Jesse Jarnow

the animals i saw, no. 5

(Short fiction in shorter increments.)

The Animals I Saw: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10

The house drifted in the mud for a day, serenaded only by the crickets. It had no foundation, built as a summer cottage early in the town’s history. It was some 30 feet into the lake when people returned three days after the hurricane to survey the disfigured shoreline. The house, for reasons nobody was able to adequately explain, floated. There’d been massive water damage, but that was due to the blown-in storm windows.

I still possess several of the photographs my father rescued the day the house was dragged back to land. One, of the family, taken when I was probably three, was badly curled. The rain had disintegrated my grandmother’s face into flecks of white negative space.

In bed at the Becketts’, listening to the insect symphony, I wondered how many generations of crickets had passed since those who’d chirped at the floating house. Did they live for a season and then die? Was it as simple as that? On the bed wet with lake water, I thought of how their impossibly layered rhythmic constructions were transmitted to the next generation. My drying skin felt cool on the Becketts’ patterned sheets.