Matt Vadnais






The Living: [1] [2] [3]

A New Manifesto: [4] [5] [6] [7]

Earl Browder probably was the first and only American Marxist, the one who saw how the system had to adapt if it wanted to work here. He very well might have something to teach us, even Wellbutrin and I. But he doesn't have a story. For most of our audience, whoever you are, no narrative would animate the house. We could tell you, but you'd have no way of knowing if we were honest. None of it would sound familiar. It would just be a house.
      We would have to add Browder's name to your consciousness.
      Tito would say this is exactly what we are doing, un-erasing.
      I'm not so sure.
      He leads us back along Mass. Our dissension is giving him quicker steps and more swagger. He wears a lofty smirk. He knocks self-righteously on shop windows and tears flyers from telephone poles.
      "Un-dissemination," he says. "Cleaning up consumer pollution."
      A similar looking crowd to the one that ignored us on the way to the restaurant is more attentive this time. A woman in a torn army jacket stops to watch Tito. She is not the only one. Tito holds himself as tall as he can. When he sees the strip of chain stores that lie just beyond the confines of downtown, he begins shouting.
      "This is the den of corruption and greed," he says. Wellbutrin and I fall back.
      This won't last long.
      Tito is deep into a rant about factory education. He accuses a few students of majoring in "consumer studies." He tips over a garbage can. There is a crowd forming. I am not sure if they are listening to him. Some of them look thoughtful, but there is another vibe to the whole thing, as if Tito were a street performer.
      Before his lecture is over and the crowd thins, there is almost ten dollars in singles and change lying at his feet.
      "The people are ready," he says when he returns to us.
      Wellbutrin puts a hand on Tito's lower back, gets his head right next to Tito's ear. Tito nods but doesn't seem to agree as he whispers back.
      Whatever is exchanged, I can't hear it, and we are walking again.
      Tito has shrugged Wellbutrin's hand from his back.
      His mouth is a knot of lips.
      Wellbutrin is hanging back by me.
      We have left Massachusetts.
      The clouds are finally threatening rain, probably in a few minutes.

A block ahead of us, a bicyclist is hit by a car.

Tito gets there first. By the time Wellbutrin and I catch up, he is helping a man of about forty. There is blood. I am uncertain what to do. I lean closer to the man, close enough to smell him. The man's arm is twisted beneath him. I am able to get it free, but I can't figure out how to straighten it. I know it should look some other way. I try to use Tito's as a model, to remember how a body works. The man catches me, or at least looks at me.
      When he smiles he is bloodier, missing teeth.
      I put his arm down.
      Wellbutrin has busied himself with the bike. He has it on the grass, bending over it, tugging at its chain, trying to straighten the cross bar. Based on the way he is breathing, he is more frightened than he is concerned.
      "It's okay," the man says to Tito. "You didn't see me."
      "We weren't driving," Wellbutrin says. He is insistent and hard.
      "Could have happened to anyone," says the man.
      "We weren't driving," Wellbutrin says, shouting.
      "Sir," says Tito, surprisingly steady. "We were walking behind you. We weren't in the vehicle that hit you."
      "Who was?"
      "They drove off."
      The man does not like this. He breathes in angry, flustered breaths. He seems to bleed faster.
      "Call the police," he says. "Tell them the license number."
      I look at Tito and Wellbutrin. They shrug.
      "You need an ambulance," I say.
      He looks at me, a little shaken by my voice.
      "Am I dying?"
      "I don't know," I say.
      He thinks about it.
      "Call the police," he says.
      Wellbutrin looks useless, but he realizes that the errand is a way to leave. He tries to figure out where the closest phone is, pointing in a few directions, mouthing something to himself.
      He gives up, running through an alley.

Waiting, I can't stop looking at the man's bloody mouth. He has managed to sit against the curb. I don't think he should have been moved, but it's been so long since I read anything about first aid. Tito has managed to stop some of the bleeding with his shirt.
      Topless, Tito is not unattractive. Looking at him, I remember that he ran track in high school and that he is younger than Wellbutrin and I. Somehow, without the shirt, he is not as skinny as he is in clothes. He sits next to the man, listening. He seems uncomfortable, but nods when he is supposed to, even going to so far as to touch the man's shoulder once or twice.
      To look at the man — the places in his gums that held teeth less than twenty minutes ago — is to remember his accident. As we wait for Wellbutrin and the police, it happens again and again in front of me. The car doesn't see him, clips his front tire. The man lurches into the air. His head hits the hood. Knees and elbows twirling.
      The police arrive before Wellbutrin. They ask questions Tito and I can't answer. We didn't think of looking for a license plate. I tell them that I froze because of the intensity of the accident. I don't tell them that, as soon as it started happening, I wanted to run away.
      I wish we hadn't seen it.
      I am resentful of how I keep seeing it, how his bloody smile stays with me. It seems unfair to be involved in something like this when we so clearly do not belong out here.

When the cops have disappeared and the man has been taken away, we return to Burroughs' house. Without speaking, we move to the basement. Without the box on, it is too dark to close the door. Wellbutrin has his hands on his face. Tito is trying to smile at me. For him, he seems calm.
      "Browder then," he says.
      "Yes," says Wellbutrin. "The sooner the better."
      I nod.
      Tito gets up. He puts his hand on Wellbutrin's shoulder for a moment, before leaving the room. He returns with pretzels.
      "We are commotion," he says, standing in the doorway.
      "Yes we are," Wellbutrin says faintly, muffled by his hands.
      "Agamemnon in megabytes."
      "Yes we are."
      For the first time since we got together there is no dissent, no questions for the sake of clarity. When Tito sits, he sits on Wellbutrin's lap, twisting his fingers into Wellbutrin's hair.
      "Browder," I say, letting my voice do what it will.
      "Say it again," says Tito. "Let me hear it."
      "Say a revolution in data."
      "A revolution in data."
      "Say the dead walk."
      "The dead walk."
      "Settled," says Wellbutrin, and I can tell that it is. Tito turns on the box. Online, he finds a recipe for braised beef tips. He emails the recipe and a credit card number to a Lawrence grocery store that will deliver.

Later in the afternoon, while the others pack, I wander. My last hours in these houses are nothing like my first. When we got here, I was looking to see how our predecessors might have lived. Now, I try to get a good look at exactly what we are leaving.
      I sit on the carpet.
      I look out the back windows as the rain comes in.
      I kick at the phone jacks along the baseboard.
      I listen to doors, bedrooms and closets, my ears pressed firm against the wood.
      I touch the corners of every room, investigating the paint.
      The others are in the basement, almost finished. Without the cameras, there is an uneasy peace. Up here, there is no noise. If the house is shifting I cannot hear it.
      It occurs to me that the house is pretty much just a house. We came here for ghosts, and I think we found one, but perhaps we brought it with us. Perhaps there is no difference between ghosts and ghost stories.
      I go into the back yard, where the rain is.
      I investigate a windmill.
      It is on a white pole and made from bicycle tire. Around the rim, funnels are glued to catch the wind, painted in alternating primary colors. It is the only thing that wasn't removed or disconnected when Burroughs died.
      I watch it twirl until the sun is completely gone.

[ Previous ] [ Next ]