Outside your house in Seattle past your lawn is a wooden husk of a garage that looks new from the alley. It’s painted to match the house but inside lays a dirt floor, a bare table, a few stacking crates, and that’s it. It’s seven p.m. and dark both outside and in because there’s no electricity in the garage. Your face is lit by the screen. Rain falls lightly on the roof. You are sitting out here to write because it feels more uninhibited than the rest of your world, and you want that because you are inhibited and feel like a dry husk and your mind is a quaking dirt floor.
You’re drunk on Teacher’s whiskey because a character in a Raymond Carver story you read in grad school got drunk on Teacher’s, and you want to understand, no, be Raymond Carver. You’re also drunk on Teacher’s because you don’t want to be the budding minister you once were. Getting drunk on Teacher’s is one of your many little rebellions against a Jesus you’ve conjured in your mind who wears a polo shirt and pleated pants and is seated across from you on a stool, looking the other way, hands tented, occasionally checking his gold watch, as if waiting for you to begin shellacking the bare walls.
You don’t realize so many things: that there are names for a quaking dirt mind and medications to address it; that soon you will have kids, and that kids will reveal good parts of you that before were only lyrics to songs you didn’t like; that maybe Jesus isn’t checking his watch, but he’s closer to the figure of Flannery O’Connor’s Hazel Motes, who saw “…Jesus move from tree to tree in the back of his mind, a wild ragged figure motioning him to turn around and come off into the dark where he might be walking on the water and not know it and then suddenly know it and drown.” Yes, maybe Jesus is squatting in front of you there in the garage, in front of a fire wearing a wry grin, and with his finger he draws something in the dirt and then he says this floor is good soil, so write.
Maybe. But regardless, each word you type is loosening the boards of the garage, and garages keep out rain, and rain is what helps things grow.
You wonder what it was that Jesus drew in the sand those two thousand years ago, surrounded by men waiting to stone a woman caught in adultery, before he told them he who is without sin cast the first stone, and each of the men dropped their stones, making a holy circle around the woman, Jesus, and what he wrote. You wonder whether the woman held a stone also, meant for herself, and the command was to her as well. You are getting older, and the inside of your garage is getting messier, and with it more and more stones in your yard are staying put, though the ones meant for yourself are the toughest not to pick up.
Outside your house in Seattle past your lawn is a wooden husk of a garage that looks new from the alley. You will never shellac the walls or lay a dime of concrete. There will grow a pile of empty Teacher’s bottles but no Raymond Carver. There will also a pile of stones, and your mind will quake and quake. But a leak will appear in the roof, and then another, and the dirt will in places become drenched.
And so dirt will become soil and into that soil you will draw words, and the words will connect with more than just each other, and some will become prayers, others curses, and others stories, and though the garage will stand, inside it will be wet, wet, wet.
Ross McMeekin’s debut novel, The Hummingbirds, came out from Skyhorse Publishing in early 2018. His short fiction has appeared in places like Virginia Quarterly Review, Post Road, Redivider, and Tin House's Flash Fiction Fridays. He edits the literary journal Spartan.
Ross recommends you check out Mary’s Place. Mary’s Place provides safe, inclusive shelter and services that support women, children and families on their journey out of homelessness in the Seattle area. Visit www.marysplaceseattle.org.