by Shaun Gannon
this our land has ghosted with our dead
I moved to a house on the beach of the last lake in the world. The lake was man-made, very small but deep, and the house was free because everybody had left. I went through the other empty houses on the beach and collected the money and jewelry and books and dumped them in the lake. Then I collected the furniture and appliances and used them to build a pier. When I was done I sat on the couch at the end of the pier and stared at all the floating money for a few days. I took to tearing apart the other houses and throwing the bricks and lumber into the lake. I never bothered to sleep. I knew the lake was filling with these houses but I never saw them pile up towards the surface.
One night I dove into the lake and found a house reassembled on a ledge on the lake's wall, the tossed and sunken materials all piled up just so. I moved into this house. I wanted to lie down but could only float in the bedroom because all the furniture was in the pier. It looked exactly like the house I left standing on the beach except the furniture and books and picture frames and smell were replaced with water. There were no lights and I did not need them.
I finally fell asleep in the attic of the lake-ledge house and slept until the lake dried up. Even when I peered over the edge of the cliff from the front porch, I couldn't see the bottom. Above me was only a small dot of light, and I realized just how far down this house had assembled.
I did not know where the water went and was afraid to find out it went to the same place as everyone else. I tore the mold-covered carpet off the floors and wove a rope out of its fibers. I tied it to the foundation of the house, then to my waist. I jumped into the pit and as I fell I knew I would find my way back to the things I had tossed away.
When the carpet-rope became taut, the house was pulled off the ledge and began to fall above me, blotting out the small dot of light from the top of the chasm. I climbed the carpet-rope, or pulled the house closer to me as we fell, and when I opened the front door and scrambled inside the falling house, I felt like I was home for the first time.
The Kryczeks sit at the dinner table folding paper. First, the children compact the sheets as small as they can, then pass them to their mother, who folds them further, then the father, who squeezes them until they become tiny boxes and eats each one. He slowly grows fatter while his family wants only to sleep. They cannot—not until the father is full.
The McHenrys thread wires through the studs in all the walls. Holes punched in wood until they no longer support the ceilings, now propped up with machines. The father feeds the cables into the wall, where his stepson lives. Whatever the boy does with them, it makes the house sing and the mother laugh.
The Allisses have installed a hole in their house. It accentuates the center, the father says. The daughter peers inside. I think part of my room is in there, she says. The hole buzzes, and the grandmother climbs out. Yup, that hole's a beaut all right, she says, but you may want to think about installing a bottom. But then I can't actually lose anything, the father says.
The Bishops are rehearsing their favorite song, "Skull-Crush '98," in the basement. The husband plays the brick wall as his wife plays the Percocet. They haven't performed live in nearly two decades but still sound mind-blowing. Layers of mice like a carpet, or, more like a tarp. The wide mouth matching chord, both held beyond comfort.
The Fosters are missing.
- Father (37)—left three years ago, telling his wife he was being called into work. One year ago, she received a letter from the president thanking her for her husband's service.
- Mother (32)—won two tickets to see her favorite game show, Last Train to Paradise. Six months later and she has not returned. Nobody knows who went with her.
- Grandfather (71), daughter (15)—Something about a deep-sea fishing trip.
- Dog (13)—under the porch.
The Coopers haven't paid their electric bill in nearly twenty years. Some say it's a new record for the city. When asked, they merely reply, "When His light comes, we will see everything we need to see." They have never attended church; they simply wait in the living room after a cold supper, gazing at the dust covering everything but their La-Z-Boys, and wonder when it'll happen to them again.