thrice great hermes
by stanley lieber
and then there was the house. grandpa and grandma’s house, where dad had moved back after the divorce, his world contracting into his childhood bedroom, no longer shared with his brothers. that had been where the computer was stored, where the books had lived, where the board would be laid on the bed and the pages laid out for assembly, a small lamp and a small speaker providing atmosphere.
the house was gone, now. the green asphalt tiles had given way to green vinyl siding, had given way to demolition, debris removal, and, finally, a stranger mowing the empty lot.
before any of that had been the old bedroom, the crumbling wallpaper in the kitchen, the pale beige carpet in the front room, the moss on the cracked concrete of the back porch, the makeshift garage—all, also, gone.
étienne could somehow picture it clearly, even though he had never been inside the place. his grandfather’s grandparents’ house. in some other little town. in some other little world. he was just as sure the place was gone. he found out later—it was.
he counted the other unknown places he somehow felt he knew: the public library, the firehouse, the demolished wing of the casino, the firehouse in that other town (whose name he did not even know), several homes of strangers, a drug store that sold adult magazines sealed in ziploc bags, a movie theater (which somehow he knew had also burned to the ground), john henry’s restaurant, an old train car, the church in the country, the trailer park, the small barn in the backyard over the hill, yancy’s swimming pool, the cellar, the other pizza place by the highway on the way to petersburg, the old caboose at the city park that dad (who’s dad?) had said he’d help settle into its base by the shelter house, brandon’s new house on flood road, riding two skateboards down hill street while dribbling a basketball, the empty trailer whose yard nevertheless got mowed, medco center, pumpkin center, the rural pole barn that also burned down, the swing set at the campground (also installed by grandpa), the stacks of newspapers in aunt (the other aunt) eunice’s living room, sitting at home and watching cable television. none of these were his memories. none of these people were people he knew. they trampled through his mind as if the route was familiar and they didn’t need to look where they were going.
all he could do was think.
he found the address—also, somehow, already in his mind—on a mapping service and confirmed the street view in his visor before turning off the device and closing his eyes, laying his head down on his desk and pressing its flat, laminate surface directly against his forehead.
the pictures continued to disembark, dragging trunks and chests through his mind, on their way to an as yet unimagined new world.