Tonight I read an article about a man who bought one of those prefabricated houses–the kind that fly down highways on the beds of big semis, trailer-park-bound, with WIDE LOAD plastered across their rear ends. The details of the story are unclear, but the end result is that the man got his house stuck on highway I-77, north of Canton, OH, and just left it there.
There’s a picture of the house: it’s beige, rectangular, remarkably rectangular. Really, just a fine specimen of rectangularity. It has four windows that look like the architect made the first one and then just hit copy and paste, paste, paste, and called it a fucking day. Then there are two smaller, circular windows, as if he still needed a little more oomph to meet the window limit for his house report, so he just bumped the periods up to 16-pt. font and said send it. The house is long and has a kind of uncanny, fun-house floor that undulates in a waveform, like a rug you’re trying to whip the cat hair out of. It’s perched on little red feet that look preposterous under its girth. No one thought to take the banner that says WIDE LOAD off the back, and now it’s hanging off the house’s waist dejectedly, like a bachelorette’s sash at closing time. Around it, someone lovingly placed a barricade of orange construction barrels, like a white picket fence–only it’s orange and made of construction barrels. A semi-truck hurls past in the opposite lane, its horn blowing at the request of a pumped fist.
I saw the article and thought: Yes. This house-as-litter is precisely the kind of quirky, late-capitalist-americana that online literary journals are really looking to elevate at the moment, with just the right amount of blue-collar-suffering. Perfect fodder for the kind of light-hearted flashpiece that’s mostly funny, but gets just a little serious at the end, usually through some kind of metaphor or turn of the screw. The kind of stuff that stirs my jealous passions because I’ve not been very good at writing it lately, whether out of a need to heal from unacknowledged pain, or because we all just endured a year that felt like the dress rehearsal for the apocalypse. Probably a bit of both.
Given all the challenges we face, levity can sometimes feel like the dubious luxury of a simpler time, when we were all just a little less aware. There have been nights where I think about giving up on everything and everyone. I’m certain that I won’t, but the thought is there sometimes; it’s like an old dog that needs walking once in a while. It’s familiar, in a way. Tonight, while I was walking the dog, I thought about that house (that most quintessential symbol of belonging, kinship, and community) falling into no-man’s land and wondered whether that wasn’t a radical act of humanity by some higher power. I thought about maybe heeding the call, moving down to my little house on the freeway, and painting that bitch something loud. Fashioning wind chimes and earrings from broken bottle glass, shooting flirtatious glances at the construction workers. I thought about playing harmonica on the curving stoop, blowing my lungs out, and then digging a garden, ploughing the earth. I thought about beets growing in the cracks in the asphalt and cattle lowing in the median with their calves. I thought about starting a family, braiding our hair into rows that resemble cities, grocery aisles, prison blocks. I thought about telling my children one day, as we sit on the porch at dusk, our bellies full, with the cicadas churring softly in the ripe, abundant fields, as I gesture outwards in a wide, wide arc, their faces agog, telling them that allllllllllll of this, here, this blessed place, this used to be a freeway. Can you believe it? They will not, I hope, believe it. And every morning we can throw open our four perfect windows to let the fresh, sweet air in, reach our arms out, feel the temperate sun, the neutral rain, pump our healthy fists, listen to that baby blow.
Christian McDonald lives at mile-marker 103 on I-77. His work appears mostly in lurid flashes behind his eyelids. He has a meager, fledgling Twitter presence @devout_burger.