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Indiana, Indiana by Laird Hunt

The following is an excerpt from Indiana, Indiana by Laird Hunt, published by Coffee House Press in September 2003.


Noah holds his hands up to the fire. Later, when it is light, and the Sun has begun to burn the blue edges off the new snow, Noah will take the saw, leave the shed, and set out across the field. But now it is still dark outside. And it is cold. Noah holds his hands in front of the fire until they are hot, then pulls them away and covers his face. Through the gaps where his fingers are gone Noah can see the stove, and, on the low table beside it, the chipped blue bowl filled with water. Noah takes his hands away from his face, reaches into the breast pocket of his coveralls, retrieves a paper flower, inspects it, then drops it into the bowl. Nothing. The green and orange flower swells a little, then, without opening, not even a little, begins to sink. Noah is surprised. Just yesterday Max dropped two of the flowers into the bowl, and together they watched them unfold and darken and expand across the surface of the water into brilliant blooms. Noah fishes the packet of "Japanese Precious Beauty Flowers" out of his pocket and inspects it. One corner of the packet, which Max pulled out from under a pile of broken light bulbs and used peat pots at the far end of the room, has been nibbled open and a few of the flowers have been chewed, but Noah can't see anything wrong with the rest of them. Defective, Noah thinks. Or too old. He wonders if at some point in the years since he received the gold and silver packet a little oil, or some other substance, might have seeped in, spoiling most of the flowers, but they are so small that it is difficult to tell. Noah shrugs and starts to set the packet aside, then changes his mind, leans forward, dumps the remaining flowers into the bowl, puts his hands back over his face and watches. Same result. Only now upward of a dozen of the waterlogged multicolored flowers float at different levels beneath the surface, and after a time it occurs to Noah that although this result is not what he had hoped for, it is by no means unpleasant. Noah stretches his arms out and yawns. He is still a little chilled, so that what begins as a yawn ends as a deep shiver, but the room is growing warmer and his face is no longer so cold. He leans forward, lifts a chunk of wood off the pile and throws it into the stove. Sparks fly. Noah's eyes move between the bits of submerged paper in the blue bowl and the new piece of wood as the fire rises around it. The cold wood takes the heat slowly, almost patiently. A ridge of orange flame forms along the top, and the colors in the bowl shift. They continue to shift. Light then dark then back to light again.

 

—Reprinted from Indiana, Indiana by Laird Hunt. Copyyright © 2003. Reprinted with permission of Coffee House Press.

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