Matt Vadnais




Prologues and Stars: [1] [2]

Ghostboy Dies in Tragic Mishap: [3] [4] [5]

Interzone: [6] [7] [8]



Prologues and Stars

Watching this, you have a good seat. Technically, I am closer — just a wall away from what we've started calling the ghost of William Stafford — but, as distance goes, geography is overrated.
      What I can see, you can see.
      Every time the outside camera switches on, we — the three of us in the house, and you at home — see the same thing. We see meteors. A dozen at a time. They flutter and spiral, less like rocks than burning insects, a series of short-lived stars that descend into the hills behind the house.
      Something this beautiful should be seen first hand. It should be fully experienced. We should be fending off bugs, smelling cow shit, straining our necks — this should not come without a cost.
      But, tonight, we see the meteors on a computer screen.
      Light has been amplified, converted into code, turned back into light.

Though we — Tito, Wellbutrin, and I — disagree on the specific reasons for being in William Stafford's Kansas estate, we agree about the basics. We buy houses that belonged to dead writers. We set up cameras and broadcast video.
      The three of us are off-camera in a walk-in pantry. The space is small and hushed, surrounded by three tiers of shelves and a history of emptiness. There is barely enough room for us, the tech, and an emergency toilet Tito found on the internet.
      Wellbutrin says it's been twenty years since Stafford lived here. He wrote in the study upstairs. He made love in the master bedroom. He kept canned peaches or tomatoes, where we are hiding. He listened to the house at night, its structural complaints. He must have heard its other noises too, cocking his head in the pink light of a thunderstorm as the house resisted the wind.
      When we bought it, we saw the property records. Twenty years ago, when Stafford moved to California, he sold the place to a family named Peterson. A few other families lived here while Stafford was enjoying his best years as a poet, but the place was empty by the time he died.

We do not use our real names. The others know I was born Theresa but do not mention it. They know that I was Theresa years ago, before my acting career, when my parents were alive. Though I am not at peace with my new name, the others would never call me Theresa.

This is not our first famous house.
      We have rules.
      We stay off-camera so we won't alter your experience of the estate. Any description — a single-story three bedroom with good fixtures and bad plumbing —is interpretation, even if it's true. Though the specifics of our reasons for doing this differ, all three of us agree that we should let the houses speak for themselves. This means not changing anything, not redecorating, not even cleaning. Even if other people lived here in-between, the houses are fossils and we leave them be.
      The pantry is tiny. With every movement, twenty years of dust moves with us. In the light of the computer, the air is visible. With the smallest motion, I see millions of startled molecules.
      Completely still for a fifth of a century, this claustrophobic world will not stop moving: Tito has a knee twitching, Wellbutrin chews his licorice, the dust swims like a tide.
      It occurs to me that, contained in the tiny box of our monitor, the outside world is exempt from the science of cause and effect. I can see the falling stars, a hundred explosions a minute, but nothing changes in here. In here, the outside is just information.

Though nothing is going on inside the house to rival the meteor shower, the camera switches feeds to take a tour of Stafford's empty rooms. When the outside comes back on, Wellbutrin sighs his appreciation. Our monitor is the highest resolution Tito could get, but I still don't like it. The video is jerky. The meteors bob as they fall, like clothes pulled in on a windy line.
      If I complain, Tito will swear the tech is top shelf.
      Best of the master's tools, he'll say.
      I know that he has numbers and jargon, but I don't trust computers. I don't think they are malicious or anything. I just think they're holding something back, like a bad pinochle partner. I trust a monitor less than a painted window.
      If there were any other way to do this, to you show you, I'd take it. As it is now, I chose to remain ignorant of our tech. My ignorance turns the box into magic.

I've never been attracted to philosophy, but, during our thirty-six hour broadcasts, abstraction is as natural as a travel game in a cross-country station wagon.
      In this half-lit space, there are facts. I can touch my own face. Tito and Wellbutrin are bent together, hard at work. I am behind them, with a hand on Tito's back, occasionally leaning in to hear or see. When we speak it is in whispers, as if we were just a few feet off stage, as if there were actors to throw off, or a crowd to distract. As if we weren't a thousand miles away from you. As if you were watching.
      Right now everything — you, the meteorological ghost of Stafford, China, sunlight — everything outside this pantry exists in the same proximity to us, knowable only through the mediums of the computer and faith.
      It has only been twelve hours.

[ Next ]