pages Talking Houses

by James Miranda

Published in Issue No. 149 ~ October, 2009

This is our first house. It is a big deal, being home-owners. We’ve entered a whole new bracket.

The one that we bought, across from the lake, has an unceasing tick. A rhythmic tapping like a clock on Benzedrine. We’ve narrowed the source down to two possible locations. One of them is the drying machine. The drying machine sits in a tiny alcove in the bathroom, its view of the toilet closed off by a flowered curtain. When you are sitting on the toilet the click seems to be coming from directly in front of you, from the dryer.

But one can’t tell for sure.

It’s one of those things. A loud, obvious noise that should be easy to locate, but is always eluding you, like pinpointing a cricket in the bedroom. It’s all that I hear now.

The other location is more ambiguous. Some place deep in the bowels of the house, it is being routed up to us through some elaborate network of ducts and vents. At least that’s the theory. My wife and I, we fight about the two theories. The duct theory, and the dryer theory. We ally to one or the other, but not consistently. It switches from day to day.

When I’m in a conspiracy theory mood I argue ducts. I deconstruct the entire house. I blame landlords, realtors, architects, HVAC people, town planners, and mice. There is no telling how high up this thing goes. These are long days.

When I am tired I just give the dryer a half-hearted kick.

We have translated the theories in terms of money. The duct theory is expensive. The dryer theory is less expensive. Neither is affordable and so we live with the clicking. The problem does not appear to be dire. There is no sign of a larger problem, that is. No fires. No hint of an infestation. Our water occasionally smells like sulfur, but we think this is an unrelated problem.

We’ve adjusted nicely to the sound. In the mornings I scrub myself to the hushed rhythm behind the hiss of the shower. I time the strokes of my razor, the up and down, left to right of my toothbrush.

My wife stirs her coffee to the pulse. She massages my head to its steady drone and at night, while we sleep, it paces our breathing, sometimes our lovemaking. It’s disconcerting. Like driving in the rain and not being able to avert your eyes from the movement of the wiper blades. People can get hurt.

Sometimes we lose track of it until we have houseguests. We forget about the domestic metronome pulling our strings. We hang up our guests’ coats, pivot in unison, pour glasses of wine, guide a tour.

“What’s that noise?” they will inevitably ask.



We pipe simultaneously and laugh.

The guests give an uncomfortable smile. Silverware strikes flatware in time. Wine glasses click accordingly. The guests do not stay for dessert.

It has gotten to the point where I feel completely off at work. I am irritable and awkward. I slip out early three to four days a week just to get home, to sit on the couch with a drink in my hand, look out at the water, listen, and nod my head from side to side. Sometimes my wife and I will pull up to the driveway at the same time. We close our car doors, laugh knowingly, and walk into the house arm in arm.

Nights, we sit out on our porch and lean against each other on a musty couch. We speak in quiet tones and look out at the lights of the houses across the lake. These are the lights of porches as well. Porches where other happy couples sit in the dark and listen to their houses.

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James Miranda currently lives, writes and teaches in Kalamazoo, Michigan where he is pursuing his MFA at Western Michigan University. Previous work has appeared or is forthcoming from Ginosko Literary Review and Third Coast.