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Outermost House

Column: 
Outermost House in the fog

At the end of a winter’s day, much remains to be done.  Dishes must be clean.  Food should be wrapped and put away.  Plans are created that will fall apart in a forgotten moment.  One boy needs to be read to.  Another needs his Lego City reconstructed. 

The city is laid out about his floor.  Main Street meets Oak Street at a “T” Junction.  Three police stations protect the Lego people as they walk, or drive, or fly, to stores, schools, and Pizza stores.  The mini figures all come from a dozen stories and a million walks of life.  Darth Vader strides past the fire station with seven odd looking lizards.  Harry Potter hangs with the miners.  Ron, Hermione, and Batman work the controls at one of the police stations.  The buildings need to be reset, the helicopters and spacecraft returned to base, and I still need to do several days worth of grading.

I know about riches.  The kitchen is larded down with days worth of food.  The dishes came from the generations before, generations that served grilled cheese and spaghetti with butter to their families.  Two boys bounce through the everyday extravagance of childhood.  I am paid to do the work that I love and paid enough to keep the house warm, keep the car moving, and buy coffee and crullers every morning.  Good thoughts and good companionship and even love graces the frame of my days.  I see the world about me; I know the luxury of my life. 

That luxury, however, costs a fortune paid out in twelve minute increments; I leak my fortune by the dime.  The dishes, the dinner, the papers, the books, and the bills leech time and energy away.  At the end of the day, I bend my Lego legs on the chair, grab and oversized mug and hope that Darth Vader doesn’t run into the Hulk tonight.  Eleven o’clock comes fast and races by.  The house has fallen to slumber, underlined by the hum of heaters, blowers, compressors, and chargers.  Another day has gone by without anything worthwhile to mark by my name. 

At midnight, I make another cup of coffee.  At midnight, I step out into the expectant moonlight.  At midnight, I try to throw it all away and leave for the Outermost House. 

I like to drive out to Miacomet Beach, just on the east end of the pond.  I park in the lot just below the beach house, climb the dune, and stand on that porch.  There is nothing there.  The half moon lights the easy waves as the roll over each other and up the beach.  A wind carries up from the southwest, bringing sand and spray up the beach.  It has grown cold enough to annoy and to chill, but not to kill.  The constellations edge around the sky. 

If you stay out there long enough to see the Orion move across the sky and to see the moon ease into the west and to feel the chill and wet settle in, you may feel the gravity of poverty.  You have cast the luxury of your life away and you stand, chilled, before the unimpressed waves.  Freed from the daylight, the mind whets itself sharp. 

One night, I came out to Outermost House on a nearly full moon.  I settled into the silent bench when a white feathery flash touched on the top of a dune and then left, holding something squirming in its talons.  The bird skimmed the pond, landed beyond the brush and disappeared. 

In the hours of bright moonlight, luxury strips to necessity.  Now, the mind can be sharp and agile.  Now, the pulls of family, of community, of career disappear in the cutting wind.  The mind can wheel and coast in low and silent.  The talons have grown sharp and strong, the eyes keen, and the stomach ravenous. 

Poverty brings hunger and hunger brings necessity and necessity flies through the night on silent white wings.  Alone, shivering, in the dark, something of note might finally be done before the waves swallow it all and the stars circle a rolling tide.

The night draws you upward into the eternal.  The stars resonate in bell tones and the surf beats a sandy drum.  A mind, so stripped and so poor, clasps onto one thing, and circles higher and higher. 

Most, eventually, turn back to the warmth of the bed and the light of civilization.  Most put their brushes and pencils down in the resonant dark, and turn gratefully to the warm bed and the dented pillows.  They drop into sleep to the murmurings of children and the buzz of a refrigerator.   Some still remain in the starry dark, hunting over the moors and dunes until the light grows and life refastens itself. 

Daylight brings riches, both in Lego town and elsewhere.  The charging, heating, and whirring of a modern life continue on inside the warm rooms.    And the days march by hour by drowsy hour until Orion begins his movement.  Then, if you can step out, the dark builds and you feel the flash of white wings.

Bob Barsanti's first novel, Milestone Road, appeared in summer, 2012.  Sand in My Shoes, his book of essays, was published in 2008.