Winner of the 2015 Big Moose Prize
In Children and Lunatics, the 21st century is new and fragile, the center barely holding. Wars, terrorists, and hurricanes are on TV. A silent street person and a suburban mother share intimate spheres of love and grief and odd obsessions, although they barely meet. As their paths converge, an eerie world hovers, casting shadows and flickering lights, igniting fears and dreams.
One day it was a two-story house with a sun porch. Another time it was a white painted brick house with a columned front porch and a stone bench. Each time, just looking had the feel of going, going in, she heard an imaginary bell, a signal, cross the line, careful, proceed, step through…
There were high cirrus clouds on this particular day, long wisps against the palest blue. A faint breeze. A hint of smoke, still lingering from the forest fires of the summer. It was on the cusp, the sky, the air, the day. It was on a fulcrum, balanced between all that had happened and what was yet to come.
After acknowledging her house (two-story stucco, shaded, with half a fence out front and lumber tossed here and there on the lawn, as if more building were in progress), she walked up the angled sidewalk that led to the front door under an archway flanked by bushes. The porch was made from stones. A small brass dog stood next to a bristled mat. A collar hung around the dog’s neck. It said “Attack Dachshund.” The bell made a chiming sound when she pushed it, and a delayed summons emitted from deep within.
She listened to the chime and to a plane that droned in the sky, far overhead, and to a distant call of a train. She could feel her heart beating. It made her entire body move, slightly, like a tree stirred by a breeze. She pressed the black button again, and heard the chime a second later, and she waited. The jet’s monotone receded into silence. The train remained, its presence a rhythmic thrum. Brown flowers in a pot moved just perceptibly in the late-autumn air. She turned the knob and gently pushed. The door swung open and let her in.