Fiction 2012

Shutters — Nathan Alling Long

The rain has ceased. Outside, each leaf still holds a single drop and the windows are spotted with water. A dog, left out in the rain, barks now to be let in. Cars pass in front of the house, their tires sounding like waves breaking the shore. I eat tiny squares of chocolate, with a single star embossed in the center of each one. I eat them one after another, until I have consumed an entire galaxy. Still, the dragon of non-compliance is within me. I will not surrender to you, or to anyone.

I sit at my desk, a long white wooden shutter I found, taken off an abandoned Victorian house in the neighborhood. The white paint cracks and chips. The inner wooden tiles make easy frames for what lays on my desk—a photograph, a cup, a small ceramic vase of dried flowers. The shutter is propped up by a small cabinet on one side, milk crates full of papers on the other. When it’s upright, it stands six feet tall, as tall as I am. The hinges hang down like square metal genitals, and I can swing them when I’m bored, but they do not transform into anything interesting. They remain hinges.

These days, shutters are screwed onto houses, a remnant of past architecture, an appendix without purpose. They are just for show, to make a house look like a house from the past. Once, they were used to shut out things—the sunlight, the rain, the night. Even strangers or robbers were kept away by a well-shuttered house. Shutters were once wooden flags, signaling to whatever approached: We are here, you can enter. Or: we are gone or hunkering down, do not come in.

Now, we cannot shut anything out. The eyelids of our houses are nailed open. The present pours in like flood water. Mail gets in, unwanted calls, the news, the oldies, the ten thousand advertisements. Even sleeping cars make sounds that enter our house. I place my hands on this shutter, its hinges still intact, and wish I had a shutter for my body, that let in whatever I wanted to draw in and kept out whatever I wanted to keep out. Some giant valve that closed off all openings, that shut me down like a clam or a muscle.

Or maybe two. I could hinge one on each side, at the calf and the hip and the shoulder. I would go everywhere, with my own private set of shutters. On bad days, on rainy days like this, I would sit in my boarded up house and play cards, humming in my wooden box. On good days, I would let the shutters swing open; they would sound like a pair of swings on the playground, carrying small bodies high. For a moment, all you see is earth, earth, earth—and then, woosh!—it’s sky, sky, sky.

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One thought on “Shutters — Nathan Alling Long

  1. Pingback: Current Issue: Volume 42, Number 2 — Fiction Issue, Spring 2012 « Coe Review

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