The Old Kind of Memory (Orca, Issue #16)

For centuries, Jed had known memory as the still morning air, the dampness of spring soil, the sound of a splitting seed; as the material essence of all that surrounded him, all that made up his home on the high plains. But this was different, a memory from deep within himself, from long before his transformation:

Arms tight around his shoulders, steadying his small frame from lurching back and forth with the crunch of hoofs and iron tires on gravel. Shadows play on the stretched canvas overhead but offer little protection from the heat. There’s a melody rising and falling on the breeze. A bead of sweat trembles on his brow, then a soft, pale hand appears and wipes it away, and he knows it’s his mother’s hand.


When Jedediah first woke up as a house—toes curled under hardened heels, shins cemented in the dry earth, back arched, pitched at the crook of his neck, and long wooden arms wrapped around his head, walling himself in—Father called him a miracle. 

How else could a house appear out of the thin Colorado air on his newly purchased patch of high plains. 

“By God,” he said. He slapped his own stubbly cheek, then went on repeating the word: “miracle… miracle… miracle…”

Jed was elated. He’d just turned eight—old enough to work, Father often reminded Mother—but Jed wasn’t able; he had trouble breathing and was prone to long bouts of fever and nausea. And so, Father paid him little attention, but when he did, he called him small and sickly. 

Now look at him: a miracle. Though he didn’t fully understand how yet, Jed had made Father proud, and he was too elated to process his new predicament or notice that it was the first time in months he hadn’t felt ill. Everything was still all sound and feeling, and he listened as one does, lying in the receding tide of sleep.

He heard Father’s heavy footsteps, running to the covered wagon, his open palm pounding on its thin sideboard. 

“Honey,” he hollered. “Wake up!” Then he said it again: “It’s a miracle,” and Jed was eager to hear Mother’s loving approval. 

Belly full with his baby sibling, she eased herself across the wagon bed. The spokes groaned as Father helped her down. There was a long silence. A magpie laughed in the distance. Then Mother gasped in horror. 

            Jed tried to get up, to go to her, to grab the hem of her sleeve or night gown and assure her it was all okay. That was the moment he realized he couldn’t move or see.

            What followed was a blur as Jed experienced a sensation akin to panic, only without the tightness in his chest or blood pumping past his temples. Where was his chest? Where were his temples? All the while, Father and Mother argued. They kept talking about “the house” being a “gift from God” or a “trick of the devil,” growing louder until the sun’s warmth broke through the horizon, and the morning birds stopped chirping; until their voices were all that could be heard for miles, and Mother said:

“Where’s Jed?”

“He was in the wagon with you.”

Even the wind waited.

“Jed!” she shouted. 

His foundation shook…


Continue reading in Issue #16 of Orca

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