House, circa 1846 by JP Vallieres
House, circa 1846 by JP Vallieres
It took me a week to write "Village of Adams". It started as a journal exercise, something I never intended to be read by anyone. I remember wanting to just write down everything I wanted to about the town I grew up in. I started with the bats flying around our house. How one got stuck in my bedroom one night. In the pitch black darkness I could hear it fly around my room landing on my window sill.
I wanted to write about Jason Craft. To me, Jason was the kid I grew up with that fully encapsulated Adams. Yes, he is a real person and one that you can find at the local pizza shop any day of the week.
I wanted to write about fights and girls but mostly about my house, circa 1846. It was a big house that breathed and moved under your feet.
Why don’t you come in and I’ll give you the tour of my house, circa 1846. Follow me to the family room. You can sit on the sofa or an old rocker. The sofa will be more comfortable. If you didn’t bring a book then this might not be a room for you. There’s really nothing else to do here but sit and read or maybe take a nap. I brought some friends over one time and they decided to sit in this room. We took a moment to sit in silence until one of them said, I feel like I’m in a museum. I’d say that sums it up nicely. It probably has something to do with the old furniture, the heirlooms, and the hardwood floors. Not to mention the house and all its oldness; crooked windows, real wood everywhere.
The next room is the living room where you will find a television and our wood stove. If you came in the early years, there actually would not be a TV present. And if you came a little after that you might just find the black and white perched on a small bench. But now you can see our TV with its antennae connection.
Ma is in the kitchen preparing dinner. It is getting dark out and we can feel the cold seep through these non-insulated walls. You sit on the sofa and stay put as I walk through our kitchen to the woodshed to fetch a few pieces of wood for the fire. It will help. What you smell is Ma’s cooking, and it smells real good.
The woodshed is dark and cold. Mice breed here and scurry away with each step I take over old wood chips that are now the flooring, like stepping on layers of damp confetti. I grab as many chunks as I can and come back and plop them into the crate that sits next to the wood stove. I will get you a beer. That’s what dad and I drink before supper. If there is a baseball game on we will watch that.
My father and my sisters should be coming home any time now.
It’s cold in here, I know. And getting colder. I stoke the fire with the cast iron poker and bring a slight glow back to the nearly dying embers. Ma isn’t good at keeping watch over the fire. I remind her for the millionth time about it. We do that - tell our loved ones the same things over and over again but really we don’t care if they change the habit or not. I place a small piece gently on the embers. I give a silent firm blow underneath the wood. The embers light up. I feel good about it and relax a bit. I take a sip of my beer and then grab a slightly larger piece and place it next to the small one. Yes, it will all catch. I take one more chunk and put it on top of both and close the door.
In time we hear the wood fully catch. The cracks and pops, the whimpers the fire makes reassures me, of what exactly, I cannot say.
I will make sure your spot on the sofa is the one closest to the wood stove. It’s the only warm spot in the house. We’ll talk and watch the game. Ma will ask you questions about you. Relax, you’re in an old home, our house. No pressure.
We used to eat at the dining room table for each meal when my sisters and I were all young but don’t anymore. That’s okay. Things change. We eat here where it’s almost warm, next to the fire. We talk and mute the baseball game while we eat. We savor each bite. Ma made her homemade pizza. It tastes best in this room. We drink and we eat and we talk, but only talk that comes naturally. If nothing comes to our minds then, we just drink and eat and see who is up to bat.
Once dinner is finished, and you are completely stuffed, we will drink tea and put the volume back up. The room isn’t very bright so the darkness of the night means something. In this old house we don’t ever forget what night means. Almost like it was before electricity, sitting in a candle lit room.
You can stay as long as you like. In a bit dad might even share his good scotch. We won’t kick you out. If you need to crash on the couch that’s fine with us. Please stay, we insist.
JP Vallieres lives in northern Idaho with his wife and four sons. His work can be found in Grey Magazine, Whitefish Review, Adirondack Explorer and other publications. JP is featured in issue 296.4, Fall 2011.