a world where rain will come.

So I write this to remember: rain will come.

Adam Gnade